Joe Louis Arena

Around the Arena: A Series on NHL Arenas

Madison Square Garden, Maple Leaf Gardens, The Old Red Barn, The Madhouse on Madison, The Garden, The Forum. Bring up any of these storied arenas to any avid hockey fan and you can be sure to hear many stories. These stories rival those of fantasy novels, stories of hope, loss, and triumph. These NHL arenas are things of legend. What has made the arena an icon in our modern day cities, a permanent part of cultural lore, the place of myths, and the home of legends? This series will take a deeper look into the places our favourite teams call home, the arenas of the NHL (past, present, and future).

When asked by Spencer to write for this site, I thought hard about what aspect of hockey I could write about that would enable me to bring an insightful and different view to the discussion. I was intrigued at the opportunity to write about a topic, the arena, that combines my two biggest passions, hockey and architecture. Having a Masters Degree in Architecture, I can say I have run into a lot of diagrams and drawings of arenas and stadiums from ancient times to the modern day. The workings of a successful arena are quite complex with only the truly specialized and knowledgeable architecture firms having the ability to succeed. Often these firms dedicate a whole office to creating these structures that our hockey idols compete in. With my insight into the arena, from the field of architecture and living 100 meters from “The Joe”, I hope to bring forth a new understanding and appreciation for the structures we call our “Home Ice”.

In this series I will bring forth topics about the arena both familiar and foreign to the average hockey fan and hope to bring further insight to these topics. Below are some topics that you can expect to see in my bi-weekly posts in this series every-other Saturday:


Player Performance:

Arenas have long been believed to impact a player’s performance. The idea of “Home Ice Advantage” is deeply rooted in this belief. I will be looking into ways in which arena design has impacted the sport of hockey and how it is played. State of the Art facilities cost millions of dollars as investments into modern arenas continue to greatly increase compared to the NHL arenas of the past, but does it really payoff? How has architecture and design brought about and embellished “Home Ice Advantage”?



Arenas have changed so little while seeming to change so much over the centuries. It is incredible to say that the majority of modern stadiums are just copies of ideas and methods perfected by the Romans over 2000 years ago. I will explore the arenas of the past and present to understand how the modern arena has come to be and what this means for the possibilities of the arenas of the future.

Rome - Colosseum
Colosseum in Rome. Photo by: Darryn Horvath


Operating an NHL arena is no small feat. Most are multi-purpose arenas that need to be converted on a regular basis. This takes a lot of design, planning and knowledge; think a giant game of Tetris. The technology to keep ice frozen in mild temperatures is modern engineering at its finest. Perhaps the most interesting thing I can add to the conversation about the operation of an arena isn’t because of my architecture background but because I happen to be neighbors with “The Joe”.


Outdoor Games:

Old is new again. The idea of the outdoor ice arena has taken the sport by storm as of late. This can be seen in the sudden leap in the amount of outdoor games in the past couple of seasons. I will look into the positives and negatives of this trend.

2014 Winter Classic
2014 NHL Winter Classic. Photo by: Darryn Horvath



Arenas emanate culture. This culture is perceived in the fan experience. Arenas are the hubs of some of the largest gatherings of society in the world and thus have a huge impact on the city in which they are situated. What makes an arena better than others? This is a question culture can help answer, as architecture and ingenuity can’t formulate the answer alone.


In the coming weeks, I will be looking into these topics about NHL arenas more thoroughly thru the eyes of an architect and avid hockey fan. My next couple posts in this series will cover the New Arena in Detroit, “Home Ice Advantage”, The Best Ice Hockey Arenas, and The Worst Ice Hockey Arenas.

Cover Photo: Joe Louis Arena. Photo by: Darryn Horvath

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