Spring has finally awoken and we have finally broken away from the shackles of winter, for some of us at least. Now comes the time for traveling, and if you are planning on taking a hockey vacation, I’ve comprised this travelogue of ten hockey places that you need to see before you die.
So, without further ado, here are the ten places every hockey fan must see before they die.
The Hockey Hall of Fame
This one is a given, but if you truly are a diehard hockey fan, then the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto is one place you absolutely have to visit.
Located in a former Bank of Montreal building in downtown Toronto, the Hockey Hall of Fame has everything a hockey fan can ask for. You can get lost for days with all the exhibits the Hall of Fame has. The Hall of Fame possesses numerous trophies, memorabilia, and equipment from players in notable games.
The Esso Great Hall, described as a “cathedral to the icons of hockey”, is where the enshrined members of the Hall of Fame are honored. The Great Hall has photos and bios from every person enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The piece de resistance of the Great Hall is the Stanley Cup, for part of the year the replica is displayed due to the Cup being out of the Hall. They also have the older version of the Cup and the older rings also on display. All of the current NHL trophies are located in a bank vault within the Great Hall and the induction ceremony for the new members of the Hall of Fame are held in the Great Hall.
The Hall of Fame also has interactive exhibits for hockey fans inside the NHLPA Be A Player Zone. You can take shots against a simulation of Ed Belfour or you can be a goaltender and try to stop shots from Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky. Maybe you perhaps want to be a hockey broadcaster? Then the Broadcast Zone is the place for you. The Broadcast Zone allows the visitors to see how hockey broadcasting works and allows users to record messages that may be displayed on the Hall of Fame’s website.
If you are a true hockey fan, then the Hockey Hall of Fame is a place to visit on your summer vacation this year.
The City of Montreal
I included the city of Montreal simply because there is so much hockey history in this city.
Montreal is home of McGill University where the former Victoria Rink stood. In 1875, Victoria Rink was the first ever indoor hockey game was held. The teams consisted of students from McGill and played nine-0n-nine hockey where Captain Creighton’s team defeated Captain Torrance’s team, 2-1. Victoria Rink was also the size of a current regulation sized NHL rink. Unfortunately, the Rink was closed and a parking garage was built in its place.
The Bell Centre, current home of the Montreal Canadiens, is rich in Canadiens history despite being a relatively new arena. The Bell Centre is home to the Canadiens Hall of Fame where you can visit the numerous exhibits about the most successful team in the NHL. You can visit an interactive exhibit on the Canadiens’ greats, step inside a life size version of the Canadiens locker room from the 1976-77 team, and they even have an exhibit devoted to the Canadiens’ greatest rivals. If you view a game from the Bell Centre, you can view the numerous numbers hanging in the rafters as you take a glimpse of the past.
Many Canadiens legends still live in town, so, you might even bump into players like Elmer Lach, Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Dickie Moore, and Guy Lafleur. Montreal is truly a city rich in hockey history. Whether you are a Canadiens fan or not, Montreal is worth checking out.
Herb Brooks Arena
Originally named the Olympic Center, Herb Brooks Arena is perhaps the venue of the greatest moment in US hockey history.
In 1980, the USA Olympic hockey team led by Brooks shockingly defeated the mighty Soviets en route to an unlikely gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. In 2005, the arena was renamed in honor of coach Brooks to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the US’ defeat of the Soviet Union.
Brooks Arena was also home to three Frozen Fours, in 1970, 1984, and 1988. It was also home to where legendary Boston College head coach Jerry York won his first national championship in 1984 with Bowling Green.
The arena is still in use to this day, mostly for collegiate hockey. The ECAC will hold its conference championships at the Herb Brooks Arena the next two seasons.
Constructed in 1910, the Matthews Arena in Boston is the oldest indoor hockey arena still in use in the world. As the Boston Bruins are celebrating their 90th anniversary this year, Matthews Arena holds a special place in the heart of the Boston Bruins. It was in 1924 where the Boston Bruins played their first ever NHL game, a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Maroons. The Bruins would stay there for four more years before moving to the Boston Garden.
For Hartford Whaler fans, the Whalers played their first season at the Matthews Arena when they were called the New England Whalers. It was also where numerous college hockey programs got their start, teams like, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, and Northeastern, where the Huskies still call home today, and was the original home of the Beanpot tournament.
In a world where new state of the art arenas are en vogue, Matthews Arena has stood the test of time and it doesn’t appear as if its going to go any time soon.
Maple Leaf Gardens
For any Toronto Maple Leaf fan, the historic Maple Leaf Gardens is a must see.
The Toronto Maple Leafs won six Stanley Cups between 1941 and 1951, including four at the Gardens , and their most recent Stanley Cup in 1967. The Gardens was also home to the second game of the 1972 Summit Series pitting Team Canada against the USSR. Team Canada won their first game of the eight game series as they eventually defeated the Soviets to capture the Summit Series.
Although the Maple Leafs moved out of the Gardens in 1999, the Ryerson Rams of the CIS call the Maple Leaf Gardens home and in 2009 the Gardens was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.
Although there is not much hockey played at the old Maple Leaf Gardens, just by looking at the outside of the building, it is intimidating and you can tell there is a lot of history within those walls.
If you want to take a hockey centric trip outside of North America, how about visiting the Vaillant Arena in Davos, Switzerland.
Tucked in the Swiss Alps in the highest city in Europe, Vaillant Arena is a very unique and exquisite venue to visit. The arena consists of an outdoor rink and an indoor rink. The outdoor rink is mostly used for speed skating, but it was once the venue for HC Davos of the National League A.
The indoor rink is now the current venue for HC Davos and the Spengler Cup, often cited as the oldest invitational ice hockey tournament in the world. Be sure to take in a view of the wonderfully scenic Swiss Alps during your time in Davos, in between hockey games of course.
Hobey Baker Rink
Named after the legend Hobey Baker, the Hobey Baker Rink in Princeton, New Jersey is the second oldest college hockey rink in the United States. Constructed in 1923, Baker Rink has the look and feel of a Gothic church and while it only fits 2,000 spectators, it also means that, no matter where your seats are, you are always close to some Princeton hockey action.
Its lobby proudly displays numerous photographs, trophies, and memorabilia from not only Hobey Baker, but also Patty Kazmaier, who is the namesake of the women’s equivalent of the Hobey Baker Award. Kazmaier, a Princeton alum, was a four year varsity letter from 1981-1986. She passed away in 1990 at the age of 28 from a rare blood disease.
Madison Square Garden
“The Garden”, as New Yorkers put it, is not only rife in history, but hockey history as well. Although the Garden was renovated last year, it is still the oldest arena in the league. However, it has the look and feel of a new arena and its thanks to the owner of the Rangers investing a lot of money into the Garden to help fan experience and update an aging MSG. The sights and feel of bustling Manhattan is another perk in visiting Madison Square Garden. It sits atop the famous Penn Station right in mid-town Manhattan.
Catch a Rangers game and listen to the old time hockey organ piping through the loudspeaker and gaze above at the numbers hanging in the rafters as you take a glimpse back to the “Original Six”.
There is nothing like catching a Rangers-Islanders game at MSG, the fans are relentless towards the Islanders and shouting epithets towards Islanders great Denis Potvin.
Joe Louis Arena
Despite the crumbling economy of the city of Detroit, Joe Louis Arena in a monument to the Red Wings and makes “Hockeytown” what it is.
Despite being built in 1979, after players like Gordie Howe left, the Joe has had its share of historic moments. the Red Wings started their renaissance in the 80s when Steve Yzerman joined the Red Wings. Since the Red Wings moved into Joe Louis Arena, they have won four Stanley Cups and it has become a magical place for Detroit fans and its what makes Detroit, “Hockeytown”
Even if you aren’t a Wings fan, its still a must to view a game in person. You just might see a fan throwing the now synonymous with Red Wings lore, octopus, onto the ice and, if you are lucky, you can join the crowd in a rousing rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”, sung when the Wings are winning in the waning moments of a late season game or playoff game. Just be sure to shout the “Born and raised in South Detroit” part.
Joe Louis Arena is a fun place to experience a hockey game and to soak in all the history from the Yzerman era Red Wings.
Wherever a Playoff Game is Playing
This isn’t any particular place, but Stanley Cup playoff hockey is hockey at its absolute best and every fan should experience it in person.
The players play with more intensity and the fans are much more invested into the game as every single game matters in the playoffs. If you are so lucky to get tickets to an elimination game, you will see something that isn’t done in any other sport: the handshake line. Despite playing an intense and chippy playoff series, players always go out to center ice and shake hands with their fellow brothers, a sight to be seen.
If you happen to see the Cup being won, there really is nothing like it. Watching the Cup being carried onto the ice, the annual booing of Commissioner Bettman, and watching a Cup being hoisted after a long playoff road is great to see on TV, but when you are actually at the game it is magnified by 1000.
Did I miss any place or venue? Comment below or send me a Tweet, @MarkWGraham