Thursday, August 14, 2014

The PIPE-ies: Top Arena Atmosphere

After a week of collecting nominations from our audience and media colleagues, Tuesday night on TPS we made it official. The nominees in all 10 categories were announced and the voting for the winners has begun.

This is a category most of us will have to bid on via reputation as not many have been able to see games in every venue in the running.
After the jump, the names of the nominees in the category of Top Arena Atmosphere during 2013-14. 

In alphabetical order, the nominees for Top Arena Atmosphere in 2013-14 are...

Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

I have not yet had the chance to visit the Halifax Metro Centre so this nomination comes on the word of some media colleagues who have been throughout the CHL. In their opinion, the Mooseheads play in front of the loudest crowd which totaled 10,590 strong during the playoffs. 

The in rink presentation this past year raised the bar at the junior hockey level as a local company, EggStudios, created a spectacle of epic proportions. It's well worth the watch if you haven't seen it.

Lincoln Stars (USHL)

The IceBox Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska is the smallest venue to make the list of PIPE-ie finalists but what it may lack in size it makes up for in character. The seating capacity is listed at 4610 and by all accounts, the team plays in front of near sell outs on a regular basis.

The IceBox is located on the old Nebraska State Fair grounds and, so I'm told, is still used to house horses during the off season.  I don't know for certain that is true anymore but if so, that a very literal interpretation of the hockey rink as a "barn".

A fella named Bill Kintner wrote a review of his experience at a game. "This place is a dump and I love it. The Ice Box has a charm, which newer more modern arenas just do not have. This is a great venue for hockey. The fans are close to the action and there is not a bad seat." he said. 

I couldn't find a great video on YouTube so if someone has one better than this, let me know.    

University of Michigan (NCAA)

There were a few different college hockey arenas that received nominations including Lynah Rink at Cornell, Alfond Arena in Maine and Lawson Ice Arena of Western Michigan. However, there were two NCAA venues that garnered near unanimous nominations and one is Yost Ice Arena, home of the Michigan Wolverines. 

Yost seats just 6637 which is average at best by today's standards but considering the building has been around since 1923, you get the picture. The building is old but it has gone under several renovations and upgrades over the years to keep it viable. In fact, capacity has dropped over the years because of the improvements. Back in the 1970's, crowds of 8000-plus could attend games.  

Here's a good quality video from the stands that gives a pretty solid idea of what it's like at Yost.

University of North Dakota (NCAA)

Ralph Engelstad Arena seats 11, 634 making it the largest venue on our list of finalists. It's also by far the most luxurious as the man the facility is named after spared no expense in its creation.  I've spoken to former players who have gone on to play in the NHL and many of them have said that the REA is on par with the best barns in the league. 

When it comes to the fanbase, it's well detailed just how dedicated UND fans are. When I attended the 2011 Frozen Four in St.Paul Minnesota, the crowd was dominated by kelly green jerseys. I may not have been able to take in a game at REA yet but a personal invite from coach Dave Hakstol last month to host an edition of TPS from Grand Forks is too hard to pass up. It's on my agenda for 2013-14.   

YouTube has a unique time lapse video of a weekend series at REA that I wanted to share. Here's a sample video that's taken minutes before the players come to the ice just to give a sense of what the fan build up is like.   

Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

The Winterhawks play the majority of their games at the Veteran Memorial Coliseum but when the Moda Center isn't being used by the local NBA club, the WHL team moves across the street to play there.

Portland has become a perennial powerhouse in the WHL after several years of floundering. The team on the ice is vastly improved and off of it, the presentation of the game is also top notch. The pre-game videos are exceptionally well done. Here's another one

Of the 5 finalists in this category, this is the only one I have had the privilege of experiencing first hand. I've seen games in both buildings and at the right time - the 2014 WHL Final. With just a hair under 11K rowdy fans, both the Moda Center and the VMC were incredible. Even with our headsets on it was hard for Corey Graham and I to hear each other let alone our producer back in Edmonton, Marc Majeau. 

Again, I haven't experienced the other four nominees but I can tell you that next to the 2006 Stanley Cup final at Rexall Place, I can't recall being in a more raucous atmosphere that in Portland. And the Rosebuds don't hurt either. 

This isn't the best quality video but it does the job. If someone has a better one, hit me up on Twitter with a link (@TPS_Guy).
We are collecting votes for the next week until Tuesday August 19th when we announce the winners of the 2014 PIPE-ies. If you want to cast your vote, let us hear it. Tweet us at @TPS_Guy and @DuckMillard and include the hashtag #TPSAwards in your vote. 

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