PHT Time Machine: NHL’s weirdest, most unique home venues

Barclays Center
Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

Word surfaced this past week that the Arizona Coyotes have been attempting to find a temporary arena solution that could result in them sharing a home building with Arizona State University’s hockey program. That would result in them potentially spending a couple of years playing home games in a venue that seats under 5,000 fans. Needless to say, that would be pretty much unheard of in today’s NHL and one of the most, let’s call it, unique home-ice situations in the league.

The smallest rinks in the NHL currently are in Winnipeg (15,321) and New Jersey (16,514) and are the only two buildings in the league with a listed capacity of under 17,000 fans. Arizona’s current home rink, Gila River Arena, holds 17,125 fans.

That development got us thinking about some of the other unique home arena situations in NHL history that, for one reason or another, forced teams to play in some strange venues.

Civic Arena (Pittsburgh Penguins)

Originally constructed in the early 1960s for Pittsburgh’s Civic Light Opera, the Civic Arena became the permanent home of Pittsburgh’s expansion hockey team, the Penguins, starting with the 1967 season. They played there until the 2010-11 season when they moved into their current home, PPG Paints arena.

What made the Civic Arena so unique was its shape, literally looking like an igloo, and the fact it had the first retractable roof in North American sports stadiums, even though it was never actually opened for a hockey game.

Jeanine Leech, Getty Images

The Cow Palace (San Jose Sharks)

When the NHL went through an expansion boom in the early 1990s a lot of league’s new teams had to find some temporary homes that were a bit out of the ordinary.

The first of those homes was the Cow Palace just outside of San Francisco. What made the Cow Palace so noteworthy as an NHL rink is that the NHL originally rejected it as a building for the California Seals when they entered the NHL during the 1967-68 season. It was also one of the last rinks in the NHL to have an ice surface smaller than the traditional NHL regulations (the old Boston Garden also famously had a smaller playing surface).

With a capacity of just around 11,000 it was one of the smallest buildings in the league, with the Sharks routinely playing to sell outs during their years in the building. The Sharks played there from their inagural season until the San Jose Arena (now the SAP Center) opened in 1993.

The arena has been a popular destination for concerts, other sports (the NBA’s San Francisco Warriors also called the arena home throughout the 1960s), and, as the name might suggest, livestock competitions and rodeos.

Ottawa Civic Centre (Ottawa Senators)

When the Ottawa Senators entered the NHL during the 1992-93 season their new, permanent building was not yet built, resulting in them playing the first two-and-a-half years of their existence in the tiny Ottawa Civic Centre, which had had a capacity of around 10,000 and a very unique design. One side of the building had only about 15 rows of seats, with the majority of the fans sitting on the opposite side and in the two ends. The arena was temporarily renovated to increase capacity and add a handful of luxury suites, but it still resulted in a bizarre configuration.

The Thunderdome (Tampa Bay Lightning)

Now we get into the fun one.

The Winter Classic, Heritage Classic, and Stadium Series have made seeing hockey games in a baseball stadium something of a common occurrence. But did you remember when the Tampa Bay Lightning made one their permanent home rink for a couple of years?

Tampa had constructed a domed baseball stadium in the early 1990s with the hopes of luring a Major League Baseball team to the arena, a move that ultimately failed until they were granted an expansion team (the Rays) in the late 1990s. With the stadium sitting empty, it was temporarily reconfigured  into a hockey arena (and called “The Thunderdome”) for the cities NHL expansion team (the Lightning). It resulted in some massive crowds of more than 25,000 people, including more than 28,000 people for the Lightning’s first playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers. That game was an NHL attendance record until the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton.

The Lightning played at the Thunderdome until the 1996-97 season when they moved into their current home.

What is funny about the Lightning’s brief experience in a baseball stadium, making it the largest home rink in the league, is that they originally played in one of the smallest buildings in the league, playing their initial season at the 11,000 seat Expo Hall which was located on the Florida state fairgrounds.

Barclays Center (New York Islanders)

Yes, we have to include this one. The Islanders temporarily moved to Brooklyn in the mid-2010s to play in a brand new state of the art arena that was primarily built for basketball and concerts. Not hockey. The result was an off-center scoreboard that was located over the blue line, a three-quarter seating alignment that saw one end of the rink go without fans because you could not see anything below the face off dots, and the infamous Barclays Center SUV that was positioned in the one end. Great building. Just not built for hockey.

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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

    avalanche injuries
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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.