Though not quite “America’s pastime” like baseball, or the most popular sport for drawing huge crowds, like football, there are sports with fans quite as passionate as the NHL. Many of those passionate fans are willing to show that passion on the road as well. As such, here are some of the cities that NHL fans need to have (and to tick off) their travel bucket list.
Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid isn’t anywhere near as cool, calm and collected as the name suggests. It’s a sporting city at heart, and it has a particular place in the hearts of many a hockey fan due to the fact that it was the home of one of the great American victories in the sport. As such, many pilgrims come to the Lake Placid Olympic Center to pay homage to the virtually untouched arena where the college-aged Americans beat the Soviets in 1980. It has since become something of a museum to the moment, with the original scorecard, and an actual Olympic museum. If you’ve heard of the Miracle on Ice, then you owe it to yourself to come to learn more about it.
New York City, New York
If you’re in Lake Placid, then it’s not too long of a trip to make it to the Big Apple. There are very few city breaks that can compare with New York. Once you’ve visited Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, and Times Square, and had a New York slice to boot, however, there’s one essential stop for all NHL fans in the city. We’re talking about the NHL Store of course. Things are pricey here, so walking out with a souvenir isn’t always easy. However, it’s always worth checking out the merch as well as the rarer collectors goods like t-shirts of the defunct teams. There are always events going on, and NHL players regularly make appearances, too.
The Hockey Hall Of Fame
The NHL store might be considered close to the “Mecca of the NHL.” However, the title is already taken by the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario. This hall has become a tribute to the absolute greats, with exhibitions on each of the NHL all time goal leaders (with Gretsky naturally getting the lion’s share of the attention.) However, outside of that, it’s a veritable funfair for hockey fans. There are games, video experience,s shooting accuracy challenges, and simulations of some of the best in the game, like Casey Price. One of the most fun things to do here is to call the game from the commentator’s booth, looking at some of the most famous moments in HL history as you do.
You cannot call yourself a hockey fan and say you’ve seen it all until you’ve seen where it all began. Montreal is a history that is steeped in more hockey history than just about anywhere else, and it’s in part down to Victoria Rink. Though it no longer stands there, visitors can still see the spot where it once was at McGill University. It was in Victoria RInk where the very first indoor hockey game was held in 1875. There’s also the Bell Centre, which is not only the home to the Montreal Canadiens, the most successful team in NHL history, but also to a museum that celebrates their many impressive triumphs over the years.
Boston is another contender for best city breaks in all the US, with the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Common showing some of the best of US art and civic planning. Aside from being a beautiful city, it’s also home to the beautiful Matthews Arena. The Boston Bruins called the Mattews Arena their home, which is the oldest standing indoor hockey facility. Since 1924, the team has been playing there, which makes it the only stadium that served as a home to an Original 6 team that still stands. Nowadays, however, it’s the exclusive home of the NCAA’s Huskies. There are public sessions to skate on the rink and feel the history of the arena for yourself as well, so be sure to bring a pair of skates with you.
There are few places that celebrate a local victory like Minneapolis. It is undeniably a hockey city and that’s largely in part thanks to the men’s ice hockey team of the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Mariucci Arena serves as their home and, having been open since 1993, has already become historic for the NCAA Men’s Hockey Finals and it has hosted, as well as having had the honor of hosting the first NCAA Women’s Hockey Frozen Four. High-school hockey fans will also recognize it as being the stadium that hosts the consolation round of the Minnesota State High School League, which is probably the most electric and widely watched high school hockey game in the whole of the US.
After enjoying the heights of the CN tower and roamed the gardens of the gorgeous Casa Loma, there’s nowhere else for a hockey fan to head than the Maple Leaf Gardens. The Toronto Maple Leafs have won a reputation that will live forever thanks to the six Stanley Cups they won between 1941 to 1951, with four of them being won in the Gardens. To the sadness of many, the Maple Leafs no longer call the Gardens home, but it has been preserved as a National Historic Site of Canada. A clear indication of just how much this city loves and treasures its hockey and the role its players have played in shaping the sport. If you want to catch a Maple Leafs Garden then you need to head to the Scotiabank Arena.
Windsor, Nova Scotia
Take a trip to chilly Winsdor and turn off of Howard Dill’s pumpkin farm and you will come across the unassuming Long Pond. Unlike many of the other stops mentioned here, an industry of hockey tourism hasn’t been built off the history that it has here. However on the humble frozen pond of this town, in the early 1800s, it’s thought that the first-ever ice hockey games were played by a bunch of boys from the nearby King’s College. There’s no big museum or fanfare, just a simple wooden sign detailing the history of the area. However, there’s an almost sacred air about the place, especially in winter.
Yes, believe it or not, we’re talking about Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic. We’re not talking about visiting their soccer stadium, either. The Czechs are amongst some of the first peoples of Europe to pick up the hockey stick like their cousins across the Atlantic. There’s a whole Czech Extraliga, and it’s largely dominated by the local team, the HC Sparta Praha who play at the O2 Arena, which is the largest in the city. It’s also a gorgeous city to visit, full of history, lovely gothic architecture, and is one of the artistic and cultural centers of Europe. When you’re done watching the ball game, you can indulge in the other side of the city and have a nice cultural retreat.
Above, you’ll find the best cities for ticket prices, team performances, fan friendliness, stadium impressiveness, as well as a few towns that are worth visiting for being an important part of NHL history. Once you’ve crossed all these names off your list, there’s no denying you will have led a very fulfilled life as a hockey fan.