STADIUM DUDE’S NHL ARENA RANK: #27
- Location: Calgary, Alberta
- Opened 1983
- Capacity 19,289
- Games attended: 1
- Last visited: 2020
Despite making numerous trips to the city of Calgary throughout my early career, I never made it to a Flames game. I finally hit the venerable Saddledome just before the COVID-19 shutdown, and I’m glad I did.
Originally built in 1983, and home for the 1988 Winter Olympics figure skating competition, the place is ten years older than any other building in the league that hasn’t undergone a 9-figure renovation to modernize. The Scotiabank Saddledome is a venue of another time and is unique among the modern arenas.
Admittedly, its age is a huge factor and a reason why Flames’ owners have been pushing the city and province for help in building a new facility. Despite boasting a beautiful exterior architectural design that’s noticeable from miles away, the Saddledome is a flawed facility. It lacks suites and social areas. It has 3,000 fewer lower bowl seats than other buildings. Sightlines aren’t great. Concourses are tight. Even the location is just far enough away from downtown to matter.
But the atmosphere is something else. The C of Red is one of the more impressive displays of fandom in hockey, with the overwhelming majority of fans in attendance wearing a red Flames jersey. When the Flames score, fireballs shoot out throughout the arena and the crowd goes bananas.
The place oozes hockey, from the hockey exhibits in the concourse (there is one of the 1988 Olympics, one saluting members of the Hockey Hall of Fame that hail from Alberta, and one recounting the Flames’ various runs at the Stanley Cup), to the near-full audience participation of Stompin Tom Connors’ “Good Ole Hockey Game”, to the Tim Horton’s concessions.
The severe limitations in the building make it impossible for it to be ranked higher. Truthfully, it’s probably the worst physical structure still in use in the league. But man do Flames’ fans bring it. The atmosphere, not to mention Calgary’s incredible (though largely unheralded) craft beer scene, make a trip to Cowtown a must for any hockey fan.