Erik Erlendsson covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Tampa Tribune.
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Top 10 NHL road stops
Posted Aug 11, 2008 by Erik Erlendsson
Updated Aug 11, 2008 at 11:56 AM
Happy Monday to everybody. I’m deeply entrenched into watching the Olympics on television, and unlike my colleague Bill Ward I don’t quite feel like I’m in Beijing. Maybe the four boys running around (it will be five tonight as we add a sleep over to the mix) offering up distractions to the telecast or maybe it’s the clean (relatively speaking) air outside my house. Nonetheless, I’m enjoying the coverage and with DirectTV, I love the one-stop shopping on channels 750-754 in addition to normal NBC programming on Channel 8. And how about Jason Lezak swimming the anchor leg of the 4x100m freestyle relay team for the U.S. to keep Michael Phelps’ dream of eight gold medals alive!!!!! What a race that was.
And as I type this, my nine-year old son Kevin is running an Olympic volleyball tournament representing the USA, 6-year-old son Kelsey first saying Switzerland then switching his allegiance to Canada. The winner is supposed to face oldest brother Kyle, who is representing the host country, China. Good stuff
As promised, I’m going to give you guys a Top 10 list today, and though the response wasn’t as overwhelming as I would have hoped with about 30 responses (I know it’s slow and all and everyone’s focus is on the Olympics and Bucs, but I was hoping for about 348 responses that would have required all weekend to sift through!!!). There were some good idea, with top 10 Lightning enforces being the most popular, so I’ll have to get that one put together for you guys who asked, which I will do maybe next week (you’ll have to check back for when!!!!)
Here is my top 10 cities on the NHL circuit. The criteria doesn’t have anything to do with hockey, it’s more about the city and what it has to offer, whether its nightlife, scenery or otherwise. At the end, I’ll add a group of places I’m not so crazy about:
10 Toronto - The hockey mecca of the world (self-proclaimed) offers some great sightseeing options, with the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre (formally SkyDome) when the Blue Jays are in town. But the highlight has to be the Hockey Hall of Fame, which is a must-see for any hockey fan. I’m a big fan of the international jerseys, especially the Icelandic national team sweater, and the tremendous displays of history. I don’t get to the Hall every time I’m in Toronto, but I have been there probably three or four times. My only wish is the gift shop had a few better options.
9 Chicago - When you stay downtown, the nightlife just calls you out of your hotel room. I’ve only been here a couple of times (including my first ever road trip on the beat) but the Deep dish pizza is enough to bring you down to the street level for dinner time. Last year we were out in a suburb, so the experience wasn’t quite as entertaining.
8 Philadelphia - Pat’s and Geno’s. That’s enough. But there’s also Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Throw in the Franklin Museum and some historic bars and restaurants - and Chief’s favorite spot, Ralph’s Italian - and Philly is a nice little road trip.
7 Washington - I love visiting the D.C. area. The subway system is tremendous and very clean. As a side note, I once was stopped on the subway carrying a muffin and cup of coffee, a 10-process in which I was actually written up for a warning. Guess that’s why it’s so clean!!!! And all the history and sites are just a highlight of the NHL circuit for me. I get a bit disappointed when Tampa has to play there in the second half of back-to-backs, or like last year, the day after Christmas. I’ve been to the National Archives twice in the past year and the Museum of Natural History and saw the Hope Diamond. I can’t wait for this year to have the chance to go to the Museum of American History, which has been closed for two years.
6 Calgary - You have to love those warm winter nights when the Chinook winds blow through town. But even when it’s cold, Calgary has enough to keep you warm. From Cowboys (I’ve never been, but heard it’s better than any western club in Texas) to the Red Mile, this stop is among the highlights. Two years ago, it was a near all-nighter at the casino (for some, it was) where I only slipped some loonies and twonies into the slot machines. And if you ever get to Calgary, be sure to take the two-hour trip north to Lake Louise, which is above Banff. It’s worth the trip.
5 Boston - This is close to my hometown, so there are some personal reasons to be in Boston, but as a fan of history, you can’t help but get caught up in catching up with it all. The Freedom Trail, Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church, Faneuil Hall, the Green Dragon Tavern, Old Ironside . . . the list goes on and on. Toss in a dinner or two at the North End or a trip to the Boston Beer Works for a pint of the Bunker Hill Bluebeery Ale (a must have) and Beantown is a great stop.
4 Nashville - An underrated stop. I’m not a big fan of country music, but there are still plenty of great bars in the downtown area. And though it could be a serious firetrap, Tootsie’s is a must see. The music is great and the atmosphere can’t be beat. The Bar-B-Q joints need to be experienced and you can smell the aroma in the daytime from a block away. We’ve tried to lobby to get Nashville into the Eastern Conference, but that hasn’t worked . . . yet.
3 Vancouver - The sites of the mountains are among the best in the world, and that alone makes it a must-see. The views are just out of this world, the Asian architecture is a spectacle. Take a walk through Stanley Park if you ever make the trip. It’s easy to get lost there, so be sure to bring some bread crumbs to help you find your way back. Some great food spots, especially for Chinese or Japanese food. And the fact that the Pacific Northwest keeps the temperatures within reason, then there’s never a bad time to be there.
2 Montreal - I’m already excited thinking about the possibility of being in attendance at the All-Star game in January followed by the draft in June (assuming, of course, the newspaper is still in existence nine months from now). My favorite bar on the NHL stop resides in Montreal, an Irish bar (go figure!!!) called McLean’s with a good atmosphere, sports on TV and a good mix of music in the background. And a stop at Gibby’s restaurant in Old Montreal is a must at least once per season. The steaks are among the best I’ve ever had. Mix in the great nightlife the city has to offer and it’s the best city to visit in the league, just behind . . .
1 New York - I’ve documented this before, but being from Boston I have a natural hatred for all New York sports teams, a passion that still lives strongly inside my sports soul. When it comes to visiting the city, however, I just love it. You name it and New York has it going on. And you never have to travel far from where you are to find anything you want. Great food, great bars (Scruffy Duffy, Slaughtered Lamb, Pig n’ Whistle), great sights and it’s all done on a grand scale. From the World of Disney store, to the giant shrimp outside the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Times Square to the three-story M&M’s World, you would have to search hard not to find something to your liking. I’ve had dinner and dessert in Little Italy, dinner in Chinatown and 3 a.m. fourth meal at the 24 hour McDonald’s next to the hotel. I’ve never had a bad time in the city that never sleeps.
Among the stops I’m not crazy about, in no particular order -
Sunrise, especially the building there, nothing good about it
Detroit, just not crazy about it
Raleigh, no atmosphere in the area the team stays in, nothing around the rink.
Edmonton - Chris Pronger’s wife had it right
Ottawa - the downtown area is nice, but since the rink is 30 minutes (in good traffic) outside of downtown, I’m just not crazy about going.
New Jersey - nice new rink, but it’s in New Jersey.
I’ll give you another rundown this week of the top 10 arenas in the league. A bit harder to figure out since they all look somewhat the same from inside, but I’ll try to break it down.