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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Canada Life Centre – Winnipeg Jets

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Canada Life Centre 300 Portage Ave Winnipeg, MB R3C 5S4 Canada

Year Opened: 2004 Capacity: 15,294


Loud Crowd Powers the Jets

Canada Life Centre opened in 2004, with the Jets franchise returning to the city in 2011. It currently serves as the home to both the NHL Winnipeg Jets and the Manitoba Moose of the AHL. It is the smallest arena in the NHL, with a seating capacity of 15,294.

Food & Beverage 3

The Canada Life Centre offers a wide variety of food options, with something available to please any palate. For your standard arena fare, you can head to Jumbo Jet Dog (Jumbo Jet Dog $11, Perogies $10), Aviator’s Grill (Chicken Fingers $11.75, Nachos and Cheese $$9.50, Taco Salad in a Bag $11, Fries w/Poutine $6). Pizza Pizza offers pies with several different toppings by the slice at $7.25 or a family-sized pizza for $40. Fans looking for healthy choices have Freshii, which offers wraps for $10.75, bowls for $9.75, and salads for $11.75. There are some upscale offerings to be found at Carvery and Melts, Gourmet Burger, or High Steaks.

Alcoholic beverages are available at most concession stands, but for wider selections in brews, head over to Hops and Shots for domestic beers at $11.25, liquor for $17, and wine for $10.75. The Budweiser Red Light Bar offers seated service behind the south end of the rink.

As you would expect anywhere in Canada, Tim Hortons is onsite with their great coffee ($2.75) and delicious Timbits ($5.25 for 20).

Atmosphere 3

One of the first things you are aware of upon entering the arena seating bowl is how intimate it is. Having the smallest seating capacity in the league could work against you, but I soon learned that the size of the facility makes it notably louder than some of the much larger NHL rinks I have been to.

The Canada Life Centre scoreboard really is impressive, both in size and uniqueness. The Jet logo (a fighter jet) is extended out from the scoreboard before the game and when it is lifted from the ice. It recedes back into the middle of the board during actual game action. Smoke from its jet engines emits from its base after a Winnipeg goal.

The concourses are wide enough to handle the crowds, but there are not as many gates as you would find at most arenas, which leads to some temporary crowding. The building is on an extremely small footprint as it does not have a large entrance plaza. All four sides of the building are surrounded by basic sidewalks.

Neighborhood 4

Winnipeg is the capital city of the province of Manitoba, which means it has a wide range of museums, galleries, and sports activities to check out. It is an easy city to get around in, with an excellent public transportation system.

The Canada Life Centre is in the downtown area of Winnipeg. One of the most popular things to do near the arena is a visit to The Forks and the Forks National Historic Site located along the Assiniboine River. The Forks offers shopping, restaurants, a food and beer hall, ice skating, and other events throughout the year. The Manitoba Legislative Building is also located close by, with all kinds of exhibits about the history of the province.

Adjacent to the Downtown District is the Exchange District National Historic Site. This 20 block district features Canada’s most extensive collection of turn-of-the- 20th– century buildings. Today this area is filled with street-level boutiques, antique shops, breweries, restaurants, and galleries. The Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame is also located in the Exchange District.

Winnipeg is also home to the Royal Canadian Mint. Sure, they produce the loonie here, but they also produce the hard currency for more than 70 countries outside of Canada. The tour includes the production process, holding a $600,000 gold bar, and checking out Olympic medals that were produced at the Mint. Sorry, no free samples!

Like most Canadian cities, Winnipeg has a wide-scale system of elevated skywalks connecting buildings throughout the downtown area. The Canada Life Centre is part of this skywalk system, with a direct connection to the CityPlace Mall.

Fans 5

Winnipeg has lost an NHL franchise once before, and the Jets fans are not about to let that happen again! They are engaged and very loud. After visiting almost every NHL team I would have to give this Jets crew an A-plus for their creative, and numerous chants and taunts of the visiting teams. They aren’t a mean bunch, and it is all in good fun.

Another surprise during the pregame ceremonies comes during the ritual singing of “O Canada,” the Canadian National anthem. When the words “true north” appear in the anthem, the place explodes in a shouting of TRUE NORTH! Winnipeg citizens apparently consider themselves to be the “True North” of Canada. This is also seen as a salute to the True North ownership group for bringing NHL hockey back to Winnipeg.

Access 3

Getting to the Canada Life Centre is very easy, either by car or by public transportation. There are more than 7,000 parking spaces within a five-minute walk of the arena. Winnipeg Transit has more than 20 routes servicing the Canada Life Centre. The venue is on Portage Avenue, one of the main traffic arteries in downtown Winnipeg. It is located on the block between Donald Street and Hargrove Street.

Coming from the west: Trans-Canada Highway One East becomes Portage Avenue as it enters the city of Winnipeg. Stay on Portage until you reach the 300 block. There are numerous parking facilities within a block or two of the Canada Life Centre.

Coming from the north: Take Main Street (Route 52 South) into the downtown area of Winnipeg. Turn right at Portage and go four blocks to the arena.

From the south/US border: Take Highway 75 North, as it will become Route 42 North. Route 42 North will become Donald Street as you enter the downtown area. Continue across the Donald Street Bridge. Turn left at Portage Avenue and go one block west to the Canada Life Center.

There are only three main entry points for the Canada Life Centre. Arena doors open one hour prior to puck drop. This allows you plenty of time to check out the concession offerings, the team store, and several exhibits about the team’s history. The sections are well marked out by very sharp signage featuring the team’s jet fighter logo.

Return on Investment 3

The Jets games are the biggest game in town during the winter months and the ticket prices reflect this popularity. Games often sell out, as the Canada Life Centre has the lowest seating capacity in the NHL. Seats in the 100 and 200 levels of the seating bowl go for $108CDN – $149CDN. Seats at the 300-level average $51CDN – $86CDN.

The average cost for parking in lots surrounding the arena on game nights is $15CDN. Lots closest to the Canada Life Centre include Portage Place, City Place, and the Millennium Library. Concession prices are very reasonable, but some individual stands have higher prices relating to the type of food they offer.

Extras 4

The Canada Life Centre is located on Treaty One lands, the original territories of several indigenous nations. These nations are recognized prior to the national anthem in a spirit of reconciliation.

The team has no championship banners, but several jerseys honoring retired players hang from the rafters. They include Bobby Hull, Lars-Eric Sjoberg, Ab McDonald, Ulf Nilsson, Dale Hawerchuk, Randy Carlyle, and Thomas Steen.

The Eaton Company played a large role in the development of Winnipeg. There is a historical display covering this relationship with the city in its early days. It features a statue of Mr. Eaton himself, watching the customers as they pass by. The Eaton Company eventually went bankrupt, and the Canadian Life Centre now stands on the site of the former department store’s downtown Winnipeg location.

The Canada Life Centre served as the host facility for the 2006 AHL All-Star Classic. The Manitoba Moose are members of the AHL and play their home games in the same facility as the Jets.

Final Thoughts

Winnipeg has been given a second chance with an NHL franchise and there is no chance of the fans allowing the team to move elsewhere again. They fill the Canada Life Centre for every game, cheering loudly for the local boys while organizing chants to disrupt the visiting team’s concentration. The whole town turns out in their blue-best when the Jets are in town. Winnipeg is one of the more isolated of the NHL outposts, but it is well worth a visit as you check the rinks and arenas in the central portion of Canada.

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