Driving on the Trans-Canada Highway through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the last thing one would want to see is a moose-head. That all changes once you reach Halifax.
The QMJHL has long been focused on the province of Quebec. In 1993, Moosehead Breweries Limited convinced the league that expansion into the Canadian Maritimes was a good idea. Among great concern and skepticism, the league awarded an expansion team to Halifax and the brewery. The 1994 season saw the birth of the Halifax Mooseheads, and hockey in Canada's East got a much needed shot in the arm.
The Mooseheads ironically were named after, and originally owned by a Saint John, New Brunswick brewery, which remains Canada's oldest independent brewery. Eventually, the Mooseheads were sold to former Minnesota North Star and Montreal Canadien legend Bobby Smith, who still owns the team today.
Halifax is the biggest city in the Canadian maritimes, and therefore is the cultural centre of the East. Even though Halifax is not an overly large city, events at the Metro Centre have that big event feel to them. Moose Country is front and centre in the Halifax sporting scene. The Metro Centre, which is owned by the City of Halifax, and managed by Trade Centre Limited, offers a big event feel to it, and attracts the largest indoor events in the area.
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 can find all all of the usual suspects at the Metro Centre when it comes to concessions. Hot Dogs, popcorn, soda, burgers and nachos are all available. Prices are pretty decent. In what is a bit of a curious situation, but kind of understandable, Moosehead beer is not available here. Local brewer Alexander Keith is quite popular and available here. I understand why the local beer is here and not Moosehead, however there is something sacrilegious about going to a Mooseheads game and not being able to get a Moosehead beer. A bump in the food scoring goes to the Citadel Fries stand. FRESH fries and poutine are available at this stand, and they are fantastic!! You may also want to check out the candy stands and get a large cupcake.
As I mentioned previously, being the cultural centre of the Maritimes gives the Metro Centre a big event feel to it. That begins with the exterior. Around the outside of the building, there are large banners for players of both the Mooseheads and the Halifax Rainmen of the NBL-Canada, much like you would find at a Major League Baseball stadium. Once inside you will find the large atrium. On the day of this review, they had a Q&A session with an executive of the visiting PEI Rocket. The carpeted area features some concession stands and a large area for congregating. On the floor immediately below the atrium, you will find the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame, which honours many local sports icons.
Once inside the seating bowl, you will immediately notice the very large seating capacity. It is much larger than the vast majority of arenas in the QMJHL. There is a ton of railing space for standing room, which is a staple in junior hockey. The long sides of the arena have a second level, behind a 360 degree walkway around the entire arena. The sight-lines are good from just about anywhere. If you are in the second level, the view of the scoreboard will be obstructed by the hanging suites. However, the Mooseheads do a great job of making up for this. There are small scoreboards on the back of the suites, and there are 7 projectors that show the videoboard images on the back of the suites. This is actually better than seeing the centre-ice videoboard.
In the rafters you will see Mooseheads banners for various division and conference championships, as well as 3 retired numbers. The Mooseheads have honoured the numbers of Alex Tanguay (18), Jody Shelley (25), and Jean-Sebastian Giguere (47). They also have a banner for broadcaster Pat Connolly who retired after 16 seasons with the Mooseheads. The Mooseheads also have a series of banners on display for the "Fans 15." The Fans 15 are the 15 most popular Mooseheads of all time, as voted by the Halifax fans.
The Metro Centre is located right in downtown Halifax. Right across the road from the Metro Centre is The Citadel. This Halifax landmark, is a historic fort, which was a key strategic point throughout Canadian History. It is well worth the tour, although possibly earlier in the season when the weather may be nicer. There are also a ton of eating establishments downtown, so finding a spot will only be difficult if you have trouble choosing. Being on the East Coast, you should most definitely look for some seafood. The Five Fishermen is a great choice, among numerous others. If you are a bit out of the centre, you may want to check out The Armview, which is a great pub and restaurant!
The Mooseheads have been a solid attendance draw in the QMJHL. For the last few years they have been the second best draw of all franchises. Moose Country features plastic horns throughout the game, and has a bit of a feel like a soccer game. They are very loud for a home goal, and insanely silent for an opposing goal. They are also intelligent and very friendly.
Located in downtown Halifax makes access a bit of an issue. Downtown is in an extremely hilly territory. Parking is found throughout the downtown, and many of the locals scramble for street parking. Not being a fan of street parking, I did find parking at the local pool for a $5 donation to the local minor sports authority. Getting in and out and around becomes more difficult because of the hills.
Inside, the washroom facilities are adequate, and traveling throughout the arena is not too difficult.
Tickets for adults are between $14-$16, with discounts for seniors, students and children. Parking can be found on the street if you are really cheap, or in a surface lot for a small fee. Concession prices are also pretty good. This all adds up to a great evening of entertainment without dropping the kids' college fund. The fast pace of the QMJHL and the opportunity to see some future stars makes the return on investment very high.
An extra point for the Mooseheads wearing jerseys of a local minor hockey team, the Cole Harbour Wings. This was a great salute to local minor hockey. Cole Harbour is a northern suburb of Halifax, and Mooseheads centre Nathan MacKinnon is a product of the Cole Harbour minor hockey system.
Two extra points for the link to CIS basketball. The Metro Centre annually plays host to the AUAA (Atlantic Conference) Basketball tournament, and numerous times has played host to the CIS National Championships. Halifax features Dalhousie University and St. Mary's University that play in the CIS. The Metro Centre features numerous banners honouring Atlantic Canadian universities that have won basketball titles.
An extra point for that big event feel that you get in Halifax, even though it is a relatively small city.
An extra point for the pioneer nature of the Mooseheads, bringing major junior hockey to Atlantic Canada.
In Moose Country you will find a great experience and a must-see team if you are interested in junior hockey. The beautiful city of Halifax makes for a great vacation destination, and there are tons of things to do and see. Hopefully, the only Mooseheads you see are in the Metro Centre!
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1740 Argyle St
Halifax, NS B3J 2B6
5425 Sackville St
Halifax, NS B3J 3Y3
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