While most are enjoying outdoor sports and events, some of us are anxiously waiting for the hockey season to begin. Let’s face it; no other sport unites Canadians together the way hockey does. Visit any rink in the country and you’ll feel a sense of pride for what brings this nation together.
In Canada, our love of hockey usually starts at an early age, especially for those of us who were in skates right after learning how to walk. And even if you’ve never played, chances are you’ve experienced a thrill like no other in the stands, cheered over beers at the bar or watched nervously from the couch.
The battle between East and West starts now, so you don’t have wait until game day to get excited about Canada’s favourite sport. Take your pick between these two great Canadian hockey road trips that combine a passion for hockey with a love of the open road.
Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame
Let's start where the first recorded indoor ice hockey game was played back in 1875: at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal. Today the site might be nothing more than a parking garage, but the passion for hockey will always be thriving in Montreal. The energy at the Centre Bell is so intense that fans would argue it's the best arena to experience during the playoffs.
Head two hours west to Ottawa where you won't be able to pass up the chance to skate on the world's largest rink at Rideau Canal Skateway. At nearly 8km, the canal is one of those things you can't miss. You might even see locals swap their morning commute for a chance to skate to work.
After watching the Senators play at the Canadian Tire Centre, your next stop is Ottawa's rival. This hockey season is going to be especially big in Toronto. Not only are the Leafs celebrating 100 years as a franchise, but Toronto will also host the first NHL Centennial Classic on New Year's Day, 2017. The Leafs will face the Detroit Red Wings in an open-air match at the BMO Field, where thousands will gather to celebrate 100 years of the NHL. A short detour will take you to Wayne Gretzky's hometown in Brantford, Ontario but don't leave Toronto without visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame.
NHL Teams: Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs
Performance Tip: Take the scenic route between major cities (the old route on the Québec side of the river between Montreal and Ottawa, for example) and make the most of your road trip by avoiding the boring stretches of highway. If you want to keep the party going, Buffalo and Detroit are literally just across the border, but make sure you have some US dollars on hand for the toll roads.
Start off in Edmonton and check out a city that is absolutely booming — thanks to the Oilers’ new home arena. Expected to open later this year, the sleek Rogers Place will be part of the Ice District, Canada’s largest mixed-use sports and entertainment complex.
Heading south, make a pit stop in Red Deer at the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame & Museum to check out the memorabilia on display at the Alberta Hockey Gallery. Continue on to Calgary and catch the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome, where fans have gathered in support for over three decades.
Take in some of the country’s best scenery on your road trip as you head to Vancouver through Banff National Park. The Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre was recently updated and now features two rinks (one of them NHL-sized), available for drop-in shinny and public skating. Once you reach your final destination, don’t miss the chance to watch a game at Vancouver’s Canada Hockey Place (aka Rogers Arena) where the memorable 2010 Olympic gold medal game took place.
NHL Teams: Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks
Performance Tip: Your drive through the Rockies will reward you with some of the best views in the country, but it's also one of the most challenging roads to cross depending on the season. Check the weather warnings, plan your fuel stops and budget for extra travel time between games in case of road closures.
Know Before You Go
Ezra Jeffrey via Unsplash.com
It’s one thing to hit the road with no plans and see where the wind takes you, but when it comes to safety on the road, you don’t want to push your luck. Nothing kills the mood more than having to deal with car troubles in the middle of an epic hockey road trip. When you’re prepping for a long trip, you want to make sure your car is performing well and up to date on maintenance. This is when you’ll want to get the oil and filters changed, top off all fuels and check your lights. Once you’re ready and on the open road, simple things like rotating drivers, keeping an eye on the tank and avoiding late night driving can add to a smooth road trip. You’ll find a full checklist for road trips here, which will help you ensure you make it in time for every puck drop.
Have you ever road tripped for hockey?
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