Rogers Arena – Vancouver Canucks
Golden Memories and Silver Dreams
Since its first puckdrop in 1995, Vancouver’s NHL arena has seen its fair share of ups and downs. The ice surface of Rogers Arena (formerly known as General Motors Place and, in 2010, Canada Hockey Place) has been the site of glorious triumph and shocking defeat and has seen everything in between.
The greatest high was Sydney Crosby’s 2010 Olympic ‘golden goal,’ when Team Canada defeated the Americans in overtime to win men’s hockey gold. The goal has been compared in significance to Paul Henderson’s 1972 winner in the Canada-Russia Summit Series. Millions of Canadians across the country took to the streets in celebration at the poetic finish to the Olympics, hosted at home.
One year later, Vancouver’s streets were again filled with hockey fans. However, the Canucks’s shocking 4-0 loss in game seven of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final left the city burning as dejected supporters rioted. It was far from the first Stanley Cup riot in Canada (it wasn’t even the first in Vancouver), but the ugly scenes cast a pall of Vancouver for some time.
Fast forward to the present and Rogers Arena continues to be the scene of on-ice drama, with the Canucks performances fluctuating year-to-year. Today, it is a solid place to enjoy NHL action as it grows and evolves. The Canucks organisation have been particularly astute at listening to feedback and making changes to the arena that noticeably improve the experience for fans.
Food & Beverage 4
One of the most obvious places the Canucks have improved the arena experience is through food and drink. Rogers Arena does not suffer from standard arena cooking by any stretch. Since the club brought their food services in-house, unique and diverse food options have taken over from mundane staples.
Some of the most interesting concessions include poké and sushi options which take advantage of Vancouver’s famously fresh fish. Another aptly-named concept is the Bacon Makes Everything Better stand, which freshly serves bacon in different forms (Canadian ‘back bacon,’ rashers, strips) and in different applications.
Other unique concepts include Catch, with three different locations. Again taking advantage of the Pacific Coast’s abundant seafood, the menu includes ingredients like lobster – a definite step up!
Carve, with four locations, is the spot for hand-carved meat piled onto various sandwiches. Sausages and Montreal Smoked Meat round out the offerings.
Steamers, named after Canucks icon Stan ‘Steamer’ Smyl, is the spot for gourmet hot dogs in sections 120 and 330. Melt, with three locations, is the place for unique grilled cheeses. Triple O’s, with three locations, is a popular Vancouver hamburger joint, and popular local Indian purveyor Vij’s is also in the arena.
Notably, the Canucks offer healthy options as well. Smoothies can be had throughout the arena as well as locations of Santé, serving healthier options. Finally, the Sportsbar Live! off Georgia Street is similar to the RealSports bar at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. It has a blue-line sized, TV-lined bar and plenty of booths. No ticket is required for entry, though a small handful ticketed tables offer a unique open vantage point to the ice below.
To drink, a terrific selection of BC craft beers, ciders, and wine are impressive additions to the usual mainstream pours. Draught beer starts at $8 for 12oz half-pints (24oz pours at $14.50 and up), with pop from Pepsi brands at $4.75. As a bonus, there is a pregame ‘Happy half hour’ before puck drop with drink, food, and apparel specials for fans who arrive early.
From the outside, the arena almost seems to blend into its surrounds, without any notable grand entrance. This is due to the fact that the rink sits under and in between road overpasses and the Skytrain line. As well, a condo tower has been built over one corner of the arena, maximising space in the dense city.
Even compared to the usually tightly-packed NHL arenas across Canada, Rogers Arena has a vertical feeling inside, with the 500-level hanging almost straight up over the 300. It adds up to a tall arena , but the sight lines are good throughout. The seating bowls are fairly symmetrical, without any particularly notable differentiating features in that regard, however the atmosphere is boosted by the Canucks Level of Honour, featuring club greats. Though the banners are still lacking any Stanley Cup commemorations, the 2010 Olympic Gold performances by both the men and women are commemorated with a banner. Large promotional images soar above the ends with the slogan ‘Compete is in our nature.’
In the concourses, modern video boards blend with interpretive displays including commemorations of the 2010 Olympics (featuring the Canadian flag waved on the ice by the players), and a reconstructed change room featuring four iconic Canucks legends, Stan Smyl, Mattias Ohlund, Markus Naslund, and Trevor Linden.
The pregame projections are used well. They compliment the experience but aren’t overdone. During the intermission, hockey clubs from BC compete. while the pregame is enhanced for specially selected young fans by the chance to high five the players as they emerge from the change room.
Five minutes away from the arena is Vancouver’s large Chinatown and the trendy Gastown area just beyond is the best place for fine dining, numerous bars, and nightlife. To the south, ten minutes away is Yaletown, also a spot for trendy dining and nightlife. The beautiful False Creek harbourfront, Science World, and the Olympic village are within walking distance, as are the theatres and music venues of Granville Street.
The area immediately surrounding the arena isn’t particularly notable, save for a neighbouring Costco, which has become a very popular pregame spot for cheap eats from the open-air window fronting the arena. Indeed, it seems the ‘true’ Canucks experience might be grabbing a cheap hot dog and basking in the mild winter weather that blesses Vancouver.
Vancouver itself is surely one of the most breathtaking cities on the planet. Set amidst a river delta, it is surrounded by towering mountains and the ocean. World-class skiing is as close as a public transit bus ride to Grouse Mountain, with the famous resort of Whistler not far away.
The city is blessed by a temperate climate, and Vancouver is certainly the only city in Canada where you could leave your jacket at home before heading to the arena in the dead of winter. By midseason, flowers are blossoming and a walk along the Stanley Park Seawall is the perfect way to enjoy the perpetual spring weather.
As one might expect, Canucks fans are passionate, knowledgeable, and welcoming. Though that passion has, in the past, boiled over, visiting fans are likely to encounter only positive experiences at the rink.
Less expected than these traits, though, is the somewhat rare possibility of actually obtaining tickets to most Canucks games. Though the fact that fans in an extremely expensive city may not sell out midweek games against out-of-country, non-divisional opponents does not startle, it is somewhat unique compared to most other Canadian markets. Still, despite its mild climate, Vancouver is just as much a hockey city as anywhere else, and no one is doubting the importance of the Canucks to the city and province.
Getting to Rogers Arena is perfectly straightforward – but driving is not suggested. Parking is bound to be very expensive, with major traffic congestion the norm. There is an arena parkade, and some other options within a fifteen-minute walk, but public transportation is the far better bet. Vancouver’s extensive SkyTrain system deposits fans adjacent to the arena at Stadium-Chinatown Station. The station is on the Expo Line and is convenient to get to the central area and Waterfront Station, or to the eastern suburbs. Also nearby the arena, False Creek ferries dock and transport passengers along the south end of the downtown area, as well as to the tourist hot spot of Granville Island, and the Kitsilano Beach area.
Within the rink, the concourses are not particularly overcrowded compared to other arenas. Though there is not full circulation around the entire bowl, the crowds flow along about as smoothly as might be expected. Access is restricted in certain Club areas of the concourse, which have premium food offerings, but previous washroom shortages have been rectified recently.
Return on Investment 3
Vancouver is, it must be said, a particularly expensive city. Every facet of life in the Lower Mainland region seems to cost more, and in this country, hockey tickets certainly wouldn’t be the exception. However, last minute tickets to less-demanded games can be had for very reasonable amounts. For example, 24-hours before a game against Minnesota, Upper Bowl tickets were available from $50. However, for tickets against a rival like Edmonton, those same seats are $90 or higher.
Concessions are rather expensive, though they are among the best in the league in terms of choice and quality. Choosing public transit over driving can be a great cost-saving choice, though, and snagging some of the cheaper tickets can make a Canucks game reasonable, especially while they are in a down year. The views are always good in the arena and excitement is growing around some exciting young players now donning the blue and green.
The Canucks really deserve an extra point for their active listening to their fans and innovative additions to what would have otherwise been a mundane arena. Constant incremental improvements have added new premium areas and attractions for all fans.
An extra point also for some thoughtful arena features likely to be standard in future sporting venues. One such example is a quiet room for nursing parents or autistic fans. There is still a TV to watch the action, but it can be a needed respite from the arena atmosphere for some.
An extra point for the real effort made to keep young and new fans involved. In a hockey hotbed like Vancouver, it was an unexpected surprise to find the team delivering certificates, stickers, and buttons to fans attending their first Canucks game. This practice is a great addition in places like Tampa’s Amalie Arena, but it can be particularly important in an immigrant destination like Vancouver, where the mantra ‘We are all Canucks’ is taken to heart.
Most teams have a mascot, but very few teams have a real-life personification of them. Johnny Canuck, the cartoon Canadian war hero, has found a real-life lookalike who takes part in Canucks videos and can be seen in the concourses. It adds a unique touch that can be appreciated by any fan.
Finally, an extra point for the eco-conscious initiatives found throughout the arena. Vancouver embodies the green west coast spirit and that continues with robust recycling and environmental efforts in Rogers Arena.
Vancouver is a spectacular city that should be on the bucket list of any traveler. Adding a Canucks game is the perfect addition for hockey fans, and for those looking to experience the city like a local. Rogers Arena started off as a fairly standard 1990’s arena but it has been improved year after year through conscientious management by the Canucks organization. It has become a fantastic place to watch hockey, and looks likely to continue improving off the ice, as the Canucks search for some silverware to match the Olympic gold on it.
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Latest Crowd Reviews
Rogers Arena is a fun place for all different types of fans to take in a Canucks game. The Canucks have had some good teams in past years and this is a great place to watch a game of hockey. If you are willing to open up your wallet a bit, you will get a great game to go along with a fun atmosphere. The food is good, but it doesn’t come cheap.