A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia with Mrs. Pants and a few friends, where we watched the Wild take on the Canucks. It was an awesome weekend excursion, highlighted by a 6-3 Minnesota win, a Mikael Granlund hat trick, and some chirping from some cheeky but overly apologetic Canucks fans. When you’re planning your next Wild road trip, don’t overlook Vancouver as an option, because a hockey hotbed in a spectacular coastal city makes for a pretty special getaway. Since Minnesota won’t be back in Vancouver this season, and now that mumps is apparently taking over Rogers Arena, definitely go visit, but do it next season when the Wild makes its next visit.
First off, the atmosphere and sightlines of Rogers Arena are excellent. You can tell that this is a building that was built by hockey people for hockey people, and it is filled with fans that have grown up watching, playing, and living the sport. Wearing a Jonas Brodin Wild jersey, I was blown away by how many Canucks fans talked to me about Brodin as a player in the concourses, knowing that he is a left shot, recognizing that he was injured during that particular game, and even seeming to understand that his skill is a bit more subtle than the team’s leading scorers. It was a predictably knowledgeable bunch that seemed to more or less welcome us as visiting fans to their arena.
As I alluded to earlier, I did manage to get into a chirping match with three Canucks fans seated two rows behind us in the third period, as I’m sure by the sixth time I stood up to cheer for a Wild goal, they had grown tired of seeing me jubilantly jump up in front of them. One of the three, a mustachioed gent in his twenties, was particularly boisterous, and made fun of my hairline (which I like to call a “Scott Stevens” look), so I went back with a good old-fashioned “America’s Hat” jab at the Canadians, to which he told me to “f*** off.” The funny thing about him saying that is that when I pointed out to him that there were young ears listening to our friendly conversation—a young girl was seated directly between myself and the gentleman—he quickly became very embarrassed and in an extremely Canadian way, covered his mouth and said, “Soorry! Oh dear! I’m so soorry!” The chirping went on through the third period, and at the end we all shook hands and wished each other a lovely evening. It was the most polite and uniquely Canadian session of s***-talking I’ve ever experienced, and a very memorable moment amidst the evening’s events.
About the building itself, Rogers Arena can be reached on foot from Yaletown, Gastown, Downtown, and pretty much Whatevertown you choose to stay in. Opened in 1995, the arena is beginning to show its age just a bit. It’s the details of a modern sports venue that make it great, and this particular one is good, but could be better. The concourses do not feel quite as open and inviting as those of Xcel Energy Center and other more recently opened arenas, and there are some oddities about the building that make navigating it surprisingly challenging after you’ve had a few adult beverages in preparation for the hockey game.
Canadians apparently don’t believe in making things intuitive for fans to get in and find their seats, so you may have to swallow your pride and ask for help. I know, it sounds like a the most childish complaint ever, but bear with me. It’s honestly weirdly difficult to figure out how to get into the building, as the gate number listed on your ticket seems to matter more at this arena than any other venue I’ve visited, and the upper levels actually require you to go up the stairs on the exterior of the arena. Making matters worse, the gates do not seem to be in any sequential order. What a travesty! Tromping through sloppy, wet snow, we found it necessary to ask for directions multiple times to find the correct gate, like the idiot Americans that we are. But we would not be foiled by confusing gate numbers, so alas, we pressed on.
Inside the building, sticking with that non-sequential theme, the seat numbers oddly changed from 106, 107, 108 to 10, 11, 12, right in the middle of the section, leaving us completely lost when we were trying to find our seats. Again, the idiot Americans had to ask the usher for help. Even the usher was confused by the fact that Mrs. Pants and I had seats 109 and 110 on our tickets—which apparently didn’t exist—to the point that he told us just to take empty seats and hope nobody came to sit in them. When we were asked to move for the third time, it dawned on me that 109 and 110 did exist, but only in the row behind us. Yes, you guessed it. After all that, Mrs. Pants and I were in the wrong row. That one was on me. I know, I know, these are silly complaints in the grand scheme of things, but if I’m reviewing an arena, I’m going to take these details into account.
What the building lacks in seating logic, though, it makes up for in drinking logic. When I bought my first beer of the game during warm-ups, it was handed to me with a lid on it. A lid! What a brilliant bit of ingenuity! Think of how many ounces of ale you’ve lost over the years, trying to climb stadium steps, balance your pretzel and your nachos, and step over your seat neighbors. When I sat down to enjoy that first brew and behold the beauty of Devan Dubnyk turning away shot after shot from his teammates in preparation for the game, I took off the lid, threw it under my seat, and proceeded with imbibing. I noticed a few minutes later that a fellow in a Sedin jersey (I don’t recall if it was a Henrik or a Daniel, but who cares?) was drinking his beer WITH THE LID STILL ON THE CUP! These weren’t just beer cups, folks, these were beer sippy cups! My goodness, where have you been all my life, beer sippy cups?!
Once I realized my mistake of throwing away the lid, I was then incredibly nervous that I would spill my own beer like a true out-of-towner. I powered through that one with no spills, and then drank my next two like a sippy cupping pro. However, when I went to retrieve my fourth beer during the third period, I returned and immediately kicked over Mrs. Pants’ mixed drink, which she had just purchased and momentarily set on the floor. Sadly, mixed drinks have not yet evolved into sippy cup service in Vancouver, so the drink was lost. Mrs. Pants was furious that I had kicked over her $12 cocktail, so I reminded her that the exchange rate made it only… like… a $9 cocktail in USD. She didn’t appreciate that, and didn’t talk to me for much of the third period. Thankfully, those Canucks fans behind me provided plenty of conversation.
THE CITY OF VANCOUVER
For those flying from Minnesota, the airport is just ten minutes from Downtown, and as a city, Vancouver is surprisingly compact and mostly walkable. Parking is costly, so renting a car is probably not necessary, unless you plan to take a trip up to Whistler during your time in BC—a very realistic and welcome addition to any Vancouver holiday.
With myriad restaurants and bars in Vancouver serving top-notch poutine and Bloody Caesars (the Canadian version of Bloody Marys), you should really have gravy and Clamato running through your veins by the end, or you’ve done it wrong. For our visit, we spent most of our time around Yaletown, home of the Flying Pig and many other fine dining establishments, but in getting around the city a bit, it seemed to our group that as long as you’re within city limits, you really can’t go wrong with any neighborhood you pick. I will say that being a block off of Granville Street felt like a win, because good food and drink were just a stone’s throw away at all hours of the day and night.
ROAD TRIP RECOMMENDATION
On the whole, this is an awesome trip to take for a Wild hockey weekend. Vancouver is clean, welcoming, and cosmopolitan, and the sport we love is clearly the city’s lifeblood. If you can find a few days to get away and follow the Wild, the next time it visits Vancouver would be a great time to make it happen. A Vancouver road trip is officially JDP approved.
ROAD TRIP REPORT CARD
City of Vancouver — A-
Level of Fun Had — A
Company — A (thanks friends and Mrs. Pants for putting up with me)
Rogers Arena (Atmosphere) — A-
Rogers Arena (Building) — B
Overall Road Trip Grade — A