Ottawa Civic Centre
A building unique not just in the OHL but in hockey in general, the impossible-to-duplicate Ottawa Civic Centre has the look and feel and atmosphere of an NHL building from the inside. The building is loud, views are spectacular, and in the one major factor that pushed the Civic past the JLC into the number 2 slot, the building and gameday experience both are immaculately professional. The Civic Centre primarily loses marks for its concrete "What were they thinking?" exterior architecture, but it, too, is among the league's best and is worth the trip for any OHL fan.
Architecture: Grade C
Looking not unlike a giant pair of brass knuckles, the Civic Centre sits on quiet parkland a long way from Ottawa's downtown. Stainless steel and concrete make up the building's construction, and to approach it from the wrong side leaves you in the end zone of the CFL's Frank Clair Stadium. The building has no "main" entrance, no focal point, just a lot of concrete and steel. It's hard to imagine a less welcoming place.
Interior Layout and Design: Grade A+
Wide, luxurious concourses swoop around the building underneath the seats, while another smaller concourse neatly divides the seating into upper and lower sections. The short side of the building features another concourse, wide enough to get by. The system works well and it's very easy to navigate.
Seating: Grade A+
All brand-new as of 2004-05, all Civic Centre seats are upholstered in classy dark red, fully padded like movie theatre seats, and designed with ample leg-room. The good seats in Ottawa are as good as any in the league, although there are a few obstructed-view seats on the short sides, and the back few rows do get a bit far from the action to see clearly. Still, the good Ottawa seats are too good to reward with anything but an A+.
Scoreboard: Grade A+
A full video board, immaculately run. They don't get any better. Every game features a video preview show like in the NHL, replays are shown promptly, and the promotions, while numerous, don't detract from the game experience. London, take note! In addition, the 67's use less canned music than most buildings, and instead have a roaming trumpeter who plays traditional arena music like the hat dance, the hora and the "charge" song. Tremendous.
Arena Employees: Grade B
Pleasant enough people, although like in most big cities a lot of the ushers seem to be 9-to-5ers rather than passionate fans. They're not annoying or obtrusive, they just quietly and efficiently do their job while blending into the background.
Facilities: Grade A
Plenty of washrooms: check. Gigantic parking lot: check. Clean: check. The parking lot is expensive and difficult to get in and out of, which is the only thing keeping it from an A+, but there are still top-notch facilities here.
Atmosphere: Grade A
While not jaw-droppingly loud and often filled with free tickets and families, the Civic Centre still has a great atmosphere. If you're sitting on the tall side, the atmosphere really feels like being at an NHL game, an experience that not even the JLC can match. The Civic Centre may be aging, but it is still a terrific hockey rink, and one that is run more professionally than any other in the OHL.