One hockey fan's journey to the arenas of North America
Plus/Minus Arena Report: 2019-2020 Pro Hockey
On this edition of the Plus/Minus Arena we will look over the pro hockey landscape in North America and give arena roaming fans a look at some alternative venues where they can some games this season, and we will also look at the arenas where their teams have moved on. As always check the official schedules before you head to a game but we hope this report will get you up to speed on the arena and franchise changes for this upcoming season. Outdoor games will be covered in a future report.
NHL - The world of big time hockey will once again have 31 teams playing this upcoming season, with expansion to Seattle on the horizon. Although all 31 clubs will see action in the same arenas as last season there is one interesting transition which sees any old building coming back into play.
Plus -NYCB Live Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, NYIn one of the most awkward sponsorship-led renamings of a building in history, the bottom line is that the Islanders will actually play on Long Island again, with 21 of their games being played at the renovated Nassau Coliseum, the place where they claimed 4 Stanley Cups decades ago. The move is likely temporary as there are plans for an arena at Belmont Park, but for now the Isles will be back where they belong. Brooklyn fans will still get some Islanders games, as 20 of the games will be played at Barclays Center, their home for the last few seasons.
AHL - EvenThe AAA league is increasingly becoming solely about developing prospects and not about winning. All 31 AHL clubs will stay in their same cities and arenas for this upcoming season. A less than user friendly website has no venue listings of games on the schedule, but we did dig up at least one alternate venue that will see action this season.
Bonus Plus - Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON The home of the Maple Leafs will see the farm club take the ice one Go train stop down the line 4 times this season, with the Marlies playing games on 11/30, 12/26, 2/17, and 3/17. It appears as though teams are getting away from having their affiliate play at the big club's arena as neither Hershey, Buffalo, or Belleville have games in the NHL city this season.
ECHL - Minus SNHU Arena, Manchester, NH The most boring league in North American hockey loses one team and drops to 26 clubs this season with the demise of the Manchester Monarchs. Fan support dwindled when management tried to pawn off the ECHL club as the same as the AHL club, (which won a Calder Cup before being shipped to the West Coast), and the knowledgeable New England fans were not buying it.
SNHU Arena in Manchester, NH will be without pro hockey this season as the ECHL's Manchester Monarchs folded
SPHL - Even The Southern Pro league will have 10 teams again in their same 10 arenas as last season. This league is different enough from the NHL, and far enough down the ladder, to still be entertaining and focused on winning. Although there are no arena changes this season in the league a preseason Fayetteville Marksmen game at the tiny Cleland Ice Arena on Fort Bragg October 12th has attracted some interest.
FPHL - Plus For the first time in league history all 6 teams in the Federal League completed the season in the same arenas they started in. A bold expansion plan is underway, pushing the league to 10 teams this season, and the first Plus this season for the Fed is the added "P" in the league name as the league is now the Federal Prospects Hockey League, in honor of the pipeline between the FPHL and the NHL. In all seriousness, this league appears to be on the upswing and works in markets that can no longer host affiliated hockey, or in towns so small that other leagues would pass them over.
Plus - Danbury Arena, Danbury, CT As a mainstay in the Federal League with the Whalers and the Titans, pro hockey is back in this Connecticut city, with a new team known as the Hat Tricks. We suspect they will draw well and rekindle the fan support prior Danbury teams experienced.
Plus - The Rink at Battle Creek, Battle Creek, MI Battle Creek once hosted the short lived AAHL, and is a decent sized city in a state that loves its hockey. The Battle Creek Rumble Bees will be the new team in town and have a decent shot at success.
Plus - Columbus Civic Center, Columbus, GA This former SPHL market joins the Fed, and will be the southern-most team in the league. With only one other southern team, the Carolina Thunderbirds, road trips will be long and it will be tough to tell if the fans here will take to this league.
Plus - Centre Ice Arena, Harrington, DE Delaware will have pro hockey this season, and they will play in this 350 seat recreational rink on the state fairgrounds. There are not a lot of hockey fans in Delaware, and we suspect this organization will have its work cut out trying to make this a viable franchise. If there were one venue on this report we would recommend attending as early in the season as possible it would be here when the Delaware Thunder take to the ice.
Danbury Arena will see pro hockey return this season as the Danbury Hat Tricks are among the 4 new Federal League teams
LNAH -Minus Notre Dame Arena, Berlin, NH This Minus is a carryover from last season as the Berlin Blackjacks started play in the Quebec-based league, but the team moved out of the remote northern New Hampshire town less than half way into the season.
Minus - Regional Arena Riviere-du-Nord, Saint-Jerome, QCThe Blackjacks moved to the new arena in Saint-Jerome to finish the
season last season, but, despite keeping the same team name of the
Petroliers du Nord, have now moved to an old LNAH stomping ground, leaving Saint-Jerome with the LHJAAAQ's Pantheres to cheer for.
Plus - Colisee de Laval, Laval, QC Way before the AHL came to Laval this old arena hosted Mario Lemieux and the QMJHL's Voisins. Known as the "House of Pain", the Colisee was a mainstay on the Quebec semi-pro scene, and the Petroliers Du Nord give this old barn one more crack at big time hockey. If you missed out on seeing a game here take advantage of this chance.
That wraps up this season's look at the arena and franchise changes in the North American pro hockey scene. We hope you can use some of this information to catch a game somewhere new. Now get planning on your hockey road trips and catch a game somewhere!
A hockey fan's guide to college, pro, and junior hockey arena reviews. All photos and text copyright Andy Ritter 2007-2019