In normal times, life without hockey is barely tolerable during the quiet months of July and August — from the time free agency dries up to the start of rookie camp in early September.
So I’m not used to the sports being shut down.
I’m a rink rat. I love being at the rink, even if it’s a morning skate. I especially like gamedays when the Avalanche is on the road. The morning skates are an hour later and I’m usually working in a fabulous environment. There are no “bad” NHL markets. Only great ones and good ones.
I’ve often been asked to name my favorite NHL cities, and currently, that’s something I think about often because I miss them. This week I present my top 10 NHL cities (outside Denver):
1. Nashville. In 2017-18, I made four trips to Nashville and Bridgestone Arena, which sits on the corner of Broadway and 5th Avenue in the heart of “Music City.” Worked both regular-season games and Games 1, 2 and 5 of the playoffs. It never gets old. The arena’s main entrance looks onto Legend’s Corner and Tooties Orchid Lounge — the western-most honkey tonks on a strip that features the world’s best live country music. You don’t have to be a country music fan to love this place. You just have to appreciate music and really nice people who love hockey. At Bridgestone, the fans are extremely friendly and a live band plays pregame and during intermissions at one end of the arena. This place rocks.
2. Montreal. Overlooking the city from the Marriott Chateau Champlain’s 25th floor is stunning. The beautiful hotel is a block away from the Bell Centre (Centre Bell) and every word from the public-address announcer is in English and repeated in French, or vice versa. Magnificant hockey history and the legendary hot dogs on toasted bread during intermissions are a real treat.
3. Boston. My grandfather was born across from the historic Old North Church in the North End and there are more than 280 eateries in that Italian part of town and walking distance to TD Garden. Try Bella Vista in the North End, just up from Mike’s Pastries on Hanover Street. Just a great sports city with a tremendous history.
4. Tampa. Amalie Arena is a 9-iron from the Tampa Marriott Water Street, which backs into a stunning inter-coastal area where I’ve observed dolphins while eating on the patio of Jackson’s Bistro and Sushi Bar. Good bet you’ll run into an Avalanche player here — at the restaurant or the hotel’s outdoor bar overlooking luxurious boats on the hotel-operated slips.
5. Vegas. T-Mobile Arena sits just behind New York-New York Hotel & Casino and support for the Golden Knights is massive. The NHL struck it rich with this expansion franchise.
6. Vancouver. Flying into Vancouver feels like you’re flying into a Hawaiian island. From the airport, take the train (Canada Line) downtown and walk towards the water, where you’ll spot Rogers Arena.
7. Chicago. The national anthem gives you goosebumps, and this town loves their Blackhawks.
8. Pittsburgh. Highly underrated city. The drive to downtown over the river is beautiful and PPG Paints Arena is about as nice as they come.
9. Arizona. A close second in this region is Anaheim, but the Coyotes play in a beautiful entertainment hub next to the football stadium. Everything you do is within walking distance.
10. New York Rangers. I’m not a big fan of New York but Madison Square Garden and how it sits on top of Penn Station should be on your bucket list.
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