Seven Wonders of the Hockey World: Places a fan must visit – SI.com
You’ve heard of the Seven Wonders? That list compiled by the Hellenic historian Herodotus of the world’s most spectacular manmade structures, from the Great Pyramid of Giza to the Colossus of Rhodes?
His recognition of ancient marvels served as a guidebook for tourists of his time and has inspired several similar lists over the ages, honoring achievements ranging from the Great Wall of China to the Panama Canal.
The hockey world has its marvels, too. People, places and things that are revered by generations of fans. We’ve catalogued seven in each of those three categories for posterity.
Here’s a look at the seven places any hockey tourist worth their salt has to visit. We’ll offer out list of people and things in future installments.
The Hockey Hall of Fame, Toronto, Ontario
The chance to pay tribute to legends like Eddie Shore, Toe Blake, Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky in the stained-glass shrine known as The Great Hall (photo at the top of page) is worth the trip to Toronto by itself. But ever since it relocated from the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition to a former Bank of Montreal in downtown Toronto in 1993, the Hall has become more than just a tribute to the greats of the game and a brilliantly curated repository for their memorabilia. It’s the closest thing to a hockey amusement park, filled with skill-testing games that allow visitors to step between the pipes and stare down video represenatiations of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, take part in shooting accuracy challenges against computer simulations of Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist or step behind the mic and call some of the greatest moments in the history of the game. Add in a visit to a recreation of the legendary Montreal Canadiens locker room, the greatest collection of goalie masks anywhere and the chance to take a photo with the Stanley Cup and there’s no better way for a hockey fan to spend the day.
Lake Placid Olympic Center, Lake Placid, NY
The site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympic hockey tournaments and, arguably, the single most important international game ever played, the Lake Placid Olympic Center is more than just a rink. It’s the place where the American psyche, battered by recession at home and a waning influence overseas, was re-energized for a new decade and where an often ignored sport took root in the hearts of millions of fans.
The beautiful old barn has remained virtually untouched since an underdog group of college-aged Americans knocked off the mighty Soviets back on Feb. 22, 1980. It houses three ice surfaces, including the 7,700-seat Herb Brooks Arena, which was re-named in honor of the famed coach in 2005 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Miracle. The original scoreboard still hangs at center ice and the upper deck still features the same wooden bleachers that were jammed beyond capacity the day that Jim Craig and Mike Eruzione became national heroes.
That 4–3 victory inspired a nation and ushered in a new wave of young American talent that continues to impact the game at all levels today. Fittingly, the site itself remains in heavy and reverential use by USA Hockey, most recently to announce its management team for the upcoming World Cup.
While you’re there, be sure to check out the Olympic museum which houses a trove of Miracle memorabilia including Craig’s jersey and pads.
The Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec
It’s not the Forum, and it never will be. No modern arena could ever hope to match the almost religious aura of that ultimate hockey shrine. But what this nearly 20-year-old facility lacks in historical gravitas it compensates for with a thrilling atmosphere that’s unmatched anywhere in hockey. When that building is packed with 21,273 congregants on a Saturday night as the Habs host the Bruins or the Maple Leafs (or, hopefully soon, the Nordiques), there’s simply no better place to immerse yourself in NHL action. From the unparalleled game night presentation to the live-and-die passion of the league’s most knowledgeable fans, the Bell Centre offers the ultimate in-person hockey experience.
Sadly, the breathtaking Canadiens Hall of Fame is closing at the end of August, though the team promises that the redevelopment of surrounding Centennial Plaza “will serve as a permanent gathering place for years to come that celebrates the history of our team, from its greatest legends to its unforgettable conquests and unparalleled legacy.”
Matthews Arena, Boston, Mass.
Built in 1910 as the Boston Arena, this unassuming barn isn’t simply the world’s oldest indoor hockey facility. It’s also the last of its kind, the only original home of an Original 6 team still standing and in operation.
The expansion Boston Bruins played their first NHL regular season game there on Dec. 1, 1924, and made it their home rink for four seasons until the more spacious Boston Garden opened in 1928. In 1972 Matthews became the home of the WHA’s New England Whalers, who claimed the first-ever Avco Cup with a 9–6 win over the Winnipeg Jets on the arena’s ice on May 6, 1973.
At various times the rink also has been called home by some of college hockey’s most prestigious programs, including Harvard, Boston University, Boston College and Northeastern. Hobey Baker played there. Babe Ruth did as well, although he skated off midway through his one attempt at the sport, decrying the other players as “nuts.”
Northeastern ultimately purchased the building in 1979 and made it the exclusive home of the NCAA’s Huskies.
Wanna take a twirl around the surface? They still have public sessions—just remember to bring your own skates.
238-262 St.Botolph Street, Boston, MA 02115
Admission varies by event
Open seven days a week
Vaillant Arena, Davos, Switzerland
It’s not Europe’s biggest, oldest or even most historic arena, but take one step inside the home of Swiss league powerhouse HC Davos and you know you’re someplace magical. Built on the bones of an old outdoor rink that required a massive upgrade when Davos qualified for the Nationalliga A in 1979, it was transformed into an architectural marvel, a cathedral of wood and glass and ice boasting a soaring ceiling and spectacular views from the concourse.
The arena has seats for just 3,280 (with standing room for nearly 4,000 more), but they’re some of the loudest and most knowledgeable fans anywhere, and they create an intimate but electric environment for both the local team and the annual Spengler Cup tournament, one of the premier events on the international hockey calendar that it hosts each December.
Long Pond, Windsor, Nova Scotia
They call it the Cradle of Hockey, the place where the British game of hurley evolved into something new, something faster, something better.
Long Pond, located beside Howard Dill’s pumpkin farm outside Windsor, Nova Scotia, is where historians say it all began. Records dating back to the early 1800’s reveal accounts of the new game being played there by the boys of nearby King’s College … and fittingly, they involve an early player losing a few of his chiclets.
Unlike Cooperstown, the area remains nearly unchanged 200 years later save for a humble wooden sign planted on the banks of the rink-shaped pond to recognize the significance of the spot. In the winter, it’s like a Currier & Ives painting of what a hockey pond should look like, nestled in a small hollow with the school, now known as King’s Edgehill, in the background. There are tournaments held each year, but the pick-up brand of hockey is the way to go. Even wearing modern equipment, it’s impossible not to feel the magic of the place in your bones as your skates glide across the ice.
If you can’t get there in the winter, you can still appreciate the setting, along with the Windsor Hockey Heritage Museum, which houses an array of vintage artifacts that honor the town’s place in history.
Dill Farm: RR#1 400 College Road, Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada
Luzhniki Ice Palace, Moscow, Russia
Much like the arena in Lake Placid, this rink is revered by hockey fans as the site of one of the greatest moments in the sport’s history. Unlike Lake Placid, it’s revered by fans from another country.
The Luzhniki Ice Palace was the site of the final four games of the 1972 Summit Series, the legendary head-to-head battle for hockey supremacy between the NHL’s best professionals and Russia’s world champion “amateurs.” It was a wildly different battleground for the Canadians, from the large ice to the rope screen that was used in place of plexiglass, but over those four games they came together as a team, clinching victory in the final 34 seconds of the series when Paul Henderson famously tucked a rebound under the pads of Vladislav Tretiak.
It’s not much to look at either inside or out—Phil Esposito called grey monolithic building “a dump.” But that moment, arguably the greatest in Canadian history, ensured the status of the grim, Soviet-era structure as one of hockey’s true shrines.