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Official Review by Derek Bober, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Compuware Arena is home to the Plymouth Whalers, a member of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). The OHL is a twenty-team junior hockey league divided into an Eastern and Western conference. The league spans across Eastern Canada and stateside in Michigan and Pennsylvania. The league has proven to be a direct pipeline to the NHL with six first round picks in the 2013 NHL Draft alone. From a team perspective, the Whalers have provided the NHL with 56 players since the team’s inception in 1990. That talent has translated well to success on the ice, with consecutive Western Division titles and 17 consecutive seasons in the OHL playoffs. With that said, the first thing you should expect from a Whalers experience is a great game with very talented players. But there is definitely more to it than that, after all there is much more to a sporting event than the game itself.
Compuware Arena is located in Plymouth, Michigan, which is in the northwest suburbs of Detroit and is a quaint town that provides everything that one could ask for in a small town experience with great dining, shopping, and activities. Although downtown Plymouth is not within walking distance of the arena, it still provides a great option before or after the game to enhance your game day experience.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
You will not find anything beyond the standard stadium/arena fare, but the prices are reasonable and will not drop your jaw. The arena has drink and food stands spread comfortably around the arena, with prices for hot dogs, kielbasa, brats, pizza or cheeseburgers ranging from $3.50-$4.50. Labatt Blue and Blue Light are the beers of choice with 16 and 24 oz. beers costing $5 and $7 respectively.
One unique thing the arena does boast, is an on-site restaurant/brewery named CJ's and provides a popular pre and post-game destination for fans.
Compuware Arena is intimately sized and seats 3,504 and expands to 4,000 with standing room. The arena is outfitted with a wide single concourse that encircles the seating bowl. The seating is your standard plastic with chair-backs.
There are many banners hanging from the rafters that consist of division titles and retired numbers that provide a nice touch and something you would come to expect from a team that is proud of their history.
There is a noticeable chill in the air that is not surprising and some would feel enhances the experience, but will probably warrant the more sensitive individuals to leave their jacket on.
Be sure to be in your seats for introductions, as the players enter the ice through a large inflatable tunnel adorned with the team's signature whale mascot. The intros begin approximately 5 minutes before the puck drops, as the team is led onto the ice by their mascot Shooter, aka "the whale without a tail," as coined by PA Announcer Chris Butzlaff.
One thing noticeably absent from the arena is any sort of video board. This can most certainly be seen as a problem if you want a replay of that one-timer through the five hole or that crushing hit into the boards, but it also makes you focus more closely on the game, as you only get that one chance to see the moment.
The sounds of the game are crisp, clear and loud from all seats and there is something to be said for a cozy environment that allows you to hear a team celebrating a goal from across the ice.
In terms of dining, there are few immediate options outside the arena aside from a couple common chain restaurants that are typically only passable for a quick beer or appetizer. The real bang for your entertainment/dining buck will come a few miles down the road in the aforementioned town of Plymouth, where you will find a number of great restaurants and bars.
This is one arena where you should come early and have dinner and a beer at the brewery attached to the arena.
On the evening of my most recent visit, the arena was about half full, but the fans certainly could be heard at the appropriate times. There is a smattering of cow bells and vuvuzelas, but nothing that could be viewed as obnoxious and certainly adds to the overall ambiance. The crowd is very engaged in the game and most certainly views the action on the ice as the main event.
Compuware Arena is easily accessible from M-14, which connects to several of the main freeways in metro Detroit. There are also many suburban surface roads that will smoothly get you to the arena. The arena is surrounded be one large parking lot that provides a short walk into the arena.
There are only two tiers of pricing for a Whalers game with center ice (two sections on each side of the rink) tickets costing $16 and $12 for the remaining sections. The best return comes on Friday nights where $6 tickets are offered. I tend to believe the standard ticket prices may be a bit high, especially in such a competitive Southeast Michigan sports environment, but the quality of the hockey is very high, so it certainly makes the price more palatable.
There is a fully stocked team shop located within the arena that provides a large assortment of apparel and souvenirs for the entire family. Hoodies range from $35-$50 for kids and $45-$60 for adults. Some of the more unique offerings at the store include hand held goal lights ($14.99), so you can appropriately celebrate when the home team scores. They also offer a variation on the famous foam finger, in the form of a foam whale tale for $6.
There is a nice classic hockey game touch at the end when the "Three Stars of the Game" are introduced. Each player tosses an autographed t-shirt to the eagerly awaiting fans.
My most recent visit to the arena landed on a Saturday and precisely at 9pm, the first line of Billy Joel's "Piano Man" was played. This could be viewed as trivial or insignificant, but I like the attention to detail.
Overall, a trip to Compuware Arena to see the Plymouth Whalers will give you a great opportunity to see some high quality hockey up close and personal with players you are sure to see lighting the lamp in the NHL someday.
Member Review by paul
The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) is a premier league for young up-and-coming talent, as well as a hotbed for hard core hockey junkies. You can expect to find some of the most knowledgeable fans in hockey when you attend an OHL game, whether you are in Ontario, or visiting one of the three US-based teams.
Plymouth, Michigan is just a stone's throw north of Ann Arbor and a half hour west of Detroit. It is in Plymouth, at Compuware Arena, where you will find one of the two teams in the state of Michigan offering OHL games during the winter months.
Compuware Arena is one of those great little hockey arenas, perfectly sized for an OHL game. The Plymouth Whalers were originally known as the Detroit Whalers, but changed their name a year after the move to Plymouth. The Whalers won the OHL championship in 2007, their lone title in 20+ seasons of existence.
The team is owned by Peter Kamanos, who is also the owner of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. The team can boast to have sent 48 players along to the NHL. You are bound to see some future NHL talent when you attend a Plymouth Whalers game.
Member Review by REVIEWS101 on Dec 06, 2013
I went to my first Whalers Game tonight(12-6-13). The crowd was loud, but other than that, I had a enjoyable experience. CJ's Brewery was awesome, I had their chicken tenders/fries. The PA Announcer Chris Butzlaff was absolutely amazing and entertaining. I had the popcorn and MnMs. The seats were great, the atmosphere was good. I can't wait to go again. Shooter their mascot was cool, got to shake his "fin". What else can I say but....Go Whalers!!!!!!! and come down to compuware arena if you get the chance.
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