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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
In 1996, the maritime experiment in the QMJHL continued with the creation of the expansion franchise, Moncton Alpines. In their first year, the Alpines had such a poor showing on and off the ice, that there was talk that the team may fold after just the first season. Robert Irving of the Irving Group of Companies, and Cavendish Farms bought the team after that first year. They were totally rebranded into the current Wildcats, and took off from there.
The Wildcats play in the city-owned Moncton Coliseum. This venue has hosted numerous events including the CIS University Cup National Hockey Championships, the 2009 World Curling Championships, and the 2006 Memorial Cup. It was 2006 when the Wildcats found their most success, not only hosting the Memorial Cup, but representing the QMJHL as the Presidents Cup Champions. The also went to the Memorial Cup as QMJHL Champions in 2010.
The Wildcats have captivated the Maritimes, developing a healthy rivalry with other Maritime teams including the Halifax Mooseheads and Saint John Sea Dogs. The Wildcats have produced such NHL talent as Keith Yandle and Corey Crawford, and continue to develop players for the next level. A trip to see the Wildcats is a great deal of fun.
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".
Concessions at the Coliseum are the expected assortment. Hot dogs, burgers, sausage, fries, poutine and popcorn are all available. The prices for concessions are very good, with hot dogs going for $2.75 and burgers for $3.50. Soda products are from Coca-Cola. The Tim Horton's stand was very popular at the Coliseum, and featured the coffee and donuts that you would expect at a local franchise. The food score gets a bit of a bump up because of the pricing and the beer. Although it is a huge national brand, Molson Canadian has a bit of a local feel here. At the Molson stand there is a huge sign that advertises that Canadian is brewed in Moncton.
The Moncton Coliseum is part of a larger complex. Conventions and other shows are also scheduled in the Moncton Arena, which is the largest trade show venue in Atlantic Canada.
The Coliseum is not overly beautiful on the outside. In fact it looks like it was built in the seventies, which it was. Once inside, the arena remains not overly aesthetically pleasing. However, there are a few neat features that the Wildcats have instituted that makes the Coliseum a great place for hockey.
The seating bowl features really old school wooden seats, which is a bit surprising due to the age of the venue. Sightlines in the Coliseum are great. The seating bowl is a small, 15 row bowl with a walkway that separates the lower bowl from another 25 rows of seats along the long sides of the arena. One of the main issues that this arena has is the lighting. The rafters and beams are dark and there seems to be insufficient lighting which makes the arena seem very dark and outdated.
Around the arena, the Wildcats have put some effort into showcasing New Brunswick culture and hockey history. At one end of the arena, there are fluorescent signs showcasing the NHL players who are also Wildcat Alumni. Many arenas showcase their alumni in one way or another, however I have not yet seen a display like this one.
The Wildcats have also kept the history of Moncton hockey prevalent in the Coliseum. Featured is the 1982 banner from the AHL's New Brunswick Hawks. Other banners that are featured in the Coliseum include the honoured numbers of Bill Riley, Phillip Doiron, and Oscar Gaudet; all local hockey talents.
The in-game production for the Wildcats is strong. There is an abundance of Celtic-Rock music, which is an East Coast staple, and gives the game a much stronger local feel than many other places. Upon the scoring of a goal, Chelsea Dagger is blasted throughout the arena, and goals, assists and player introductions are followed by the roar of a cat.
The Moncton Coliseum is located west of downtown Moncton, in a fairly urban area. There is not much in the way of eating establishments in the immediate area. Your best bet is to head to Main Street, which has a ton of options. The biggest issue will be what to choose from. The Tide and Boar is good, and the Catch 22 Lobster Bar is fantastic! You can't go wrong downtown. If the arena itself was downtown, it would score a perfect 5, but that bit of a drive knocks down the score slightly.
The crowd at the Wildcats game was fairly subdued. The attendance is strong, with the Wildcats bringing in the 3rd or 4th most fans in the league fairly consistently. They average over 4,000 fans per game. The fans get loud at those typical opportune times, but not too much else. With a large capacity in the Coliseum and a plethora of empty seats, fans have discovered that those classic wooden seats are terrific noisemakers!
Getting to the Coliseum is a piece of cake. There is plenty of free parking, and not being located in the narrow streets of downtown Moncton make the in and out of the Coliseum simple. The Coliseum is located just off Highway 15.
Due to its size, the Moncton Coliseum offers generous concourse space and adequate washroom facilities.
Tickets in the upper bowl were $15 and more in the lower bowl. There is also a discount for children and seniors. With free parking, decent concessions, good ticket prices and a great product, a trip to see the Moncton Wildcats is a can't miss endeavor.
An extra point for the dropping of the flags for the national anthems. They are hung up in the rafters and dropped down just like they would be for the Olympics.
An extra point for the Robert Irving's big turnaround of the franchise.
An extra point for that original Celtic music, which just screams Maritimes.
After a quick turnaround, the Moncton Wildcats are on solid junior hockey ground. Although there has been speculation of a new arena in downtown Moncton, it seems that the Coliseum will remain home to the Wildcats for the foreseeable future. If you are in the Maritimes, and looking for a wild time, give the Wildcats a shot. You won't regret it!
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700 Main St
Moncton, NB E1C 1E4
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