CANADA LIFE CENTRE
STADIUM DUDE’S NHL ARENA RANK: #18
- Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
- Opened 2004
- Capacity 15,321
- Games attended: 1
- Last visited: 2020
The Winnipeg Jets should have never left in the first place. That was simply a factor of a super-weak Canadian dollar, an old arena, and little hope for a privately funded solution in the immediate future. Fan support was never the issue.
When the old Jets went to Phoenix, prospects were grim about Winnipeg ever getting a team back. But when city council decided that an arena was an optimal replacement for a shuttered downtown Eaton’s Department Store, they managed to wedge a 15,045-seat venue into the space by building it right to the sidewalk. The arena led to a glimmer of hope. Then the NHL agreed to a salary cap and salary floor. Then the Canadian dollar hit par with the U.S. dollar. Then a viable owner emerged. Then the Thrashers, after being unable to draw flies in Atlanta, came up for sale. Suddenly the Jets were back. And it just felt right.
Subsequent modifications brought capacity up to 15,321, still the lowest in the NHL for any team not sharing its rink with a college team. And for the first decade or so upon returning, those 15,321 seats had enthusiastic hockey fans in them every night.
The aviator theme of blue and steel is prevalent throughout the building. The arena is connected to Winnipeg’s skywalk system, allowing fans avoid the harsh Winnipeg winter by trekking to the game via the indoor walkway system. Several bars and restaurants are in the vicinity of the rink for pre or post-game festivities including a Moxies that’s connected right to the arena itself.
The atmosphere at Canada Life Centre was, at one point, one of the best in the league. Most of the attendees are genuine hockey fans, not corporate fat cats on expense accounts. They get loud starting when the Jets first take the ice, serenading them with a “Go Jets Go”. Everybody still shouts out “True North” during that part of O Canada as a thank you to True North Sports and Entertainment who brought the NHL back to Winnipeg. Jets fans know not just the Jets but the opposing team, allowing them to taunt the opposition goalie by name and come up with semi-intelligent group chants (like when Ovechkin was in town, they started a “Crosby’s better”; after Shark’s star Joe Thornton had the C stripped, the crowd started a “Who’s your captain?”). The Upper bowl is rowdier than the lower bowl, but everything remains in good fun. The playoffs really bring out the best, as fans participate in the White Out which is truly a site to behold.
Getting to and from is easy with traffic never really being an issue. After being nearly impossible to get in their first few years back, tickets are accessible and affordable. The sightlines are great. And the scoreboard is nice and big.
Mind you, there are some shortcomings. The concourses are very tight. Amenities are relatively spartan vs. other rinks. Attendance post-COVID has dropped off as inflated prices have hampered many of the more blue collar die hards from coming out as often. Plus you’re in Winnipeg in winter which can be outright brutal. (Like, it’s so cold, it doesn’t matter if the temperature is in Fahrenheit or Celsius brutal.) So prepare accordingly.
These issues aside, I loved my Jets game experience and place this solid barn smack in the middle of the pack. I hope the attendance lull is temporary, and fans fill the place again. After all, hockey belongs here.