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NHL.com players poll: Toughest rink to play in

Nashville, Winnipeg, Pittsburgh cited as most difficult venues for visiting teams

by NHL.com @NHLdotcom

NHL.com asked 61 of the League's top players for their opinions at the NHL European and North American Player Media Tours on topics surrounding the game and its players. The seventh installment of a series that will run each Friday for the next several weeks focuses on which arena the 61 players believe is the hardest to play at for visiting players in the NHL today.

 

Bridgestone Arena strikes the most fear into opposing players of any building in the NHL.

The home of the Nashville Predators -- famous for its boisterous fans, live concerts during intermissions, honky-tonk atmosphere and the occasional celebratory catfish tossed from the crowd -- was named by 15 of 61 NHL players as the hardest rink for visiting teams to play.

Bell MTS Place, home of the Winnipeg Jets, and PPG Paints Arena, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, tied for second with six votes each.

Tweet from @NHL: Boisterous fans. Live concerts. Rowdy atmosphere. For opposing players, the home of the @PredsNHL is not a welcome sight. Read more: https://t.co/vjJeF6lmh3 pic.twitter.com/XCTaRpLonI

Seventeen arenas were named by at least one of the 61 voters. Reasons ranged from the size and loudness of the crowd to which players were on the home team's roster to the individual and team struggles for the player casting the vote.

Forward Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks was among those who picked Bridgestone Arena as the toughest place to play.

"I feel like the crowd is so loud, and it's a tough team to play," Kane said. "It seems like they have the bass jacked up in there. That building's always bouncing."

Blackhawks center and captain Jonathan Toews also said Bridgestone Arena was the most difficult place to play.

"That's a pretty tough building," he said.

The Central Division is home to some hostile buildings for opposing players. In addition to Bridgestone Arena and Bell MTS Place, United Center (Blackhawks) got three votes; Xcel Energy Center (Minnesota Wild) got two and American Airlines Center (Dallas Stars) and Enterprise Center (St. Louis Blues) each received one.

"It seems like you're skating up ice the whole time," Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog said of Winnipeg's arena. "It just seems tilted in their favor, and obviously the fans are a big part of that and the way they play as a team."

Forward Matt Duchene of the Ottawa Senators said he still has nightmares of going into Xcel Energy Center when he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche for divisional games against the Wild.

"I have no idea why. It's just one of those places, especially when I was with Colorado," he said. "We would go in there and get like 13 shots. Painful."

PPG Paints Arena presents a myriad of problems to opponents, from the sometimes-brutal winter weather in the city, to the skilled lineup the home team dresses, to the educated and loud fans that pack it each game night.

"Pittsburgh is always a tough building," Predators forward Ryan Johansen said. "Pittsburgh, Washington, those are tough buildings to play in."

Those two buildings are also the homes to the past three Stanley Cup champions; Washington in 2017-18 and the Penguins in the previous two seasons.

Center John Tavares of the Toronto Maple Leafs also named Pittsburgh, but mainly for the troubles he had as a member of the division rival New York Islanders during the first nine seasons of his NHL career.

"If I look at my career stats there, they aren't pretty," he said.

Tavares has played 23 regular-season games at PPG Paints Arena (formerly Consol Energy Center) and has 11 points (four goals, seven assists). In three Stanley Cup Playoff games there, he has one assist.

Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin picked Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils, for the same reason.

"I know for me it's New Jersey," Malkin said. "We never win in Jersey. It's not just rink, it's team too. It's hard to win."

The Penguins are 11-16-3 in 30 appearances at Prudential Center, including a 4-2 loss on Tuesday.

For U.S.-born defenseman Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins, the Bell Centre, home of the archrival Montreal Canadiens, remains the litmus test for the character of a team.

"Once you get up there and stuff starts to not go your way, it can turn very quickly," said McAvoy, who's missed the past four weeks with an upper-body injury. "We had the World Junior [Championship] up there in Montreal and it was just as bad, probably even worse. I think the crowd was honestly crazier for a Canada game than it was for the Canadiens-Bruins game. It's a very cool rink and they have great fans."

 

Hardest rink to play in (61 votes)

Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, 15; Bell MTS Place, Winnipeg, 6; PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, 6; TD Garden, Boston, 5; Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, 4; Bell Centre, Montreal, 4; SAP Center at San Jose, San Jose, 4; T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, 3; United Center, Chicago, 3; Prudential Center, Newark, N.J., 2; Staples Center, Los Angeles, 2; Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn., 2; American Airlines Center, Dallas, 1; Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y., 1; Enterprise Center, St. Louis, 1; Madison Square Garden, New York, 1; PNC Arena, Raleigh, N.C., 1

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