January 5, 2008 - Syracuse, New York
What's better than catching a hockey game on a Saturday? Catching 2 games on the same Saturday! I stopped at the War Memorial to secure a ticket to the Crunch game versus Grand Rapids, then headed an hour north to Oswego to see the Oswego State game and get some photos for this site, before returning to Syracuse in time to see the puck drop. I had been to a game here last season, but had 2 very good reasons to return: 1-get photos for this website, and 2- see Jon Mirasty, the most entertaining fighter in all of minor league hockey.
Alternately know as the Onondaga County War Memorial, or just the "War Memorial" the arena sits in downtown Syracuse, just off Interstate 81. The Oncenter name refers to the entire complex which takes up a couple city blocks and also includes a convention center. Parking in the lot and garage across the street is 6 bucks. This place is a throwback to old time hockey barns. Built in 1951 it has the post war exterior stylings, and is built almost entirely of concrete, including the arching roof. The box office is on the State Street side, and $18 got me an awesome seat in the front row of the upper level at center ice. Upon entering there is a souvenir and merchandise area. The main entry is at ice level, although you need to go through doors to see the actual arena. There are 2 concourses which wind their way around the building, one on the upper level, one on the main level. This place is not dubbed the War Memorial for no reason, as there is a very impressive display of museum quality items commemorating the area's veterans and the war in general, including glass cases displaying World War 2 uniforms, and plaques paying tribute to the veterans. As you make your way through the concourses there are various food and merchandise stands. To get to your seat you have to open a door to the main arena from the concourse. Once inside you are greeted by an arena that is the perfect size for minor league hockey. The place seats just over 6200 for hockey, and has seats on 3 sides in a horsehoe shape, and then a end zone seating area on the stage. Yes, I said stage as this place is set up auditorium style. All seats seem to offer a good view. The seats themselves are rather hard and narrow, but its not too bad for 2 and a half hours for a hockey game. There are no luxury suites or skyboxes at all, which adds to the old-school feel of the place.
The game experience itself is a blast. Make no mistake about it, this is an old time hockey barn, even being featured in the filming of Slap Shot. Even so the place has amenities which make the game experience fun without losing the old school charm. There is a 4-sided video screen above center ice which shows replays, and there are quite a few quirks and the usual minor league fan promotions. They even have some fans dressed up like the Hanson Brothers, glasses and all, that put on a little skit during a stoppage. The fans are extremely passionate, and get into the game. Of course having Mirasty fight Neil Clark in the first period really got the crowd going as well! The concourses do get crowded between periods, and the restrooms are rather small, causing some lines even for the men's room, but that is a minor inconvenience. I was overjoyed to find Poutine available from a food stand on the lower level, although the quality was not nearly as good as you would find in Canada it was cool to have this fattening treat only 2 and a half hours from home. I did notice that it got extremely hot in the building for this game, as I was sweating despite only wearing a hoodie and a hockey jersey. The experience reminded me of going to Boston Garden as a kid to watch the Bruins. I am not sure if this is like that every game as I do not recall the building being that hot on my first visit last year, and this time the ice even seemed bad as guys were falling with unusual frequency. Overall this is just about the perfect minor league hockey barn, as it has a rowdy crowd, and a neatly styled throwback of a building. The place is old enough to have a ton of character, yet updated enough to still pass as a current era minor league arena.
*Note - Some of the photos in the review and photo gallery were taken on January 27, 2012 on a return visit to the arena as this review was written during the infancy of Roaming The Rinks and we were not taking many photos of arena visits at the time.
Other information about the Syracuse Crunch is available at: Syracuse Crunch home
Other information about the War Memorial at Oncenter is available at : Oncenter home
More photos of the War Memorial at Oncenter are available Here