TD Place Arena – Ottawa 67’s
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Familiar Ice For Centennial Stripes
Hockey in Canada’s Capital runs just as deep, though realistically much deeper, than politics. With a long history stretching back to the days of twigs and frozen horse dung on the rivers, through the famous ‘Silver Seven’ Stanley Cup winners, and to the modern incarnation of the Senators, Canada’s game is everywhere in Canada’s capital.
One major part of that history has been the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s. They are one of the more successful and certainly more iconic teams in junior hockey, with alumni including Gary Roberts, Kevin Weekes, Doug Wilson, Kris Draper, and Denis Potvin, among others. They have also been managed by the legendary Brian Kilrea for almost 40 years. Founded during Canada’s Centennial celebrations in 1967, and famed for their red, black, and white ‘barberpole’ sweaters, the club have called historic Lansdowne Park home for decades.
The park, however, was completely renovated recently to make room for the Redblacks of the Canadian Football League, and soccer club Fury FC, causing major disruption to the arena – uniquely located under the north stands of the football stadium!
For two years, the 67’s were forced to play out of the suburban Canadian Tire Centre, home of the Senators (for now, anyway). The far-flung arena, already too distant for most Senators fans, was totally unworkable for the 67’s and hurt their attendance severely.
Today, though, the 67’s are back at home at a completely renovated TD Place Arena, comfortably in Lansdowne Park where they belong.
Food & Beverage 4
Concessions at TD Place Arena won’t blow you away but they will certainly have something for everyone, and then some. The first go-to is Chez Poutine, with a number of unique twists on this Canadian staple of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Dress up the dish with pulled pork or any of the other meaty, cheesy, or somewhat healthier toppings available.
The Little Italy booth sells local favourite Gabriel Pizza. Meanwhile, gourmet hot dogs are to be found at Dog Wild. Another choice is in-house smoked brisket and other meats at the carvery, for a tasty sandwich. There are also stands to get plastic cups of sweets, chocolate, or even fruit and vegetables.
Pop is from the Pepsi family whilst beer options range in price from $9.50 to $11.50 for tall cans. International brewery Budweiser is marketed very heavily, though, and other internationals Stella Artois and Corona are also on tap, but there are a few Ontario beers and Nova Scotian favourite Alexander Keith’s for some higher quality suds. Ontario ciders as well as wine and coolers can also be purchased. There is also an Appleton Estate rum stand serving up mixed drinks of all sorts.
Though the years away from Lansdowne were difficult, the results have been spectacular. To say nothing of the stadium and surrounding neighbourhood, the arena itself got a facelift and a very fresh coat of paint.
The layout of the arena is very unique in the league, as three sides are incredibly tall and steep, with the south side only a couple rows high, tucked under the grandstand of the adjacent football stadium.
Along this south side is an open concourse with views of both the ice and the neighbouring football field. On the north, east, and west sides, the glass-lined concourse is wide and filled with inflatable games for the kids to play. Back on the south side, be sure to check out the neat model of the redeveloped Lansdowne Park.
The concourse itself is massive by junior hockey standards, though it is slightly shrunk by black curtains atop the bowl. Seats are comfortable and ringed by a wide walkway.
Notably, there is no centre scoreboard. Instead, three large video screens on the large south wall perform this task, accompanied by ribbon video boards and a host of smaller screens and clocks throughout the seating bowl. Also notable is the completely bilingual nature of the arena, with all announcements and signage in both English and French, as is standard throughout Ottawa.
Five banners highlight the 3 Ontario and 2 national championships won by the club. Banners also honour manager Brian Kilrea and players Peter Lee, Doug Wilson, Denis Potvin, and Bobby Smith.
A sporting event at Lansdowne Park these days would be incomplete without a visit to the countless pubs, restaurants, and shops now located all around the stadium. During the renovations of the park, an entire new pedestrian precinct was created with higher-end restaurants, shopping, a cinema, pubs, and exhibition facilities. Places like Jack Astor’s, Milestones, Joey, South Street Burger, or Local will please anyone for supper.
The surrounding neighbourhood is the popular Glebe district, chalk full of friendly pubs and cafes along Bank Street and the Rideau River. The Arrow and Loon is a tremendous nearby spot for a pint before or after.
Ottawa itself is a major tourist destination, and has all the museums and sites you would expect in the National Capital. Parliament is the obvious first spot, as are the National Gallery, the dozens of national museums, the delightful Byward Market neighbourhood, or the Casino du Lac-Leamy across the river in Gatineau, Quebec. Try a BeaverTail, the local fried dough treat with a variety of toppings. In winter, the number one thing to do in Ottawa is to skate down the frozen Rideau Canal. 2017 will be a great time to visit the city, as it goes all out celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
For other sporting options, check out the Redblacks or Fury at Lansdowne Park, the Senators hockey club, or cross into Gatineau to see the Olympiques of the LHJMQ (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League – another constituent league of the CHL).
For a long time, 67’s attendance was near the top in Ontario but since returning to Lansdowne, numbers have not rebounded very well. A relatively weak team lately, coupled with the surging Redblacks capturing imaginations, have meant the big arena often feels pretty empty. This is remedied a little by the fans who bring flags and homemade banners, as well as excitable younger supporters.
The fans that are there are middle-of-pack in terms of volume, though when full, the arena is a very intimidating place to play.
A small group of fans stand out in particular; the 67’s Booster Club make knitted items to support the players is a lovely touch.
Getting to Lansdowne Park could not be easier. With your ticket, your rides on Ottawa’s excellent bus and train system are free. Frequent Bank Street buses stop just outside the ground and can whisk you downtown or to the nearest O-Train stations.
If arriving by car, parking is underground and $8, which is steep for the OHL but not out of line in a big city like Ottawa. Inside the arena, there is plenty of space to navigate the wide concourses and washrooms are more than adequate.
Return on Investment 4
Prices at the 67’s are a little higher than most OHL teams, but that is not unexpected in the biggest city in the league. If you throw in the free transit tickets, there are savings to be had for all. Tickets run between $18 and $25 with discounts for students and seniors.
There is an unbelievable initiative called 67’s Prospects, as well, where all minor hockey players in the Ottawa region watch every 67’s game for free! This is an incredible initiative and really ingrains the club in the community.
Extra marks are given for the presentation, which is stimulating and better than some NHL teams. It is completely focused on hockey fans and not gimmicks. Before the game, there is a great preview, presented totally impartially. The host speaks about both teams equally and says what they each must do to win. During breaks in play, interesting facts about the sport are showcased (did you know pucks are frozen to an average -10C before the game?). Replays explicitly include little things that hockey fans can appreciate like stick checks and good passing plays, not just goals and big saves. And all this is presented in English and French.
An extra point for the 67’s Prospects initiative.
An extra point for the classy and iconic striped sweaters the team wear.
Another extra for the amazing revitalization of Lansdowne Park and all the shops and restaurants surrounding the arena.
Once again, the 67’s are playing where they belong. This time, though, their home is a truly beautiful place to enjoy hockey. When the on-ice product improves, a return of the fans will make TD Place Arena into one of the best venues in the country. Until then, it is the kind of arena, and the kind of team, that any hockey fan should make a part of their trip to Canada’s Capital.
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