What follows was written in September 2005. I have kept the rankings up to date as well as I can over the years.
Some will be surprised at the rankings I've given to various buildings. In particular, my dislike of Plymouth has raised a few eyebrows, as has the fact that I haven't automatically coronated the JLC as the class of the league. Again, I wish to stress that these are my own opinions. These are not my "favourite" buildings; if you want to get a sense of which ones are closest to my heart, you need only check one category - atmosphere. In spite of their flaws, I actually prefer Kingston's or Sault Ste. Marie's rotten tumbledown old barns to soulless new facilities such as Brampton. However, I would like to think that this ranking system was both opinionated and fair, and gave credit where credit is due.
Buildings change over time. This ranking may already be out of date - it's been almost two years since I've been to Barrie - but it is a record of my opinions as I saw the arenas. Some arenas will improve while others will fall. London could easily tie Ottawa by taking lessons on how to run a scoreboard, and leapfrog them by ordering the employees to loosen up a little. Some could climb even higher. Erie is a perfect example of an arena that could vault up the rankings, even into the Top Five, relatively easily. If they simply installed a standard-grade OHL scoreboard, even one without a video board, and erased the misguided camera policy, the building would gain 50 points easily as the scoreboard would jump to a standard B and the wonderful employees would finally be given their due with an A+. I've heard that Erie's sound system has already been upgraded since my last visit in December of 2004; perhaps the Tullio will leap up a bit after I visit next.
Other new arenas are coming. Oshawa and Sault Ste. Marie have already broken ground on new buildings, and once I visit their new arenas I will update the ranking system. A new arena isn't always a perfect answer though - while both of those cities have run-down buildings that I will concede need to be replaced, I sincerely hope they don't build on the cheap like in Plymouth. Those two proud franchises deserve better, and I am excited to see what they build.
As I write this, on September 23, 2005, it is a few hours until the first ever home game of the St. John's Fog Devils. This new ranking doesn't conclude my involvement with this website - far from it - but I will need to rely on contributions from other fans more this year than ever. I have a few ideas to keep things lively around here, but I'll need help, so... keep travelling! Keep the submissions coming! Form your own opinions, and if you're so inclined, send them to me! I'd be willing to publish any alternate ranking systems from any fan who has visited all 20 and wishes to write one.
Enjoy the 2005-06 season, hockey fans. I will close by saying two things - first of all, go to the Sault this year and see the Gardens! It's your last chance. And second of all...
Let's Go, Devils!
St. John's, Newfoundland