Question: What is the most intimidating building in the NHL?
The Leafs fourth game in four nights ended with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Flyers. Mind you, Phil Kessel scored in overtime so it should have ended with a 4-3 win. The goal was wrongly waved off and there is no video replay in the pre-season, a fact nobody seemed to know.
The Leafs cross the border today to take on the Buffalo Sabres. According to this stateside report, the Leafs will face a roster of youngsters, including forwards Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe. Tonight's game will be broadcast on Leafs TV.
I don't know. Maybe it's just me. But for some reason, Leaf games at Buffalo's HSBC Arena just don't crackle with the same intensity as they did inside the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. The Aud, which opened in 1940 and closed in 1996, used to exude an almost intangible menace.
Is it possible to appreciate the amenities and sightlines inside our new multi-function sports complexes while still missing the old buildings? Maple Leaf Gardens was not a great place to watch hockey, at least not in the seats we could afford. But it had character and deranged charm, which is not something you can honestly say about the Air Canada Centre.
Those old buildings went up during the early to mid-20th century during an age of war and instability. They were inspired by the twin notions of "diversion" and "spectacle," and not, say, "corporate seating" and "maximum profits."
Good lord, when the Leafs ventured into Chicago Stadium, my brothers and I would turn down the volume on the TV and feel queasy. The building was combustible. The fans looked like they were frothing with murderous rage. The stands rattled, as if set upon a foundation of Jell-O. The organ player seemed borderline insane. The jarring foghorn that blasted after every Blackhawk goal, well, it haunts me to this day. (As does this bit of extended lunacy.)
Anyway, compared to Chicago Stadium, the United Center is about as threatening as an airport lounge. This brings us to today’s question: Going into the new season, what is the most intimidating building in the NHL?
When the Leafs are on the road, is there a rink that is so loud and disturbing, it actually provides our opponents with a home ice advantage? Is there an enemy rink that makes young Leaf fans feel queasy? Or are those days now gone?
PHOTO: RON BULL/TORONTO STAR