Tom’s recent blog series (Tour of the NHL Cities) got me thinking about some of the ‘charming’ old buildings on the NHL circuit that no longer host teams. I thought you might be interested in hearing a nugget or two about some of these old barns. I plan to do at least a three part series within which I will focus on two rinks at a time. So, in no particular order, here goes:
La Colisée de Québec (in English: the Quebec Coliseum); Quebec City, QC
I played in this rink a handful of times before the Quebec Nordiques left Canada for Colorado in 1995. There was nothing out of the ordinary about this building from an architectural point of view. With capacity of just under 16,000 people, it actually remains a fairly up to date venue even today. The one quirky thing about the building was the visitors’ dressing room. Low ceilings (8 footers) and dark wood paneling … imagine your parents’ basement, circa 1976.
What I remember most about La Colisée had less to do with the structure itself and more to do with a particular French Canadian delicacy served inside. Chien chaud!! Or … le hot dog. But this was no regular weeny. Quebecers had come up with this unique bun that looked a little like thick sliced bread formed into the shape of a traditional hot dog bun. The novel shape and texture allowed you to grill the bun on the outside to a golden brown before sliding the dog inside. And to be clear; it took a generous amount of butter to get that bun to a golden brown. Tasty little devils!!
So teammate Doug Wilson and I are sitting one out in the press box at La Colisée one night. On a dare, Willy pledges to pay for my meal if I can scarf down 10 of these beauties before the concession closes at the end of the third.
I ate 14 and nearly swallowed the index finger on my right hand in the process.
The Hartford Civic Center; Hartford CT
This building was an oddity. In the day, we called it the Mall because, in addition to the arena and the attached convention center, this downtown complex also contained retail space. That’s right, you could buy a record, try on a pair of shoes and see a Whalers game all under the same roof.
I was a member of the Whalers the last year they played in Hartford. 1996-97. The arena itself was a unique set up. Unlike most NHL rinks that had at least two distinct tiers of stands; the Mall was one continuous run of seats right up to the rafters.
One of my favourite Mall memories comes out of a morning skate when the St. Louis Blues were visiting. I was first on the ice this particular morning. I am skating around all alone just to loosen up before the rest of the squad shows up for practice. From out of nowhere, comes the sound of someone singing the Star Spangled Banner live, loud, unaccompanied and way off-key.
I looked around for the longest time before I was able to locate Blues coach Jimmie Roberts. Coach Roberts had found himself a perch in the uppermost part of the arena and he was belting out the national anthem to beat the band. To this day, I have no explanation for this underwhelming display of patriotism. I didn’t know whether to shake my head or laugh. I suspect I did both.
Lastly, any tribute to the Mall has to include a reference to the Brass Bonanza. Every night you took to home ice for the once Mighty Whale, you did so to this infamous musical arrangement you’ll spend the rest of the day trying to get out of your head. Here’s a link to background on and a download of the tune now renowned as the Hartford Whalers Victory March.
In Part II, I will feature a venue I believe to be the best of all time … the Chicago Stadium.
See you around the rink.
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