XCEL ENERGY CENTER
STADIUM DUDE’S NHL ARENA RANK: #6
- Location: St Paul, Minnesota
- Opened 2000
- Capacity 17,954
- Games attended: 1
- Last visited: 2020
In 2004 ESPN named the Xcel Center the best overall sports venue in the US. In 2010, they ranked it 3rd. While it finally may be aging a bit, it’s still one of the best places you can go to see a professional hockey game.
Minnesotans love their hockey. The term “hockey mom” originated here. Opening face-off only occurs after the night’s emcee proclaims, “Let’s Play Hockey!”. And among the displays around the arena are every high school hockey jersey being used presently in the state.
The colors and accents of the building are meant to evoke Minnesota nature. Floors and walls are in natural colors like copper, beige, brown and dark green. Concession stands are done in a natural wood finish, looking more like a lake house or a lodge. The entire north side of the building is one huge glass façade that lets in a lot of natural light. And concourses are super wide (even in the upper level) and often offer a view of the ice.
Other neat touches around the arena include the statues of several Peanuts characters in Minnesota Wild uniforms; Charles Schultz was a St Paul native. There’s still a live organist; his instrument is shaped like a Zamboni. The LED ribbon boards circle the entire arena allowing for some cool in-game effects. And each corner of the seating area features a crow’s nest with its own purpose: one corner has a lighthouse with a foghorn that is sounded after a goal or victory (the state, which borders Lake Superior and contains 10,000 lakes, has a long naval history); a second has the Zamboni organ; a third serves as a platform for the “Let’s Play Hockey!” announcement; the 4th is used for a three-piece band and performances by the Wild’s dance team.
The fans have a reputation for being friendly. I was there for a Hawks-Wild game in my Hawks gear, and they were “Minnesota mean” to me; i.e. they offered harmless, good-natured ribbing after the Wild won in OT. Wild fans are well-behaved, getting loud at key moments (after a goal, the cheers are about as loud as the celebratory foghorn) and avoiding profanity and drunken boorish behavior. The flip side of this well mannered, polite behavior is a relative lack of intensity (especially for a rivalry game).
It makes sense that a market that truly loves the game of hockey has a building that reflects that passion. The Xcel Energy Center is still one of the nicest places to see a game. And when I lump it in with Target Field and US Bank Stadium, the Twin Cities’ arguably have the best collection of venues for baseball, football and hockey in North America. Actually, forget “arguably”.