Rick and Peter's NHL Trip
17 Oct - 4 Nov 1997

Traveled to these arenas:

Chicago, United Center, Oct. 19
A very new, spacious arena with multi-level lobbies.
Good food and beer selection with high prices. No
beer in the 3rd nor beer service in your seat.
Smoke deck inside! Pretty good ventilation.
The half full arena was pretty loud with hard-core fans
near us giving each Hawk a hard time complete with
denigrating nick-name (i.e. Daze, was Daisy). They love
the national anthem here -- waved several large flags from
the upper seats, removed hats. Had 4 guys with large drums
pounding from the upper sections. No stupid mascot here.
This game ended Hawks losing streak. Buffalo 2, Chicago 5.
It has the best organ of all the arenas we visited. Also, the horn that
sounds whenever the Hawks score a goal is deafening. I also remember
how difficult it was to get a cab after the game. In fact, we never
succeeded in doing so. Luckily, it was a matinee, as I have heard that
the United Center is not in a very pleasant part of town.

Detroit, Joe Lewis Arena, Oct. 20
An older no-frills arena with great sightlines and a fair amount
of room. Dark single-level lobby that filled up between periods,
but still able to move around well considering a sold-out crowd.
Lousy food and beer selection with moderate prices. Beer sold
till late in the 3rd, and I think they will bring it to your seat.
Smoke deck large and outside (cold). No stupid mascot.
Surprisingly many fans left a close game early. Good sports bars
near arena. Nice fans to talk to.
Battle for first ended in tie. St. Louis 3, Detroit 3.
We had standing-room only seats, but these turned out to be in a very
good location, just above the first section. We had a wall to lean
against, so it wasn't bad at all. What can you say, it's Hockeytown
USA. You could definitely feel the electricity in the air, more so than
any other arena we visited. The smoke deck is spacious and has a great
view of downtown Detroit. The arena is easily accessible from the
Detroit People Mover, which takes you around downtown Detroit, including
the Renaissance Center.

Buffalo, Maine Midland Arena, Oct. 22
One of the newest arenas in the league, this was by far the most
comfortable place I've ever been in to see a hockey game. Huge
open lobbies with views of the ice, so you can still watch the game
while you get your beer. One end has an entire lounge with tables
overlooking the ice. It's open after the game too, so many hang out
and socialize. Beer is sold all periods and after the game. Beer and
food selection is very good with high prices. In our section there
was great waiter service, but I don't know if they bring beer to your
seat elsewhere in the arena. Smoke deck at ground level outside
(very cold). The crowd was not too loud -- less than half full arena.
Yes, they have a stupid mascot dressed as a sabre-tooth tiger.
Hasek got booed at the start, mild cheers at the end. Calgary 1, Buffalo 4.
We met the organist there after the game. He complained about not
getting enough play time and having his creativity stifled. I thought
he did a pretty good job, but agree that he is underused. Overall,
fairly no frills when it comes to music and other fluff during play
stoppages. They try to let the hockey speak for itself, unlike in San

Toronto, Maple Leaf Gardens
Oldest arena left. Built in 1932. Judging by the seats, people had
smaller butts then. Everything was smaller, including the ice
(note: I have since been informed that the ice is regulation size). Very
cramped. Lobbies don't go around the whole thing. I'm not even sure
if you can go to the other side since the ushers might prevent you from
crossing the sections necessary. In spite of a sold-out crowd there
were not long lines for anything, which was a good thing since the
servers could be pretty inept. Not a good selection of beer or food,
but the price was right. Some sections of seats are no-alcohol, and
we were in one, so I had to drink my beer in the lobby. Smoke deck
out the front doors. Of course, no stupid mascot here.
This was the only arena where we saw a fight
in the stands. Calgary 3, Toronto 4.
I enjoyed Maple Leaf Gardens much more than Rick. Just walking into
this hockey shrine sent chills down my spine. The history and tradition
of the place overwhelmed me. Despite its age and lack of modern
amenities, many Leafs fans favor the Gardens over a new arena. I'm with
them. It appears that you can walk into a section of the arena's lobby
at anytime and catch a glimpse inside. The day after the game we were
able to watch the Leafs practice.

The smoke deck is Carlton Street outside the arena, but this allows you
to grab food from the restaurants around the arena between periods.
This also forces you to brave the Toronto winter if you want a smoke.

The steep rows of seats behind the endzones is a site to behold. The
railings in front of the seats are probably there to prevent fans from
falling off the deck!

New York, Madison Square Gardens
As we approached the arena we were offered pot, hash, coke, crack,
and game tix. What, no women? The multi-level lobbies are not wide
enough for even the less than sold-out crowd, but again lines were not
much of a problem. Beer and food selection were so-so, and of course
the prices were high. The arena is not very open feeling with sections
stacked on top of each other. Smoke deck seemed to be outside, but
signs said no re-entry so I don't know. They love Gretzky. No stupid mascot.
Many fans bolted after the 2nd. Dallas 3, NY 2.
I don't have much to say about this arena. The organist is pretty
good. He plays some songs you don't here in other arenas, including, I
believe, a rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." I like the buzzer
that goes off when the clock runs out, but Rick hates it.
(Rick: It's like a school playground buzzer, and it's not even
a real buzzer, it's a recording of a buzzer.)

They do love Gretzky, but who doesn't?

New Jersey, Continental Arena
This arena is not so new, but has a nice open feeling with a large
single-level lobby that's well lit. Very good food but limited beer
selection. Easy access smoke deck outside. The fans have a real
thing for the Rangers here, and lots of Ranger fans showed up to
see Messier. The more Messiers team lost, the louder the anti-Ranger
chants got, even though there were no Rangers playing. My favorite
chant was "Messier's a homo ... clap, clap, clap-clap-clap" to the tune
of "Let's go Rangers...". Favorite moment was right after a brawl in
this blow-out game, with players sprawled all over the ice, a dad
turns to his 9 year-old son in a Messier Ranger jersey and says,
I think there was a stupid mascot, but not sure.
"Wasn't this a great game. Aren't you glad you came?" Vancouver 1,
New Jersey 8.
This 70's-era arena is part of a sports complex (including football
stadium and racetrack) built on a swamp. There is nothing around it,
save for parking lots and the various spurs of the New Jersey Turnpike
to take you to and from it. Even the San Jose Arena has this place beat
on that score.

They have a guy who goes around starting cheers. He has the fans spell
out D-E-V-I-L-S, then they break into "Let's go Devils, clap, clap,
clap-clap-clap..." I think they stole that from the Rangers, but I also
heard it at the Joe. The fans can be mean, especially if you sit in
their seats (right Rick?). We had great seats for this game, one row
from the boards in the corner.

Pittsburgh, Civic Arena (The Igloo)
The most unique arena by far. Looks great outside and in. You can
climb to the top seats and touch the roof! Lobbies were a little dim,
but were on multi-levels and provided adequate space. Beer
selection was horrible, food was a little better. Prices moderate.
They bring beer to your seats the entire game. Easy access smoke deck
outside. The nearly sold-out crowd was not very loud. They know
their hockey though. The 8 year-old girl sitting next to us would recite
who a player was traded for and how much his contract was. Divorski
distinguished himself by blowing an obvious penalty shot call, and then
checking with the reply official AFTER the period was over.
Yes, they have a very stupid penguin mascot.
Our last game was on OT thriller. Vancouver 6, Pittsburgh 7.
Somewhat nostalgic for me, since I went to school in Pittsburgh and
really became interested in hockey after going to several Pen's games.
The arena is just as I remember it, except that they removed the hanging
lights (left the chains they were hung from) and painted huge USAir ads
on the ceiling. The smoke deck is a cordoned off (by portable barriers)
section of the main deck around the outside of the arena and has two
seperate entrances. You don't have to get your hand stamped to reenter
like at other arenas, so I wonder how easy it is to sneak in.

The organist is so-so, doesn't play much more than "Let's go Pens." A
wimpy siren goes off when the Pens score. They definitely need to raise
its volume!

We also discovered why Barasso has fallen out of favor, besides the
excessive number of pucks that go by him: he refuses to talk to the

We also had great seats for this game.

A general comment: with the exception of Toronto, this notion of
hockey etiquette (waiting for play to stop before leaving/returning to
your seat) is almost non-existent at all these arenas.
Taking into account the overall hockey arena experience, here's how
I rate these arenas (note: I have season tix for the Sharks and am
use to a modern comfortable arena):
1) Buffalo
1.5) my home arena of San Jose where the incredibly stupid shark mascot
will actually block fans' views during play.
2) Detroit
3) Pittsburgh
4) New Jersey
5) Chicago
6) New York
7) Toronto

1. Detroit
2. Pittsburgh
3. Toronto
4. Buffalo
4.5) my home arena of San Jose (team play notwithstanding)
5. New Jersey
6. Chicago
7. New York

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Rick and Peter's NHL Trip Photos
17 Oct - 4 Nov 1997
The trip included 7 NHL cities and a few towns in this order:
Chicago, Detroit, Bowling Green Ohio, Buffalo, Niagara Falls,
Toronto, Albany, NYC, New Jersey, Pittsburgh.

No pix of Chicago ... forgot.

The Joe Louis Arena in Detroit:

My friend Wynn and her Mom in Bowling Green Ohio:

The Marine Midland Arena in Buffalo:

Note smoke out of scoreboard on goals.

the organist...................................................the lounge overlooking the ice

My Aunt & Uncle's place on the Niagara River:

Niagara Falls:

Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto:

The Hockey Hall of Fame, Toronto:

Our Ranger friend Doug Lapp in Albany:

Madison Square Garden, NYC:
with Peter's Dad Howard

Continental Arena, New Jersey:

Fall colors and shore in New Jersey:

My Great-aunt Betty and cousin Jim Sweeney in Philly:

The Igloo in Pittsburgh:

www.absoluterealtime.com home of the SF Bay Bridge Approach live webcam