When the NHL expanded in 1967, the six new teams featured home arenas of varying ages. Since that halcyon event, only one arena is still in NHL use from that era. We look at the oldest NHL arenas still in use.
In the 1967-1968 season, the NHL doubled in size, with the Original Six joined by expansion teams California Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues. The teams played in an assortment of new, old and existing venues, such as the Met Center, Spectrum, Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum Arena, Civic Arena and St. Louis Arena. At the beginning of the 1967-68 season, the Original Six all played in older arenas, such as Chicago Stadium and the Detroit Olympia. But by the end of the season, one team would be playing in the newest NHL arena of all: the fourth Madison Square Garden.
Since the 1926-1927 NHL season, the New York Rangers played at the third Madison Square Garden at 49th Street and Eighth Avenue. The legendary Tex Rickard built this Madison Square Garden iteration and launched the Rangers NHL franchise—“Tex’s Rangers”—after the New York Americans NHL team was a hit in the 1925-1926 season. The Rangers franchise soon took over as the main Madison Square Garden hockey tenant.
By the 1960s, the many deficiencies in Madison Square Garden III were very apparent, and Garden president Irving Mitchell Felt began planning for a replacement. He found it above a new Penn Station; the arena would be built above a new train station built by the Pennsylvania Railroad, replacing the classic Beaux Arts train station. The new Madison Square Garden opened in 1968, complete with a separate theater, cinema, 48-lane bowling alley and 29-story office building. It was regarded as a state-of-the-art facility with 19,000 seats and the memorable cable-suspended roof.
Today, it’s still a state-of-the-art facility after two years of renovations. But it’s not the new kid of the block any longer: it’s the oldest arena currently hosting an NHL team. (But not the oldest arena hosting an NBA team. We’ll save that discussion for another time.) When you look at the age of NHL arenas, Madison Square Garden is in a class of its own. Here are NHL arenas listed by the year they opened, oldest to newest
Madison Square Garden, 1968
Scotiabank Saddledome, 1983
Honda Center, 1993
SAP Center, 1993
Scottrade Arena, 1994
United Center, 1994
Rogers Arena, 1995
TD Garden, 1995
Amalie Arena, 1996
Bell Centre, 1996
Bridgestone Arena, 1996
Canadian Tire Center, 1996
KeyBank Center, 1996
Wells Fargo Center, 1996
Verizon Center, 1997
BB&T Center, 1998
Air Canada Center, 1999
Pepsi Center, 1999
PNC Arena, 1999
Staples Center, 1999
Nationwide Arena, 2000
Xcel Energy Center, 2000
American Airlines Center, 2001
Gila River Arena, 2003
MTS Centre, 2004
Prudential Center, 2007
PPG Paints Arena, 2010
Barclays Center, 2012
Rogers Place, 2016
Little Caesars Arena, 2017
T-Mobile Arena, 2017
As you can see, there was a burst of activity around new arenas in the 1990s, but many of these arenas have been significantly upgraded in recent years (Amalie Arena bears little resemblance to the original building) while others, such as Bridgestone Arena, are in line for renovations in coming years.
As noted, Madison Square Garden is the oldest arena still used by an NHL team. But there are plenty of older arenas out there that formerly hosted NHL hockey that are still in use in one fashion or another. This isn’t a complete list, but there are some notable arenas on the list:
Maple League Gardens (Toronto Maple Leafs), 1931
Cow Palace (San Jose Sharks), 1941
Stampede Corral (Calgary Flames), 1950
Greensboro Coliseum (Carolina Hurricanes), 1959
Oracle Arena (California Seals), 1966
TD Place Arena (formerly Ottawa Civic Centre; Ottawa Senators), 1967
Pacific Coliseum (Vancouver Canucks), 1968
The Forum (Los Angeles Kings), 1967
Nassau Coliseum (New York Islanders), 1972
Springfield Civic Center (Hartford Whalers), 1972
Kemper Arena (Kansas City Scouts), 1974
Northlands Coliseum (Edmonton Oilers), 1974
Hartford Civic Center (Hartford Whalers), 1975
Expo Hall (Tampa Bay Lightning), 1976
Joe Louis Arena (Detroit Red Wings), 1979
Meadowlands Arena (New Jersey Devils), 1981
Tropicana Field (former Thunderdome; Tampa Bay Lightning), 1990
Talking Stick Resort Arena (Arizona Coyotes), 1992
Philips Arena (Atlanta Thrashers), 1999
Many of these arenas were temporary homes (Cow Palace, Expo Hall, Stampede Corral, Greensboro Coliseum) while new arenas were built. Others were long-time NHL venues that have either been renovated into a different use (Maple League Gardens) or will be torn down (Joe Louis Arena).
When you look at the 12 arenas hosting NHL hockey in 1967, only four still stand: Madison Square Garden, The Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens and Oracle Arena. Pro sports are long gone from The Fabulous Forum, but the venue has seen new life as a musical venue–owned, interestingly, by the Madison Square Garden Company. Oracle Arena, of course, is home to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, at least through the next two seasons until a new San Francisco arena opens. Maple Leaf Gardens still hosts hockey, albeit on a smaller scale after a massive renovation. And Madison Square Garden? It’s still home to the biggest events in New York City, whether it be a big sporting event or a high-profile musical act. In New York, everything old is new again—and that’s certainly true at 32nd Street and 7th Avenue.
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