Roaming The Rinks

One hockey fan's journey to the arenas of North America

Plus/Minus Arena Report: 2019-2020 Junior Hockey

The Plus/Minus Arena Report is back again this season, as we take a look at franchise and arena changes in the world of hockey as the season approaches.  We hope you will find this information useful in planning hockey trips this season, and possibly lead to you attending a venue that you had not previously considered as a possibility.  On this report we will focus on the 3 Major Junior leagues in Canada, as well as the top 2 leagues in the U.S., the USHL and the NAHL.

USHL - Minus Grossinger Motors Arena, Bloomington, IL

The top U.S. junior circuit has had 17 teams for the last few seasons, but after a rebranding in Bloomington to the Central Illinois Flying Aces name failed to bring attendance up to an acceptable level the league drops to 16 teams, which will make things more manageable from a scheduling standpoint.  Bloomington has tried and failed in the UHL, IHL, CHL, SPHL, and now USHL levels and will not likely see a big time league return anytime soon.  This arena is home of the Illinois State ACHA team for those in the area still looking for a hockey fix. 

Bonus Plus - UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex,  Cranberry Township, PA

The USHL Fall Classic returns to the Pittsburgh area in late September and will once again see all 16 clubs start their regular season at this twin-pad facility, which draws scouts from every imaginable college and pro team and makes for a great weekend destination if you are a fan looking for an early season hockey overload.

UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex will once again host the USHL Fall Classic  
Bonus Plus - The Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX

New Year's Weekend at the Cotton Bowl is most often associated with college football, however the NHL's Stars are hosting the Winter Classic, and along with it will be a pair of USHL outdoor games featuring Green Bay taking on the Chicago Steel at this legendary football venue.  The games are slated for January 2nd and 3rd.

QMJHL - Even

The league full of quite a few small, hockey-mad markets stretching from the Maritimes to Rouyn-Noranda, is one of our favorites, and will once again feature 18 teams, all of which will be playing in their same arenas as last season.

OHL - Even

In Ontario things will once again stay the same with 20 teams on board in their same venues as last season.  The OHL does seem to be making a push toward larger, newer arenas with Sudbury soon slated to get a replacement, Flint continually being rumored to move, and Chatham as a possible host in the future, but for now the OHL stays at status quo.

WHL - Plus  Wayne Fleming Arena at Max Bell Centre, Winnipeg, MB

This season the WHL moves eastward, and picks up the NHL city of Winnipeg.  The Winnipeg ICE (their idea to capitalize, not mine) will play at the tiny arena on the campus of the University of Manitoba for a couple of seasons while a new events centre is constructed in the city.  Folks in Manitoba love hockey, and even with the NHL and AHL in town we suspect tickets will be hard to come by here during the first season.

Minus - Western Financial Place, Cranbrook, BC

This arena in the small town of Cranbrook hosted the Kootenay Ice for nearly 20 years, but is now without Canada's highest junior league.  One would think the BCHL would be a good fit but there are currently now plans to bring Junior A hockey to Cranbrook. With the single franchise relocation for this season the WHL remains at 22 teams.

NAHL -  Plus  Androscoggin Bank Colisee,  Lewiston, ME

With 2 new teams added this season the NAHL will expand to 26 teams.  The Colisee will give Lewiston fans another crack at big time hockey as this venue previously hosted the QMJHL's MAINEiacs and was a temoprary home for the AHL's exiled Portland Pirates during their arena dispute.  The NAHL club will be known as the Maine Nordiques, rekindling the town's original minor pro team's name. The NA3HL's LA Nordiques have drawn nicely at the Colisee in the last few seasons, so the upgrade of on-ice product should bode well for Lewiston's NAHL entry's attendance.

The Maine Nordiques will call Androscoggin Bank Colisee home        

Plus - Outpost Ice Arena,  Albuquerque, NM

New Mexico gets hockey once again thanks to the NAHL's New Mexico Ice Wolves, although this team will play at the smaller recreation venue known as the Outpost.  The area has not had a team since the New Mexico Mustangs left town after the junior team lasted only 2 seasons, and the game of hockey has changed drastically since the New Mexico Scorpions drew large crowds in the WPHL and CHL days.  Hopefully an absence of hockey in town will bring fans out to the games but that remains to be seen.

Plus - St.Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex,  St. Cloud, MN

The Alexandria Blizzard have relocated to the larger St. Cloud market.  St. Cloud is a hockey-mad town, but the St. Cloud Blizzard will be sharing the market with NCAA Division 1 hockey as well as the already established and well supported Granite City Lumberjacks, who have perennial NA3HL success and draw large crowds 10 minutes away across the river in Sauk Rapids.

Minus - Runestone Community Center,  Alexandria, MN

Alexandria loses their NAHL team as this tiny market was on the small side for the NAHL.  Fans do still have a team to support in Alexandria this season, as a new NA3HL team, also called the Blizzard will take the ice this fall.

We will be back before the season starts with more Plus/Minus Arena Reports covering other levels of hockey, and hope that the information will be useful as your follow your favorite league, or plan road trips to attend new arenas this season.  As always, check the schedule before attending, but be sure to start planning your hockey travels now!