TD Place Arena – Ottawa 67’s
Ottawa’s Favourite Hockey Club
My, how times can change. It wasn’t long ago that the NHL’s Ottawa Senators were challenging for the Stanley Cup and generating positive buzz from their scrappy, young team of likeable players. Meanwhile the historic OHL club, the 67’s, struggled on and off the ice to maintain relevance, failing to string together successful seasons in their outdated and bizarre arena.
How times change. Today, the Senators make headlines only when their players are involved in scandals (with their wives, with Uber drivers, and with their management), and especially with their universally-reviled owner, Eugene Melnyk, who’s recent tenure has been one disaster after another. ‘Melnyk Out’ billboards have been popping up around the city, condemnation has come from government, and fans are refusing to show up to games, imploring him to stop plans to move the team to a new arena in the city centre.
Meanwhile, the Ottawa 67’s find themselves champions of the OHL’s East Division already, and contenders to make it to this year’s (2018-19) Memorial Cup national championships. Their arena, once run-down and bizarre, is now seen as revitalised and unique. 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 67’s have called historic Lansdowne Park home for decades. Though the revitalised arena is corporately known as TD Place, it is often referred to simply as Lansdowne Park.
The arena, football stadium, and surrounding park were 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. 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 3
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.
Pizza in the arena is from well-liked Eastern Ontario chain Gabriel Pizza, where a slice can be had for $6.50. An interesting option as well is the Sweet Spot, where ice cream and hot drinks are served. A shot of cream liqueur can be added to either for $5, and for the kids, mixed bags of sweets go for $3.
Pop is from the Pepsi family and there is a decent selection of alcoholic drinks. International standard Budweiser is marketed heavily, at $8.50 for a tall can, but better local options can be had for $11 and up, including Mill Street, Alexander Keith’s, and Batch 1904 Cider. Various mixed drinks, wine, and spirits are also available at a number of locations throughout the concourse.
Prices tend to be on the high side for junior hockey, though that may be expected as Ottawa is a much larger city than most others across the leagues.
Though the years away from Lansdowne were difficult, the results have been spectacular. To say nothing of the vastly-improved stadium and surrounding neighbourhood, the arena itself got a face lift 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 a stand of the adjoined 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 very wide and features large window walls. All along one side, a long mural recounts the history of the club, and especially highlights the tenure of legendary manager Brian Kilrea. There are plentiful TV’s to view the action, and phone charging lockups too, as well as fast and free wifi.
The concourse itself is massive by junior hockey standards, having once hosted the Ottawa Senators, though it is slightly shrunk by black curtains atop the bowl. Seats are comfortable and ringed by a wide walkway. In one corner is a promotional display for an automaker, and black curtains can be drawn along the top tiers to make the cavernous space somewhat more intimate.
Notably, there is no centre scoreboard. Replaced by three large video screens on the large south wall, 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. Even more notable is the lack of private suites, now a staple at any arena, and even a press box! Media have a seating area they use, with impromptu press stations set up, and it’s the seating bowl itself that rises right to the rafters. For premium seating, the TD Comfort Zone at ice level is the main option.
Five banners highlight the 3 Ontario and 2 national championships won by the club. Banners also honour Brian Kilrea and players Peter Lee, Doug Wilson, Denis Potvin, and Bobby Smith, and the in-game presentation is happily hockey-focused and without the corporate gimmickry that plagues NHL arenas.
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 and shopping. Growing national chain Cacao 70 serves gourmet chocolates and drinks, while Industria Brasserie, Craft Beer Market, or Sen Asian are just a couple of the other options. The Aberdeen Pavilion Farmers Market, next door to the arena, is open Sundays and is a great idea on Sunday match days.
The neighbourhood surrounding Lansdowne Park 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 of Canada. 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. Hockey-season festivals include the Winterlude celebrations and the Festibière beer festival in February. A new and particularly interesting option is the free-to-visit Bank of Canada Museum, located just off Parliament Hill at the foot of Bank Street.
Getting to Ottawa is very easy, with frequent trains from Toronto and Montreal, as well as a major international airport.
For other sporting options, check out the Redblacks or Fury FC 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). Seeing the Olympiques could be particularly neat, as their old-school arena provides an antithesis to Lansdowne Park.
For a long time, 67’s attendance was near the top in Ontario but since returning to Lansdowne, numbers have rebounded slowly. There is reason to be optimistic, though, as the terrific performance of the 67’s lately, coupled with the general antipathy toward the Senators, have brought fans back into Lansdowne Park.
There is a large appeal for families and younger fans, and there is resultantly a large contingent of kids, who can be excitable and add their own element to the atmosphere. Generally, the atmosphere is middle-of-the-pack in volume, but when full, the three tall sides can present an intimidating wall of noise.
The notable supporter’s club is the 67’s Booster Club, who uniquely sell knitted scarves and toques to support the players. A red-black-white barberpole scarf or toque is the best souvenir of the team, but they do sell quickly.
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. Ottawa is set to open a massive expansion to their transport system, in the form of underground and above-ground rail, which will massively improve connectivity in the region.
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. Those driving should be warned, though, that Ottawa is like other major Canadian cities; dense and often difficult to drive in. The Glebe neighbourhood is particularly pedestrian-heavy and Bank Street can be very stressful for drivers. Best to consider transit or even walking from the city centre. Inside the arena, there is plenty of space to navigate the wide concourses and washrooms are mostly adequate, though a few of the ones tucked into odd corners can be small.
Return on Investment 5
Prices at the 67’s are a little higher than most OHL teams, but that is not unexpected in a major, world-class city. 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, and represent the best value for hockey in Ottawa.
There is terrific initiative called 67’s PLUS, which is a new and helpful take on the concept of season’s ticket memberships. Instead of paying for the whole year, the 67’s + programme allows general admission anywhere in the shorter south side for every game in a chosen month, all for only $30. A three-month minimum is required, but that can be spread out throughout the season. Essentially, this package provides three months of season’s tickets for $90, which is unbeatable value.
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 PLUS initiative.
An extra point for the classy and iconic striped sweaters the team have worn for decades.
Another extra for the amazing revitalization of Lansdowne Park and all the shops and restaurants surrounding the arena.
And a final extra point for the 67’s Boosters Club, who go above and beyond the normal supporters’ groups by knitting teamwear in support of the players.
The 67’s have been a part of Ottawa for decades, and have seen their home arena rebuilt to the standard befitting such an historic hockey club. Now that their on-ice performance matches that quality, fans are returning and bringing back life to the unique arena they inhabit. Ottawa is one of the great sport travel destinations in the world for the mix of sporting and cultural experiences, and the ease of access in getting to the city.
Making the highly successful Ottawa 67’s a part of a trip to Canada’s capital is a terrific idea, and an experience that will prove memorable for any hockey lover.
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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.