2011 found me at the airport a lot, always headed somewhere for hockey. The sport has become a great way to meet new people, make friends and see new cities. 2011 was also the year I “branched out” and learned about hockey at levels other than the NHL. I’m now an unrepentant ECHL supporter, and I’m also hoping that 2012 will see a better future for my NCAA Division I UAH Chargers. 2011 was also the year that Atlanta lost its NHL team a second time. I’ve attended hockey games in eight cities and been inside nine arenas this year.
1. Philips Arena (Atlanta, GA)
For nearly eight years this was my hockey base camp and the center of my social life. It’s where I grew to love hockey and where I learned everything I know about the sport. I could probably run through the place blindfolded. Even though hockey is no longer played there, I’ll always have fond (and some not so fond) memories of the place. Also, flaming bird heads, you guys.
2. RBC Center (Raleigh, NC)
Otherwise known as tailgate central! Tailgating before sports games is a long-held Southern tradition, but folks in North Carolina take it to a whole other level. I road tripped here in February to see the Atlanta Thrashers lose to the Carolina Hurricanes, but it was a fun time because the Hurricanes Fan Club always has a barbecue spread waiting for visiting fans. Southern hospitality, y’all.
3. Joe Louis Arena (Detroit, MI)
I fell in love with this concrete bunker the second I walked inside. It’s old and a little worn around the edge, but it’s impossible not to have a fun time in this place. Seeing the Detroit Red Wings, one of my not so secretly favorite teams, win on their own turf was a blast. I wrote all about my visit over here.
4. Wells Fargo Center (Philadelphia, PA)
Here’s where I saw my first playoffs win. I hauled up to Philadelphia totally on impulse to see the Flyers take on the Buffalo Sabres in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Quarterfinals. It was a total madhouse, just like I expected Philadelphia to be.
5. Xcel Energy Center (St. Paul, MN)
[no picture of my own, whoops!]
I’m not sure if this one counts, because I didn’t actually attend a game here. Instead, I was there for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and while I can’t really comment on the arena itself, I can say this was by far my most memorable hockey trip ever.
6. Nassau Coliseum (Long Island, NY)
If anyone had told me beforehand that I’d be starting my 2011-2012 NHL season in Long Island I probably would’ve laughed. But it was a fun place to take in a game, especially third row off the glass behind the benches.
7. The Arena at Gwinnett Center (Duluth, GA)
This is where hockey still lives in Metro Atlanta. Sure it’s at the ECHL level but it’s fun and there’s always a pretty strong turn out attendance-wise. The Gwinnett Gladiators are currently first in their division and going strong. I try to make it up on the weekends for games but a 120 mile round trip drive isn’t something I can do all the time.
8. Von Braun Center (Huntsville, AL)
This is home to the UAH Chargers, the little Division I hockey team that could. Despite being disbanded, the team has been reinstated before even completing what would have been their final season. Hopefully, Von Braun Center will see many more college hockey games in the future.
9. Bridgestone Arena
I finished out my year of hockey arenas at the home of the Nashville Predators. This is a place a Southern hockey fan could get used to.