Rogers Arena was the last of Canada’s seven current NHL arenas to host a junior hockey game. While the arena opened in 1995 and has been home to the Canucks ever since, and while the Giants have existed since 2001, it wasn’t until 2019 that Rogers Arena finally hosted a WHL game. Even after moving out of Pacific Coliseum, the Giants still generally played their annual teddy bear toss game there each December, but in 2019 it was decided to try hosting it at Rogers Arena instead. The game was apparently a success, with the lower bowl mostly filled, and one would expect that post-pandemic the Giants might try it again.
I obviously didn’t go to that one game, but I have been to a Canucks game in February 2020. Rogers Arena, the former GM Place, sits on low-lying land around False Creek on the edge of downtown. The arena is shoehorned between two highway viaducts providing access from the low-lying portlands to the higher downtown, and as a result the building feels completely shoehorned onto its block. Vancouver has been discussing tearing the viaducts down in recent years, and if they were to do that it would seriously open up the plaza where the arena lies and make it more inviting.
Oddly for a downtown arena, the False Creek lands are mostly vacant, which means there’s lots of parking. The arena is small on first sight; small in the way that NHL arenas used to be, before the construction of behemoths really got going. The architecture is bland and undistinguished but not ugly, though again, it’s hard to get a real sense of the building between the viaducts.
Once inside, it’s your usual 1990’s NHL rink, twin concourses for upper and lower decks and seating in a bowl shape. The seats are all maroon; appropriate to the Canucks’ colours of the time but a little out of place now. Views are all good, and the atmosphere for a Canucks game, by Canadian standards, is excellent. The small size contributes to a feeling of intimacy not common in the modern NHL, but with the concourses cramped you’d think that having a little more land may have served the team well.
One expects that once the pandemic is over, the Giants will consider going back to either Rogers Arena or the Pacific Coliseum again for the teddy bear toss game as well as other large-scale events, but in the interim, Rogers Arena remains home of the Canucks, and as of this writing, a one-game footnote in the WHL.