Are you ready for your NHL road trip?
Story by Adrian Brijbassi
In a nation crazed for hockey, fans clamour for seats to the game whenever they visit one of Canada’s seven NHL cities. If you’re from Ottawa, you’re keen to see how warm-weather Vancouverites embrace the game. If you’re from Winnipeg, you want to know if any rink can come close to yours in terms of fan enthusiasm. And if you’re from Toronto, you take a trip to Calgary, Edmonton or Montreal to look up to the rafters for the sight of something totally bizarre to you: a championship banner that isn’t from ancient history.
From east to west, here’s a glimpse of the upcoming NHL season for travellers.
As any fan of the Canadiens will be eager to tell you, Montreal’s team has won more Stanley Cup titles than anyone. Les Habitants are in the midst of a renaissance thanks to the outstanding play of superstars Carey Price, the reigning NHL MVP, and hot-shot defenceman P.K. Subban.
Where to Stay: The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel is a short walk to the Bell Centre and is also located above the city’s central train station, making it convenient for your visit to Montreal.
Post-Game Party Spot: Test your strength when you take on the mechanical bull at Chez Serge. Stick around for the raucous atmosphere at this famous sports bar.
3 Notable Saturday Home Games: November 7 vs. Bruins; January 9 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins; February 27 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Senators were the hottest team in hockey toward the end of the 2014-15 regular season. Led by slick-skating defenceman Erik Karlsson, the two-time Norris Trophy winner, the Senators are one of the more exciting teams in the NHL. The downside of going to a game in Ottawa is the location of the Canadian Tire Centre, which is a half-hour drive from the city’s downtown.
Where to Stay: The Brookstreet Hotel is the closest quality lodging to the Canadian Tire Centre. You’re likely to see members of the visiting team in the halls because the Brookstreet is one of the preferred hotels of visiting NHL teams.
Post-Game Party Spot: Bert’s at the arena has a lively atmosphere on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with live music and plenty of sports on the 23 large-screen TV screens. Once it shuts down, you can head to the Byward Market, Ottawa’s electric nightlife spot.
3 Notable Saturday Home Games: November 14 vs. New York Rangers; February 6 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs; March 19 vs. Canadiens.
The Mike Babcock era begins and beleaguered Maple Leafs fans are seriously hoping their $50-million coach can return the team to glory — or at least respectability. While the Leafs are bad, their arena is excellent and Toronto is an awesome city to visit, with lots of nightlife, great sports bars and music venues everywhere.
Where to Stay: The InterContinental Toronto Centre is an outstanding hotel on Front Street that offers first-rate service but at prices that are lower than many other choices in the area.
Post-Game Party Spot: Real Sports Bar & Grill, located across the street from Air Canada Centre, has been named the best sports bar in the world by ESPN. On weekend nights, a DJ helps turn the venue into a clubby environment.
3 Notable Saturday Home Games: October 31 vs. Penguins; January 23 vs. Canadiens; April 2 vs. Detroit Red Wings.
Winnipeggers fought hard to get their hockey team back four years ago and last season the Jets delivered a playoff appearance that created pandemonium in the Manitoba capital. Few arena atmospheres can compare to the passion fans at the MTS Centre display on game night.
Where to Stay: The Fairmont Winnipeg is a venerable property that will ensure you have a comfortable stay in the heart of the city.
Post-Game Party Spot: The King’s Head Pub is a multi-storey venue in a historic building that dates back more than a century. It features live music and can hold 200 fun-loving hockey fans.
3 Notable Saturday Home Games: November 21 vs. Phoenix Coyotes; March 5 vs. Canadiens; March 12 vs. Colorado Avalanche.
The City of Champions hasn’t celebrated an NHL title in more than 25 years and while the odds of Lord Stanley paying a visit after this season are long, the turnaround of the Oilers seems near thanks to the arrival of teenaged phenom Connor McDavid. Edmonton’s talented roster may not win as many games as their rivals, but they sure promise to be fun to watch.
Where to Stay: The Sutton Place Edmonton is a short walk to Churchill Station, where you can catch a Metro Line train that will take you to the arena in about 15 minutes.
Post-Game Party Spot: Head to Blues on Whyte at the Commercial Hotel for excellent live music.
3 Notable Saturday Home Games: October 31 vs. Calgary Flames; January 16 vs. Flames; April 2 vs. Flames. (Do you really want to go to Edmonton and not witness the Battle of Alberta?)
The Flames were the NHL’s surprise team last season and they are eager to build on the talent of young stars Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. The Red Mile, the nickname of the stretch of 17th Avenue that leads to the Scotiabank Saddledome, is always a spirited place to be on game days.
Where to Stay: Hotel Arts is a 175-room gem of a place that will keep you comfortable and well fed thanks to its exceptional on-site restaurant.
Post-Game Party Spot: The Red Mile nickname was reputedly coined at the Melrose Cafe and Bar in 2004, when the Flames made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals and fans streamed into the bar that is in the heart of 17th Avenue. The Melrose closed suddenly last year, leaving many fans guessing for a new hot spot. National on 17th is a recently opened locale that has sports, music and an energetic atmosphere.
3 Notable Saturday Home Games: October 17 vs. Oilers; November 7 vs. Penguins; March 26 vs. Chicago Blackhawks.
Seeing the Canucks at home is rewarding for many Canadians because a trip to Vancouver will likely mean an escape from the cold of winter. The temperate climate of southern British Columbia heats up inside Rogers Arena, where the Canucks draw devoted fans eager for another playoff appearance.
Where to Stay: The Opus Hotel in trendy Yaletown has a number of plusses, including its location across the street from the Canada Line station. That means you can take a train from the airport to your hotel in about 20 minutes.
3 Notable Saturday Home Games: November 21 vs. Blackhawks; February 13 vs. Maple Leafs; March 19 vs. St. Louis Blues.