One of the great misnomers in hockey history is the idea of the Original Six. It is a common belief that the NHL began with six franchises based in Toronto, New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, and Montreal. The NHL was built on the backs of these six franchises, but they were by no means the "original" group. That notion is especially unfounded in Ottawa where the Senators have won multiple Stanley Cups before the Original Six era began.
The Original Ottawa Senators were founded in 1883 and lasted in the nation's capital until 1954. During that period they won an impressive 11 Stanley Cups. The history of the Senators is deep, but so foregone that it has almost been lost.
In one of the more controversial moves the NHL made, expansion teams were awarded to Tampa Bay and Ottawa in 1992, leaving in the cold the expansion bid of Hamilton. It has been a rocky road for the Senators which has included a trip into bankruptcy. They were rescued by Biovail owner Eugene Melnyk and have been successful since. Their success culminated in a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007.
In 1996 the Senators made their move from the cramped Ottawa Civic Centre to what is now known as Scotiabank Place. Owned by the Senators, Scotiabank Place is located in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata. Located a significant distance from downtown Ottawa, Kanata has been a growing community since the Senators have moved there. The day of this review was on the CBC sponsored Hockey Day in Canada which featured a Saturday afternoon Senators game, and vignettes from this year's hockey town, Summerside, PEI. In Ottawa there was an added bonus; 22 bus loads of Nordique fans from Quebec City who were making the most of an opportunity to show a National audience that they deserved a return to the NHL.
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 find all of the expected fare at Scotiabank Place. There is a large Pizza Pizza stand where you can get a slice for $4.75. There is a Tim Horton's stand which sells coffee and donuts. You can get Heineken, Coors Light and Molson Canadian in tallboys around the arena for $8.75 or $9.75 each. The soda of choice at Scotiabank Place is Coca-Cola, and their products.
Other stands you might consider are the Chicken Chicken stand or the Burger Shak. I went with Burger Shak, and although the prices were high ($8 for a cheeseburger) they provided a high quality product. Also available at the Burger Shak are fries, poutine, and various gourmet hot dogs.
With the relative remoteness of Scotiabank Place, the Sens have ensured fans have a place to get a bite and a beer that is a step above concessions. There are numerous places to have a seat and eat in the building as well.
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.
Once inside, the main concourse is large, but offers nothing spectacular. The design of the concourse is similar to the Joe Louis Arena or the Palace of Auburn Hills, where there are a couple of levels that share a concourse. Around the concourse there are various historical displays with salutes to local hockey in Ottawa. However, considering the vast history of the original Senators, I felt that they were missing something.
In the seating bowl, seats offer great sightlines, but not an abundance of space. Above the ice the Senators have hung banners honouring the 11 Stanley Cup winners of the previous era as well as division, conference, and President's Trophy banners. The Senators have also retired two numbers. They have retired number 8 in honour of Frank Finnegan. He was the last living member of the 1927 Stanley Cup winning team. His number was retired on the opening day in 1992. The Sens have also retired number 18 in honour of Brian Smith. Smith was a former professional hockey player from Ottawa who became a CTV newscaster at home after his playing career. He was murdered in 1995.
In one of the great traditions in hockey, the national anthems are regularly sung by Lyndon Slewidge, a local OPP officer. When he ends the Canadian National Anthem, he usually has a wink and a thumbs up for the camera, but on this day he pulled a rally towel out of his sleeve and offered a wave to the thousands of cheering fans.
The Senators also periodically spotlight a live organist, who is located up with the fans in the 300 level.
Scotiabank Place is located in Kanata, which is still growing. Surrounded by parking, there is not much of a neighborhood within walking distance. What is in the immediate Kanata area are a couple of chains. If you are looking for something to eat before or after a game, you are best to hit downtown Ottawa for the many unique places to eat. If you hit Sparks Street, you are bound to be satisfied. If you insist on something closer, there is a Moxie's Classic Grill in Kanata, and it is always a good eat. Scotiabank Place does offer numerous restaurants within the building, so that may be your best bet.
There is no doubt that Ottawa Senators fans understand their position. Located in one of the smaller markets in the league, Senators fans, or Sens Army, have been strong supporters of their team. They are traditionally in the top ten in league attendance with around 100% capacity. Ottawa is unique in that they have done a great job carving out a hockey niche between two of the NHL powerhouses, the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. Sens Army is definitely louder than Leaf fans but not as boisterous as Habs supporters. Admittedly, the Army did get a boost from the Nordique Nation that descended upon Scotiabank Place during my most recent visit.
The Scotiabank Place is located in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata. It is quite far from downtown Ottawa and has a location that would be akin to many NFL stadiums. It was built in the middle of nowhere, and there are some businesses that are sprouting out around it. In my experience, when a stadium is located away from the metro area, getting in and out can be a real problem, and that maxim is true in this case for the most part. If you go early enough, getting into Scotiabank Place is pretty easy. Parking is $11, which is a pretty good price compared to other professional organizations. Getting out is the real problem. With so many cars, and so few exits, the log-jam to get back on the Trans-Canada Highway can be a real problem. Also, with no adequate post-game options, everyone is in the same boat.
Once inside, the majority of patrons are located in the shared concourse between the 200 and 300 levels. These concourses are far too narrow, and the washroom facilities don't seem adequate. Lineups seemed to go forever during the intermissions.
Tickets for the Senators can range from $32.50 to over $150. This price range isn't outrageous considering this is NHL hockey in Canada. Parking is an affordable $11 and concessions are average. Add to that a great atmosphere and you are getting good value for your dollar.
Two extra points are awarded to the Nordique fans that were in attendance on this date. One for their passion and voice showing Commissioner Bettman that a return to Quebec City is something the NHL needs to do. Another point for their jovial attitude and their support of the Senators.
An extra point for the great tourist city of Ottawa and all of the things that there are to do.
An extra point for Lyndon Slewidge and one of the great anthem traditions in the NHL.
Hockey Day in Kanata was a great experience, and it was enhanced by the unexpected arrival of Nordique Nation. A trip to Ottawa in the winter to skate on the Rideau Canal, and see the pros skate in Kanata should be a must for all hockey enthusiasts. It is not a day to miss!
Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario was opened in 1996 and has seating capacity for 19,153 for hockey. Home to the Ottawa Senators, the building is at its best come playoff time, when the hockey atmosphere overwhelms the local fans and citizens of the region. Originally known as the Palladium when it first opened, the edifice is circular in design and follows the cosmetic theme of a gladiator arena in early Roman times. Located in Kanata, twenty-five minutes west of downtown, the building is one of the more attractive new NHL rinks built in the past twenty seasons. However, the selection of the suburb of Kanata as a location for the building is one that has caused much controversy over the years.
Travel time back and forth and the lack of surrounding facilities have been the main complaints, but undertakings over time catering to those concerns have made the Scotiabank Place experience a more pleasureable one. Much has been accomplished to assuage the lack of atmosphere beyond the arena doors over the years with the addition of several restaurants and nightspots within the building.
In order to reconcile the entertainment and distance issues, the Senators organization has seen to it that there is no shortage of options in both regards. Six restaurants and several food and beverage outlets within the arena that include hearty post game entertainment are available for fans. Concessions for quick gulps and bites at every level are spaced adequately from each seating section.
As for travelling to and from Scotiabank Place by any means, the order of the day is to not be in a hurry and plan your trip ahead. Hitting the highway immediately after a game by car is never advised. Bus and rail travelers can head to outbound destinations more swiftly. Upon leaving the arena, if you have elected to park on the east side rather than the south, you can benefit from a newly created covered walkway, sheltering fans from the effects of the winter weather as you walk to your parking space.
Generally speaking, good advice to follow in planning for an enjoyable time would be to arrive at the arena as early as possible, have a look around the arena, and plan post game ideas. Fans arriving at games generally enter the building's east side doors, where the ticket lobby is situated and staircases and escalators lead patrons to all levels upon entrance. If you are arriving in Kanata without a ticket, be aware that come playoff time, an additional 2,000 standing room tickets go on sale on game days. In the event of a sellout, arrive by mid afternoon and look for an older dude parked on the east side facing the main entrance in a 1997 Honda Civic.
Once inside the arena on game nights, the concerns outside the walls are greatly diminished by a superb hockey atmosphere. The arena bowl itself offers clear sightlines to the rink surface, but fourth level seats, especially at goal ends, tend to leave the impression that you will be experiencing half of a hockey game. The video screen over center ice is no help, so avoid these seats if possible.
Not to be forgotten in the Scotiabank Place experience, especially for fans of hockey history, is the fact that the Ottawa Senators first incarnation precedes that of the hockey's Original Six. You want hockey lore - you've got it. The bygone era of the original Ottawa Senators, who played in the NHL from 1917 to 1934 is everpresent. From the the nine Stanley Cup banners that hang from the rafters to walls in the media gallery concourse lined with historical photos documenting the city's hockey history going back to the 1890's, nothing is left uncovered. Several thematic displays line the halls, the most popular covering the Original Six era, the Olympic Games and the evolution of hockey equipment.
1000 Palladium Drive
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