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2013 NHL Arena Rankings

By Paul Swaney -- May 13, 2013 7:27 AM EDT

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Over the past two seasons, we have made visits to each NHL arena. Our ratings are meant to measure the overall fan experience of attending a game. Factors we include are food and beverage in the arena, overall atmosphere, the neighborhood, the fans, access (which includes parking, traffic, restrooms, and concourses), return on investment, and an "extras" category for any unique or bonus points. We use our official ratings when determining the ranking with "crowd reviews" - those reviews from our members - as our primary tiebreaker. Without further ado, our 2013 NHL Arena rankings:

  1. Xcel Energy Center - Home of the Minnesota Wild

    The fans know the game and appreciate the little things, such as clearing the puck on the penalty kill, or a good defensive play to prevent a scoring chance. That is what gives the Xcel a truly special atmosphere and, even though the initial luster of having the NHL back in Minnesota has worn off, there is still a buzz around the building.

  2. Verizon Center - Home of the Washington Capitals

    During the national anthem, they all stand respectfully and quietly, except for the line "and the rockets red glare," where 19,000 people yell "RED" in unison on that word. Go get your bucket list. Add "Attend a Washington Capitals game at Verizon Center" to it. Then do it. You will not be disappointed.

  3. Amalie Arena - Home of the Tampa Bay Lightning

    Despite the negative impression making the rounds in the hockey-based media, the Tampa Bay Lightning are bucking the trend of "typical" Southern hockey market. With three potential hall-of-famers on the team in the latest seasons, a Stanley Cup to their name in 2003–04, and renovations in 2012 that bring the Tampa Bay Times Forum into the upper echelons of worldwide arenas, the Lightning have made their mark on both the Tampa Bay metro area and hockey as a whole.

  4. Staples Center - Home of the Los Angeles Kings

    Once the lights dim, fans will see the players walking through a makeshift castle on their way to the ice. The intros are rather lengthy with all sorts of images being displayed on the ice, green laser beams illuminating the arena (which I found odd as green isn't a part of the Kings' color scheme), and a boisterous chant of "Go Kings Go" to start off the action.

  5. Bell Centre - Home of the Montreal Canadiens

    Large posters of players from the very early teams, photographs by year of the classic club are on the main concourse, great moments in club history dominate the open spaces, and displays of the classic uniforms are also prominently shown. It really is nicely overwhelming and reflective of a team whose place in hockey history has long been secured.

  6. United Center - Home of the Chicago Blackhawks

    For years after the United Center opened in 1994, the Chicago Blackhawks were the "other tenant" in the building. As the Bulls declined into mediocrity, the Blackhawks rose in prominence, hitting its zenith with its first Stanley Cup championship in nearly 50 years in 2010. Today the United Center is a hot ticket when the Blackhawks are in town, and a filled standing room only crowd a common sight.

  7. Consol Energy Center - Home of the Pittsburgh Penguins

    Penguin hockey fans are some of the smartest and most passionate in the NHL. Being a hockey fan in Pittsburgh is easy with an owner like Mario Lemieux and players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but the fans also back it up.

  8. Gila River Arena - Home of the Arizona Coyotes

    Jobing.com Arena has replaced US Airways Center as the premier entertainment venue in the Valley of the Sun, hosting some of the biggest music artists in the business, as well as the Harlem Globetrotters and high school basketball tournaments. One of the main reasons that the Coyotes needed to move out of US Airways Center was because there were obstructed seats at both ends of the arena, forcing fans to look up at the video board if the puck was in the end closest to them. Jobing was designed so that the concourse areas would be open to the ice, allowing for some standing room areas, especially on the upper level, and every seat having a perfect view of the ice.

  9. SAP Center at San Jose - Home of the San Jose Sharks

    The beautiful exterior of HP Pavilion building is matched only by the equally appealing interior. It can have a bit of a hospital room feel as everything seems so clean, so white, so off-white, so beige. But the quality seats and sightlines set the spectator with views of the banners (Stanley Cup not included) to one side and the descending shark head to the other.

  10. Scottrade Center - Home of the St. Louis Blues

    The Blues current home, their second since 1967, is the Scottrade Center. Opening in 1994 under the name Kiel Center, a nod to the historic and adjacent facility, the first Blues game was not played until December of that year due to the labor impasse. The building has undergone several changes to include a color change in seats (the original ones were all fuscia) and the development of more open spaces where fans can congregate, eat and drink while watching the game from something other than a seat. Just six years ago, the team was struggling to get 14,000 fans at their games. Things have changed for the better including new local ownership which changed hands in June 2012. The future is bright for the current version of the Blues providing a new level of excitement for fans, not seen in these parts for well over a decade.

  11. Madison Square Garden - Home of the New York Rangers

    Built in 1968, Madison Square Garden is now the oldest arena in the NHL, nipping nearby Nassau Coliseum by four years. Yet the Garden has the look and feel of a newer building. The Cablevision company, which owns the arena, the Rangers, and the Knicks, has invested a fortune into the building, with the last round of major renovations set to proceed over the summer of 2013. Over the past two off-seasons, the seats and concourses have been modernized and the amenities at the Garden are indistinguishable from a newer building.

  12. MTS Centre - Home of the Winnipeg Jets

    The community built the new MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg to replace the old and dated Winnipeg Arena. A new AHL franchise, the Manitoba Moose, began play here. Grassroots support grew and grew for the return of the NHL. The dreams were realized in the 2011 offseason, when the Atlanta Thrashers were bought and relocated here. The Winnipeg Jets are back again. All seems right with the world.

  13. PNC Arena - Home of the Carolina Hurricanes

    Sure, the NHL's odd emphasis on American expansion has sent franchises to the southernmost point of sunny Florida and into the arid Arizonan desert, but at least Miami and Phoenix are "hip." The transition from roller blades to roller hockey to ice hockey is only a bit of a stretch. But planting the puck among barbeques, tractor pulls, and decades of baseball, basketball, and football tradition in the hidebound heart of the muggy South? Now that's a big ol' leap of faith.

    Against those odds, the Carolina Hurricanes have carved out a niche in North Carolina as one of the state's most unexpected sporting successes. Bringing a championship home in 2006 helped, but the game day experience at the RBC Center shines for more reasons than the lingering luster of Lord Stanley's Cup.

  14. First Niagara Center - Home of the Buffalo Sabres

    Being in close proximity to the Canadian border, the arena has quite the feel of the Canadian hockey culture. The anthems of both countries are presented before the puck is dropped, a tradition which goes back to the franchise's founding in 1970. The Sabres have a substantial base of season ticket holders and casual fans who reside in Canada. And when a Canadian team is the opponent, look out, Especially with Toronto and Montreal in town, fans are clad in the visiting colors, and competing chants of "Let's Go Buffalo!" and "Go Leafs Go" or "Go Habs Go" attempt to drown each other out. Sabres hockey is an indelible part of the community, and games here almost always attract full crowds.

  15. Bridgestone Arena - Home of the Nashville Predators

    Bridgestone Arena opened in 1996 as the Nashville Arena and has been the home to the National Hockey League’s Nashville Predators since their inception in 1998. The 17,113 seat arena stands in the heart of downtown and features an iconic phalanx symbol that would have made the citizens of Pompeii blush. The Predators have been attracting 17,092 fans a game during the 2012-2013 season, turning a city known for its country music into a genuine hockey town.

  16. American Airlines Center - Home of the Dallas Stars

    Overall, the AAC is an excellent venue for hockey. There isn't a lot of history yet, but they do have plenty of banners celebrating their success, including that one Stanley Cup banner that Buffalo fans refuse to acknowledge. The venue is extremely clean, the staff are friendly, and the fans are friendly. If you haven't been here, put it on your extended stadium journey bucket list.

  17. Wells Fargo Center - Home of the Philadelphia Flyers

    The Wells Fargo Center is nice. It's very pretty. It has lots of fun stuff to do. But it won't ever scare anybody. Teams used to be afraid to play the Flyers in the Spectrum. Not here. It's too nice. Wouldn't want to mess anything up. You look up in the rafters, and the same banners hang, along with a couple of new ones, but it's not the same. You got your pop-a-shot basketball games and your air hockey tables and hockey-in-a-bubble style foosball games, all your modern arena doodads and hoohah, but it just ain't the same atmosphere. And that's kinda sad.

  18. Prudential Center - Home of the New Jersey Devils

    With the acrimonious departure of the New Jersey Nets for neighboring Brooklyn, and with the NFL’s Jets and Giants calling New Jersey home in fact but not in spirit, the New Jersey Devils are now the state’s only professional sports franchise that actually is proud to be from where they’re from. And the team certainly wants you to know it. “Jersey’s Team” banners greet you as you step out of Newark Penn Station or pull off the interstate, and the Devils’ marketing campaign in 2012-13 was all about making sure that everyone knew that this was the Garden State’s team.

  19. Scotiabank Saddledome - Home of the Calgary Flames

    The Calgary Flames have not been terribly competitive in a number of years and have missed the playoffs several years in a row. Further, they traded away two of their best players just prior to the 2013 NHL trade deadline, making it clear they were moving into a phase of rebuilding. The fans, consequently, haven't had a lot to cheer about for quite some time.

    Nevertheless, the Scotiabank Saddledome continues to be packed to the rafters night after night, game after game, so there is still considerable energy in the stands. Calgary sports fans are traditionally pretty docile, but they've become more comfortable with cheering and booing where appropriate over the years, so the place generally has a pretty fun, exciting feel to it on most nights, even if the hometown squad is struggling.

  20. Pepsi Center - Home of the Colorado Avalanche

    Opened in 1999, the Pepsi Center doesn't seem to have aged at all, as its modern design of smooth curves juxtaposed with a sharp angles jutting away from the main structure create the great atrium. The glass facades invite any and all passersby to peek inside of the Pepsi Center and they show off the interesting interior of the arena.

    Pepsi Center is one of a few shining stars of Denver's downtown, and its location in the center of the city places "The Can" within walking distance of up-scale shopping and dining in the 16th Street Mall, hundreds of bars and restaurants in LoDo, next door to Six Flags at Elitch Gardens and near the convention center and performing arts complex.

  21. Nationwide Arena - Home of the Columbus Blue Jackets

    It’s all here. The beautiful arena that’s easy to get to and a great place to watch a game. The neighborhood that went from ghost town to a welcoming place to gather before and after the game. A city with a loyal base of sports fans ready and willing to support their entry into the NHL. Just one thing has been missing to really set this market off, and unfortunately, the team on the ice is kind of an important component. To their credit, the fans are still there, still cheering, still waiting.

  22. Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum - Home of the New York Islanders

    With the Isles’ future in the New York area secure and the team actually competitive again for the first time in many years, it’s once again possible to go to a game at the Nassau Coliseum and enjoy it for what it is – a throwback to the 1970’s, a gloriously intimate building with a great atmosphere – instead of as a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the NHL’s goofy overexpansion, poor vetting of potential ownership and incompetent management.

  23. Rexall Place - Home of the Edmonton Oilers

    It is now the third oldest rink in the league (only the two New York arenas have been around longer) but has been renovated on several occasions to maintain a modern look. Some of these renovations have included changes to the capacity, which is currently 16,839 for the Oilers. Most notable was an extensive remodeling in 1994 during which the number of seats was reduced to allow for the installation of fifty-two luxury suites. Fortunately, these new suites did not affect the proximity of the upper bowl and Rexall Place remains a great place to watch hockey.

  24. Rogers Arena - Home of the Vancouver Canucks

    Fin, the Canucks' whale mascot, dates back to the Orca Bay days and is a well-known symbol of the team. He goes around the stadium with his drum to get the fans going, and the kids love him. He is a little scary looking, with his sharp teeth a feature of Fin's, but overall, he does what a mascot is supposed to do -- entertain the fans.

  25. Canadian Tire Centre - Home of the Ottawa Senators

    The exterior of the Scotiabank Place seems more like an NFL stadium than your typical arena. It is really in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by parking. It seems as though there should be tailgating everywhere, however there wasn't much tailgating to speak of. The harsh Ottawa winter might have something to do with this. In fact, the wind is so high and cold, within few surrounding buildings to cut that wind, that the Senators built a covered walkway from the parking lot to the area to protect the patrons.

  26. Air Canada Centre - Home of the Toronto Maple Leafs

    The ACC has been good for the Maple Leafs ... perhaps too good. One of the nicknames of the old Maple Leaf Gardens was the "Cashbox on Carlton," due to its consistent sell-outs, and it may just be an appropriate moniker for the Hangar as well. Although the ACC is not on Carlton Street, it is most definitely a cash box. Unfortunately, as a fan, it is that feeling that resonates throughout the event. Prices for seats go from $55 to a whopping $416. You aren't getting a sniff of the lower bowl for under $165. The majority of the seats in the upper bowl are over $100.

  27. TD Garden - Home of the Boston Bruins

    The Garden delivers a very good spectator experience. There's a lot going on for the entire game and there are really no bad sightlines at all. The seating is very steep but they've done a great job with the construction and you can see all the action no matter where you park your butt. It's easy to have a good time here, but you just have to pay a lot to do it.

  28. Joe Louis Arena - Home of the Detroit Red Wings

    Fans in Detroit are probably a bit spoiled. Two decades of playoff runs, including 4 Stanley Cups, can do that to a fan base. You may find more empty seats than you would think, especially during the week and against less successful teams. Today you will hear from many that believe that JLA needs to be replaced by a more modern facility. You’ll hear an opposition that feels like the classic arena needs to be protected and cherished. It is hard to read the tea leaves to see what the future may hold.

  29. Honda Center - Home of the Anaheim Ducks

    Like any event near Disneyland, the atmosphere is more family-friendly than anything else. While the Walt Disney Company sold the franchise back in 2005, it has seemingly remained as fan-friendly as any professional sports team today. While this is great for mom and dad, it also seems to prevent a really great sports atmosphere. Regardless of the circumstance, there never really appears to be a game changing atmosphere.

  30. BB&T Center - Home of the Florida Panthers

    The thing that hurts the atmosphere the most is where precisely this arena is located in South Florida. The city of Sunrise is more of a suburb of Fort Lauderdale than it is Miami, and even that is kind of a stretch. Located about 30 miles from downtown Miami, and almost 20 from downtown Fort Lauderdale, the BB&T Center abuts the biggest piece of untouchable real estate in the south, the Everglades and its East Coast Buffer. They even accentuate this aspect with balconies overlooking the connecting Sawgrass Expressway and the expanse of virgin land immediately beyond.

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