I’ve always enjoyed playing, watching and talking hockey. It’s a game of action and excitement. It’s a game where effort trumps skill on many occasions.
Travel is another passion. I’ve lived on three continents, been to 23 countries and 45 states in my life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to combine these two interests during my sports-television career. Each year the Sharks send Randy Hahn, Drew Remenda, Dan Rusanowsky, Jamie Baker, producer Sean Maddison, graphics producer Darin Stephens and me on the road to visit the other 29 cities in the NHL.
Let me start by saying I think San Jose is the best stop in the league. For me they have classiest team, the nicest arena, best location, best TV techs and finest weather in all of the NHL. However for this exercise I’m eliminating San Jose from consideration.
Here is my NHL travel best-of list.
Most beautiful city…It’s hard to do much better than Vancouver, BC. It’s where sea meets land and mountains set the perfect backdrop. Stanley Park is an amazingly beautiful city part that offers world class vistas. Also considered…New York City and Calgary, AB.
Best arena to broadcast from…I love all of the Canadian building but for my money Calgary is the best. Camera angles are excellent, announcers are stationed almost over the rink and lighting is very good overall. Also noted…Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Best US venue…Dallas.
Best press meal. Writers, broadcasters and staff get access to an on-site pregame meal. Los Angeles has a spread that any fine restaurant would be proud of. Lots of choices, great salad bar, fresh fruit and soft serve ice cream make it a special place to visit. Others considered…Buffalo, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Montreal.
Best cheap meal….Marcel’s sandwiches in Edmonton. Try the super Donair/Gyro. Nice food courts in many places…most noted the ones in Calgary and Toronto.
Best restaurant…Ted’s Montana Grill in Columbus, followed by Cordero’s in Vancouver, and Caesars Steakhouse in Calgary. As for cities, LA and New York feature some amazing places for breakfast lunch or dinner..
Best ice. Near 100% of players claim Edmonton has the finest playing surface in hockey. A winter of severe cold and dry air make for good ice-making. Calgary, Minnesota and Detroit also boast great ice.
Best arena location. The Staples Center in LA is pretty awesome. Across the street there’s ‘LA Live’ along with hotels, restaurants and entertainment. Do yourself a favor and take in a Sharks’ game next time they visit the Kings. Another nice setup is the Coyotes with arena, shopping, meals and hotels all a short walk.
Best place with two hours to kill…the Hockey Hall-of-Fame in Toronto. Great displays take you into the history of the game while honoring the greatest players and teams of all-time. Exit through the gift shop and pick up a t-shirt of the 1917 Stanley Cup Champion Seattle Metropolitans.
Most-friendly people. The people in Calgary and Edmonton always welcome visitors with a smile.
Best walking city. It’s hard to top the overload of the senses that is New York City. Walk 10 minutes in any direction and you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. It’s free entertainment and makes it fun every time we visit the Big Apple. Other walking towns of note…Toronto, Vancouver and Chicago.
Best shopping town. Chicago’s Michigan Ave offers everything you’d ever want. I enjoy looking a high tech gear and clothing spots
Best off-day city. Chicago boasts great restaurants, museums, and shopping. Chi-town is also known for its entertainment, is it live blues, the Blue Man group, concerts or comedy clubs.
Best weather. Tampa Bay is a great place to go any winter. Mild temps and low humidity make for a break from places like Buffalo, Detroit and Winnipeg.
Best live music. Now I don’t much care for country music, but it is hard to ignore Nashville. Broadway is lined with bars with live music. People from around the world make pilgrimages to Nashville with hopes of see the next big talent. If you know your way around, there’s some nice rock bars too. Chicago live blues venues are tough to top also.
Best Hockey town. They call it ‘Hockeytown’ for a reason. Detroit’s love for the game spans generations. The Red Wings are the talk of the town all year round. Joe Louis Arena is always packed and the winged wheel logo is everywhere.
Best sports bar…’Real Sports’ in Toronto has set the standard for all to come after it. It features 199 TV’s, arranged around the enormous space. The jewel however is a truly massive 39-foot video display. Great food and drink, sports and lots of interesting characters make it fun.
Best place to come home to…San Jose and the Bay Area.