Hockey has been a beloved sport in North America for decades, with fervent fans and dedicated players filling arenas across the continent. From the Original Six teams to the expansion into new markets, the National Hockey League has seen numerous iconic arenas that have stood the test of time and hold a special place in the hearts of fans.
For hockey enthusiasts, there is nothing quite like the experience of watching a game in person. The cheers of the crowd, the sound of skates on the ice, the smell of fresh popcorn and the adrenaline rush of a game-winning goal all contribute to the unique atmosphere of an NHL arena. In this article, we will take a trip down memory lane and explore some of the most iconic arenas in the league, from the early years to the modern era.
The Original Six Era (1942-1967)
The Original Six teams – the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs – were the only teams in the NHL from 1942 to 1967. During this time, these six teams played in some of the most historic arenas in the league.
One of the most iconic arenas of this era was the Montreal Forum, home of the Canadiens. Considered by many to be the cathedral of hockey, it was the largest arena in the league at the time and hosted numerous historic moments, including the first-ever NHL All-Star Game in 1947 and the famous Rocket Richard’s 500th goal in 1957.
Another legendary arena was the Chicago Stadium, home of the Blackhawks. Known for its unique shape – narrow and long rather than rounded – and its loud and rowdy crowd, it was one of the toughest places for visiting teams to play. The stadium also saw many iconic moments, such as Bobby Hull’s 500th goal in 1970 and the Blackhawks’ first Stanley Cup win since 1938 in 1961.
The Expansion Era (1967-1990)
In 1967, the league expanded from six to 12 teams, bringing a new wave of arenas and exciting rivalries to the NHL. During this period, some of the most iconic arenas were built, many of which are still in use today.
One such arena is the Boston Garden, home of the Bruins. Built in 1928, it was the oldest arena in the league until its demolition in 1997. The Garden was known for its iconic parquet floor and its legendary Gallery Gods, who sat in the highest rows of the arena and cheered loudly.
Another iconic arena of this era was the former home of the New York Islanders – the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Built in 1972, The Coliseum played host to four consecutive Stanley Cup championships for the Islanders from 1980 to 1983 and also saw the historic Miracle on Ice game during the 1980 Winter Olympics.
The Modern Era (1990-present)
The NHL continued to expand and evolve in the 1990s, with the addition of new teams and the construction of new, state-of-the-art arenas. These arenas have become the new homes of some of the most iconic franchises in the league.
One of the most famous modern arenas is the Colorado Avalanche’s Pepsi Center. Built in 1999, it was one of the first arenas to be designed specifically for hockey, featuring a high-tech scoreboard and a unique lighting system that can create stunning effects during games.
Another iconic modern arena is the Pittsburgh Penguins’ PPG Paints Arena. Built in 2010 to replace the legendary Civic Arena, it is famously known as The Igloo 2.0. It has seen its fair share of historic moments, including the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup victories in 2016 and 2017.
Minor Hockey Talk
While the NHL arenas undoubtedly hold a special place in the hearts of hockey fans, minor hockey also has its own dedicated following. In recent years, many arenas have been built around North America and around the world to support the growing popularity of minor hockey.
In Canada, the Bell Centre in Montreal and the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary are two of the most iconic minors hockey arenas, hosting youth leagues from novice to junior levels. In the USA, the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota and the MTS Centre in Winnipeg are also popular arenas for minor hockey.
The NHL and minor hockey arenas continue to be the hub of much excitement and passion, bringing families and communities together to celebrate this beloved sport. Whether it’s the captivating history of the Original Six era or the modern amenities of the new arenas, each NHL arena has its unique charm and has made a lasting impact on the league and its fans.