The Forum. The Olympia. The Stadium. The names of the Original Six’s arenas were instantly recognizable to hockey fans around the world, shorthand or not. Well, for fans of the Montréal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, at least. Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs (the Gardens), New York Rangers (the Garden, singular. One garden was good enough, apparently.) and Boston Bruins (the Garden…that opened three years later) had slightly more trouble.
They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To
Creativity of early 20th Century naming conventions aside, these old barns brought something special to the hockey experience. Take the Canadiens, for example: the Habs were residents of the Forum for 70 years; playing there, with so much history enveloping every stride, must have been a pretty surreal experience.
Not to mention the quirkiness of each old barn. The Chicago Stadium, for instance, was slightly smaller than National Hockey League regulations, meaning the Blackhawks had an inherent advantage to playing in their own building. They also re-purposed the foghorn off of their owner’s yacht to celebrate goals.
Modern arenas tend to have little of this character and are generally being laid out in cookie-cutter designs with gently sloping seats. Contrast this to older rinks, where spectators and players alike describe fans being, quite literally, right on top of the action. Here is Don Cherry talking about the time he literally walked into the stands at Maple Leaf Gardens to speak with a disapproving spectator.
And, of course, we all remember Patrick Roy walking up to Canadiens team president Ronald Corey and demanding a trade after being left in to stew during a Red Wings rout of the Habs.
The Name Game
Old-school arena names, too, are gone, with most facilities being named after corporate entities, and these names often changing too often to keep up (looking at you, Ottawa). Other times, companies put their names on multiple facilities, creating no confusion whatsoever (Rogers, Scotiabank…). And, let’s be honest, who can honestly call it “PPG Paints Arena” without dying inside just a little. So, with that said, let’s see if we can provide some new lingo for these often less-than-iconic structures:
Air Canada Centre (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Unlike the building’s NBA tenant, the Leafs name doesn’t really conjure up any evocative imagery that might assist in assigning a nickname to their home. “The Tree”? “The Bush”? Exactly. The lack of atmosphere at most Leaf games doesn’t help matters; former head coach Ron Wilson likened the arena to a “morgue”. Let’s go with something typically Toronto; something uninspired, safe, corporate, vanilla… Let’s stick with “The ACC”.
Amalie Arena (Tampa Bay Lightning)
While it’s hard to top the building’s original name, “The Ice Palace”, surely we can do better than the name of an oil company. Unfortunately, the best I could come up with is “The Ground”. You know, proving ground, training ground, Britishy-type word for sporting venue… Not to mention the double entendre with electrical physics. You see, because grounding. …right, I’ll show myself out.
American Airlines Center (Dallas Stars)
Given the Stars’ explosive offense, it stands to reason that no team wants to spend any more time in this arena than is absolutely necessary. Given the Stars’ wildly inconsistent defense and goaltending, the same goes for their fans, albeit for slightly different reasons. In any case, “The Lone Star Lay-By” seems appropriate.
Barclays Center (New York Islanders)
The ACC-only half the ice? The Lack-of-Ice Palace? I jest, but the situations (yes, plural) at Barclays are just so very Islandery. That said, the team is on a hot streak, coinciding with the installation of Assistant General Manager Doug Weight as head coach. Thus, I give you “The Weight Room”.
BB&T Center (Florida Panthers)
Hmm, what nickname to give to the home ice of the most entertaining team to cover this season… How does “The Sunshine Circus” sound?
Bell Centre (Montréal Canadiens)
As we all know, the Canadiens are known colloquially as the Habs, a play on habitants, the French settlers who set up shop in what is now Québec. As such, I put forward “Habitant Habitat” as my suggestion, as it sounds just as good in English as it does in French (“Habitat Habitant”).
Bridgestone Arena (Nashville Predators)
The Predators have a fearsome, prehistoric sabre-toothed cat as their logo and a loyal, rabid fanbase. Fortunately for me, said fanbase provides a readymade option for the Preds’ arena nickname: “Smashville”.
Canadian Tire Centre (Ottawa Senators)
Given that the teams moniker is the Senators (despite their logo being a centurion), “The Red Chamber”, after the Canadian Government’s Upper House (and the team’s primary colour), seems appropriate. Simply “The Chamber” would do, too.
Gila River Arena (Arizona Coyotes)
“The Desert Den” for the Desert Dogs? Okay Coyotes, you can have it, but only on a probationary basis. One more embarrassing season and you’d better believe it’s gone. Your move, ‘Yotes.
Honda Center (Anaheim Ducks)
I’ve never understood why the transfer of corporate naming rights necessitates changing an arena’s entire name. Arrowhead Pond was a fantastic name; what would have been wrong with swapping out Arrowhead for Honda? Nothing, that’s what. “The Pond” it is.
Joe Louis Arena (Detroit Red Wings)
As the building’s final year playing host to the Red Wings draws to a close, nothing I can come up with can compete with its current namesake, that of boxing legend Joe Louis. “The Joe”, forever it shall be.
KeyBank Center (Buffalo Sabres)
Even though it’s what I love about them, the Buffalo Sabres’ branding is a mess. If their name is the Sabres, why do they have buffalos in their logo? Do buffalos have opposable thumbs so they can wield sabres? And what’s with the sweat stain motif underneath their arms?
Given the confusion, for an arena nickname, why not harken back to the team’s old barn (Buffalo Memorial Auditorium) and simply call it “The Aud”?
Madison Square Garden (New York Rangers)
Not that this building has as much history behind it as marketing campaigns would have you believe (this is actually the fourth separate version of MSG), but they’ve stuck with the same name for over a century and I respect that. “The Garden” is theirs.
MTS Centre (Winnipeg Jets)
Airlines have long sponsored NHL arenas, but only a team called the Jets should truly be able to lay claim to “The Hangar” as the nickname for their rink.
Nationwide Arena (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Given the rich history behind the Blue Jackets name, it is only fitting that something Civil War-esque should be the nickname for their home ice. “The Stockade” comes to mind. Given the Jackets’ home record this season (21-8-1), it’s not that far from reality.
Pepsi Center (Colorado Avalanche)
Yes, it ices a historically bad team but, credit where credit’s due, the Pepsi Center has been the Pepsi Center ever since opening in 1999. Interestingly, shortly after the franchise moved to Denver, Colisée de Québec, the team’s arena in its Québec City days, changed its name to Colisée Pepsi. So you’ll understand why it simply cannot be nicknamed anything other than “The Cola Coliseum”.
PNC Arena (Carolina Hurricanes)
The name “Hurricanes” conjures up all sorts of ferocious and electrifying imagery. They deserve to play in an arena with a suitably ominous nickname. “The Storm Center”, perhaps? Or “The Eye of the Storm”? Anything to compliment the great atmosphere provided by the legendary Caniacs.
PPG Paints Arena (Pittsburgh Penguins)
I suppose I should cut Pittsburgh a break; following up such an iconic and well-suited nickname like “The Igloo” is no easy feat. Might I suggest “The Iceberg”? Scientifically accurate (igloos tend to be found in northern climes, while penguins are indigenous to the south), aesthetically accurate (the building’s façade features glass galore) and can be shortened to “The ‘Berg”, which jives perfectly with the city’s nickname (“The ‘Burgh”).
Prudential Center (New Jersey Devils)
New Jersey’s home ice is already known colloquially as “The Rock” (Prudential’s logo features the Rock of Gibraltar). That said, this nickname does not exactly help rid New Jersey of its stereotypical image as a barren, industrial wasteland. I mean, if you’re going to go that route, at least pick something related to your team. “The Pit”, for instance. What, what did I say?
Rogers Arena (Vancouver Canucks)
Vancouver is a beautiful city in the Pacific Northwest, populated by relaxed, progressive people. Just don’t beat (or insult, or comment on, or mention in passing, or select in a video game) their hockey team. For underneath their calm exterior – behind the thick, full beard and mason jar full of hand-ground fair trade coffee – dwells a hockey-mad beast of unconscionable power. I hereby dub the Canucks’ barn, “The Canuck Corral”.
Rogers Place (Edmonton Oilers)
This spectacular new facility is ram-packed on a nightly basis. No, not because of CEO and Vice Chairman Bob Nicholson’s signature hamburger (yes, that is indeed a thing. Check out the cringeworthy video below).
Anyways, the Oilers are still very much an awful hockey team, other than star goaltender Cam Talbot. Oh, and that kid named Connor is pretty good too. But seriously, it’s gotta be “Mount McDavid”. It just has to.
SAP Center (San Jose Sharks)
“The Shark Tank” is an arena nickname that is alive and well. No need to change it. Unless their American Hockey League affiliate the San Jose Barracuda decide to get all uppity. “The Sharp-Toothed Predatory Sea Creature Tank”, anyone?
Scotiabank Saddledome (Calgary Flames)
The Saddledome is an iconic piece of Calgary’s skyline, but it isn’t actually a dome. Like, at all. “The C of Red” is an alternative that does suit the arena, given both the Flames’ logo and the predominance of red-clad fans at every home game.
Scottrade Center (St. Louis Blues)
The Gateway Arch is St. Louis’ most famous landmark, so it stands to reason it should be incorporated into its arena’s nickname in some way. I give you, “Gateway Gardens”.
Staples Center (Los Angeles Kings)
It figures that the team with the league’s most boring uniform plays in an arena named after an office supply company. With Jonathan Quick out, there’s really no need to watch them play, either.
Wanna know something exciting though? I learned a new word today. Maybe using it here will give the Kings some flair. “The Hollywood Hippodrome”. Boom. Flair. You’re welcome.
TD Garden (Boston Bruins)
There might not be a team in the NHL that plays as close to what their moniker suggests as the Boston Bruins. It is only fitting that their building be dubbed “Bears’ Burrow”; it really is like entering a lair.
United Center (Chicago Blackhawks)
“The Madhouse on Madison” is pretty cool, not to mention nostalgic; the old Chicago Stadium was dubbed this, as well. Can’t argue with history, not to mention three Cups in six seasons.
Verizon Center (Washington Capitals)
Though other arenas, such as the Bell Centre and the MTS Centre, are also named after telecommunications companies, Verizon Center’s naming rights were previously held by a second such entity, MCI Inc. Thus, only Verizon Center is worthy of the moniker, “The Phone Booth”.
Wells Fargo Center (Philadelphia Flyers)
The Flyers’ Cup-winning teams are remembered fondly (by Flyers fans, at least) as the Broad Street Bullies, who played out of the now-demolished Spectrum. Given that the Wells Fargo Center is located on the same road, why not call the Flyers’ home “Broad Street”?
Xcel Energy Center (Minnesota Wild)
Wikipedia tells me that “The X” is the local nickname for the Wild’s home ice. I’m just going to go ahead and stick with that, since I don’t know what a “Wild” is. Even if I did, where would they play, “The Woods”?
Make It Your Own
All kidding aside, there is nothing in this world that can quite measure up to the live hockey experience. A sport whose action is constant – and all of the food and beverages of other sporting events – being played in a venue with just the right amount of people. The atmosphere, the fans, the game ops… NHL hockey is truly something that must be seen in person to be properly experienced.
And make no mistake: the venues are an equally important part of this live hockey experience. Even if modern facilities don’t measure up with regards to quirks, defects and eccentricities, an NHL arena is still very much what the fans make it. Nicknames breed affection. Affection breeds loyalty. Loyalty breeds memories. And memories last forever.