Road trips don’t always go off without a hitch, and in the NHL, it is no different. Almost every team has a signature trip, including the Chicago Blackhawks’ infamous circus trip, a ‘roadie’ that they lost all nine games on in 2011. It gets even harder when teams walk into certain arenas, and the home crowd can make even the best teams in the league have a road game like the Griswold’s.
#5: Air Canada Centre (Toronto Maple Leafs)
The Toronto Maple Leafs may not have been the strongest club over the last 13 seasons, but they have the power of the ‘ACC’ behind them 41 nights a year. The Toronto fans made their impression on the league during the first round of the 2013 playoffs, when a sellout crowd wasn’t enough support for the Leafs. Maple Leaf Square was born, a plaza outside the arena that housed over 10,000 extra Leafs fans, many who camped out for the occasion. The arena has had a sellout streak of 366 games, (as of March of 2012) stretching all the way back to 2003, the 2nd longest active streak in the NHL, and 5th in North America pro sports. Toronto fans all across Canada defend their team to the bone, and it is felt in every Leafs home game, landing it at #5 on our list.
#4: Bell Centre (Montreal Canadiens)
They may speak French in Montreal, but Canadiens fans know the language of hockey better than almost any fan base. As supporters of the most successful NHL club of all time, Canadiens fans can get a little rowdy, from the young to the old. The chants of “Go Habs Go” and “Car-ey” fill the stadium every game, and if the home team is playing well, it can be a tough crowd to handle. During the playoffs, the atmosphere is even greater, and the stadium is like a bomb waiting to blow with any Canadiens goal. Any team on the wrong side of the crowd will have a tough time with the rowdy French-Canadians, which puts them at #4.
#3: MTS Centre (Winnipeg Jets)
The NHL’s newest team is home to some of the most passionate fans in the game. After all, who wouldn’t be fired up to see their team play again after a 15-year absence? The departed Manitoba Moose (AHL) left behind a big gift for the new club; a state-of-the-art arena, the MTS Centre. Holding only 15,000 people, the NHL’s smallest arena has big energy, and in 2011-12 it was measured to be the loudest rink in the league. With a hockey-hungry city behind them every step of the way, it might just lead the Jets into the playoffs in 2014, like it led them into #3 on our list.
#2: United Center (Chicago Blackhawks)
It all starts with the anthem. A legendary performance, one of the best in sports, gets the ‘U.C.’ going every time. The standing-room crowds of 22,000+ take it from there, and it never seems to die down. A team’s only hope of getting back into the game lies in the first goal of the game, because once ‘Chelsea Dagger’ rains down from the heavens with a Blackhawks strike, things go downhill quick, (just ask Roberto Luongo.) The old Chicago Stadium still plants it’s roots in the Blackhawks’ new digs, with organ pipes from the original Madhouse still used today. With over two million fans showing up to the Blackhawks championship parade in 2013, it is safe to say that the city holds some of the most passionate fans, and they show it every home game. An easy pick for #2.
#1: TD Garden (Boston Bruins)
The Garden is rooted deep in the history of it’s predecessor, the Boston Garden. While the location may be new, many qualities stay the same. The trouble starts for the away teams before the puck even drops. Cold showers, cramped dressing rooms, and soft ice are just the start. Chicago Blackhawks historian Bob Verdi: “When the Celtics, co-tenants with the Bruins, met the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1984 National Basketball Association Finals, Boston was an oven. The Lakers barked that their locker room desperately needed an air conditioner. When the Lakers showed up the next night, there was a brand new air conditioner. On the floor. In a box.” Bruins fans are just the icing on the cake, and their profanity-ridden, accented ways can set a player (and their team) off. TD Garden is only eight inches away from where the Bruins once played, and for the visiting team, it hasn’t changed a bit. Many past years of rough visits are in the books, and with more to come, it takes the crown as the toughest road rink in the NHL.
With just two months to go until the 2013-14 season kicks off, hockey fans can get excited again, ready to support their team, and be a part of a terrible road trip for another team.
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