Wednesday, April 11, 2007

End of Season Rink Report Part II: Central Division

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks @ United Center 2/22 and 3/21:
Building: A. The outside is a plain concrete fortress, but the inside takes you to a world of history and sports. Old timey too.
Seating Area: B+. Very big symmetrical bowls, but not a bad seat in the house. Red seats for a red team, also a plus.
Atmosphere: B-. Gotta give the 10,000 fans that did attend a hand, because they were knowledgable and actually watched.
Concessions: B. Good, varied choice of food and drink, and the 309 Ironworks is a very cool area.
Hospitality: B. These guys love their Hawks, but they razz on them more than the other team. Smart fans, fun to talk to.

Overall Grade: B+. Chicago is a fun city, and a big time sports town. It's a shame that the Hawks suck right now, as they are a storied team, but they will get better, and Bill Wirtz (the old, crotchety owner who no one likes) will die (eventually), and the fans will return, to make this place fun. The history, the tradition, and the organist, a great package.

Columbus Blue Jackets @ Nationwide Arena 10/23 & 2/16:
Building: A-. The largest building I've been to, the place is flat out cool. The signage for the escalators is good too.
Seating Area: B-. Not a bad seat in the barn, but the seats are way too narrow for fat Mr. Odyssey. Armrest cupholders = bad.
Atmosphere: B-. The fans here tried oh so hard to get the team going, but they never responded. Loud even when behind.
Concessions: C-. Not too many, and not too varied a selection, but the food was pretty good, and prices not too steep.
Hospitality: B. Had a good conversation with a mother/daughter, the latter was a huge fan of Nikolai Zherdev. NIce people.

Overall Grade: B. Big is beautiful in C-bus. Loaded with tradition in the lobby (high school and college hockey jerseys), great views, and a successful revitalization of the area (the Arena District has tons of good food and even some homes nearby too), the Nationwide Arena is a great place to visit.

Detroit Red Wings @ Joe Louis Arena 10/25 & 12/2:
Building: C-. Old, plain, inconvenient, and cramped walkways. Outside ain't much prettier, but it holds some great history.
Seating Area: C-. The seats aren't too wide, ain't too much legroom, and that 4 foot tall kid 10 rows up looks like a mountain.
Atmosphere: C+. It's a decent atmosphere. The fans show up late and leave early, but those banners pick up their slack.
Concessions: C+. Not alot of variety at the stands, but you can bring an Icee, or a large Little Caesar's pizza to your seat.
Hospitality: B-. They notice me, boo me when I walk by, on the stairs or concourse, and are pretty nice to talk to in my seat.

Overall Grade: C. I can't give the Joe a horrible grade, but it isn't the best building out there, which is helped by the fact that it is 30 years old. The ten banners that are painted on the walkway that goes over the street adjacent to the arena set the mood of this place perfectly, and the sea of red banners hanging from the rafters continue it. The Tubby's down the street makes this trip 100% worth it, before that, it's stll about 75%.

Nashville Predators @ Gaylord Entertainment Center/Nashville Arena 10/26 & 2/14:
Building: B+. From the outside, the GEC looks like a spaceship, complete with the blue spire thingie. Inside is pretty too.
Seating Area: B-. Pretty big inside, but the sightlines are good. Again with the smallish seats, I get the message already.
Atmosphere: B+. It wasn't full when I was there, but the 13 thou that made it were loud, boisterous, and drunk off $2 beers.
Concessions: C. Didn't explore too much, but the 300s were pretty bare concessionwise. Seemed to be variety downstairs.
Hospitality: C+. The drunk guys who screamed in my ear all night wasn't too pleasant, and 303 is rightfully unsettling.

Overall Grade: B. Nashville is still a budding hockey town, and they definitely have the pieces to succeed. A great team, a great building, and a great location. The fans in 303 are great, and they've really influenced the crowd to get loud and crazy all game long, making the building pretty intimidating. I get to come back in a couple weeks, and am looking quite forward to it. That Tim McGraw song followed by the high school chant to Rock and Roll Part 2 is pretty grating though.

St. Louis Blues @ Scottrade Center 11/28 & 2/13:
Building: B-. Outside it's pretty nice, inside is strikingly different. It has an old time feel, a clean, not broken down old feel.
Seating Area: B+. The sightlines are awesome, the seats are pretty wide upstairs, and they're just plain nice.
Atmosphere: C+. The building was pretty empty, but the fans started a few chants, and were pretty into the game.
Concessions: C-. Didn't see much variety, but the bar in the Top Shelf area was cool, and so were the cheese fries.
Hospitality: C. Wasn't taunted or talked to, so this got a neutral grade. Maybe it'll be different next time round.

Overall Grade: C. When I was here, the team wasn't doing so hot, but since then, they've been doing better, so hopefully there'll be more people next month. St. Louis is a great sports town, and they have a great arena as well. The cheese fries are enough to look forward to, and a possibly full-er Scottrade helps alot. Alot of past history, and plenty of history yet to come.

Next: Northwest Division


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