Stadium Journey, a real, actual magazine dedicated to all things stadium and/or journey-related, earlier this week released its 2013 NHL arena rankings. "Oh, let us guess which arena was tops!" you're saying. "It has to be the United Center. Or maybe Madison Square Garden. No, wait--it's gotta be a Canadian arena. Bell Centre?"
Ha ha, no, sillies! It's the Xcel Energy Center, home of the [Googles it] ... Minnesota Wild?
Yes, according to Stadium Journey's rankings, the Wild's arena is tops in the NHL, based on criteria so complex I'll just go ahead and block quote it:
The fans know the game and appreciate the little things, such as clearing the puck on the penalty kill, or a good defensive play to prevent a scoring chance. That is what gives the Xcel a truly special atmosphere and, even though the initial luster of having the NHL back in Minnesota has worn off, there is still a buzz around the building.
Rounding out the top five was the Verizon Center (Capitals) at two, the Tampa Bay Times Forum at three, the Staples Center (Kings) at four and le Centre Bell (Canadiens) at five.
So where was the Wells Fargo Center? Much like the Flyers this season, it finished outside the top-16, coming in at a cool 17th, just one spot ahead of that veritable hockey palace, the Prudential Center. The WFC also finished nine spots behind Phoenix's Jobing.com Arena, because clearly "having a name that makes any goddamn sense" did not factor heavily into the rankings. There must have been bonus points awarded for comfort factor, as it's true that Coyotes fans never have to worry about cramped seating, crowded concourses or parking lot traffic.
Why so low for the Flyers' home?
The Wells Fargo Center is nice. It's very pretty. It has lots of fun stuff to do. But it won't ever scare anybody. Teams used to be afraid to play the Flyers in the Spectrum. Not here. It's too nice. Wouldn't want to mess anything up. You look up in the rafters, and the same banners hang, along with a couple of new ones, but it's not the same. You got your pop-a-shot basketball games and your air hockey tables and hockey-in-a-bubble style foosball games, all your modern arena doodads and hoohah, but it just ain't the same atmosphere. And that's kinda sad.
Look, I miss the Spectrum too. Sometimes I pee in the giant parking lot next to XFINITY Live! where the Spectrum once stood, just to recreate the nostalgic sights and smells of the arena's upper concourse. But do any NHL arenas really "scare anybody" anymore? For the most part, every modern arena is the same. Sight lines and lighting are generally good. Amenities are in place. Hot dogs cost six dollars. Docking the Wells Fargo Center for not being intimidating enough seems a bit inconsistent, especially when you consider that the Jou Louis Arena ranked 28th on this list. I've been to the Joe Louis Arena. It's terrifying. (But maybe that's just because it's in Detroit.)
And besides, how can any arena where this happened not be considered intimidating enough?