Which are the most difficult barns for opposing players? I always think about this when watching games live or on TV. As a player, you always have your favorite places to play around the league because of the local climate, the city or the history of the building. I always had my favorites and the ones I knew were going to be a battle. Here are some thoughts that factor in to how a player performs on the road or in a certain building…for better or worse:
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
Home of the Rangers. It’s an historic building in which many major sporting events and concerts have taken place. But the ice is on the fifth floor of the building, so let’s just say it’s a struggle to even get up to the dressing rooms and onto ice level.
Then you have the fans. They are die hard, vocal and can be downright mean at the best of the times. That being said, for an opposing player going into this building, it’s a very exciting atmosphere. There is nothing in this world like skating onto the ice at the Garden with “the animals” hanging on the glass, chirping you in warmup and letting you know “You suck!” with some profanities mixed in. That made you nervous, but inspired you to have your best game.
I played in 1994 against the Rangers when the team was marching its way through the league and onto the Stanley Cup. It is an intimidating building, but a ton of fun to play in with that atmosphere - the pumping adrenaline and loud crowd. Fortunately, I didn’t get eaten alive too many times there over my career. I had rough games, but also some gems. The best part about it was experiencing that rush.
Old home of the Blackhawks. It was another one of those “old school,” legendary buildings with history. The old stadium had so many scary things about it, but the biggest for me was walking up the stairs from your dressing room to the ice. It was a long ascent onto a surface surrounded by a madhouse of the loudest fans I ever witnessed. Chicago is still legendary for its anthems. The crowd stands and cheers the whole time the anthem is on, even to a point where you can’t hear it. This is very intimidating for an opposing player.
The former home of the Bruins. The new arena isn’t as scary, but the team is – obviously, since they’re the reigning Cup champions. The old Boston Garden was a very scary place to go. It was old, small and everything in it – the seats, ice and walls – was yellow. But the most intimidating part was the team. Whenever the Bruins had Ray Bourque and Cam Neely on the ice at the same time, it was scary. Plus, the ice surface was so small and the team was so big there was nowhere to skate or hide. I loved playing there, but again, it was one of those love/hate situations. One thing I could never deny was how scary a building it was to play in.
Born in Edmonton, Jamie McLennan is a former NHL goaltender currently working as an analyst for TSN. Nicknamed 'Noodles,' McLennan was drafted by the Islanders in 1991. He played 254 NHL games with the Flames, Rangers, Panthers, Wild, Blues and Isles, compiling a 80-109-33 record. He will be writing for THN.com throughout the season. Follow McLennan on Twitter @jamiemclennan29.