The Sports Lover's Guide to Canadian Ice Hockey
Whether it’s playing on frozen backyard ponds and local arenas or cheering from small town rink side seats or giant city stadiums, Canadians passionately play the game and watch the pros.
There are several ways to get in on the action and enjoy watching ice hockey in Ontario, from professional games to regional organizations across the province.
Ontario’s National Hockey League (NHL) Teams
Ontario is home to two NHL hockey franchises. From the speed and skill on the ice to the unbridled energy of the fans, attending an NHL game is an unforgettable experience.
Downtown Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena comes alive during hockey season when Leaf Nation rally behind their beloved Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s been over 50 years since the Leafs hoisted the Stanley Cup but loyal Leafs fans are betting they will win the next one.
The Sens is Ottawa’s cherished hockey team. Their fans, the Sens Army, may not be as die-hard as Leafs Nation, but they still show a lot of love when the Sens play at the Canadian Tire Centre, in the Kanata neighbourhood.
American Hockey League (AHL)
The affiliate clubs of the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs have talented players in pursuit of the league’s highest award, the Calder Cup.
Coco-Cola Coliseum (formerly CNE Coliseum) is where the Toronto Marlies play. Located on the grounds of Exhibition Stadium, the coliseum is convenient to get to, either by car or by public transportation. The Marlies made an appearance in the Calder Cup Finals before winning the title during the 2017-18 season.
Join Belly the mascot and cheer on the Sens’ farm team at CAA Arena in Belleville. There’s a ton of promising talent on the team so keep an eye out for future prospects who may help secure the next Calder Cup or make their NHL debut.
Ontario Hockey League (OHL)
The Ontario Hockey League is one of three major junior hockey leagues under the umbrella of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). The other two leagues are the Western League and the Quebec Major Junior. The OHL has seventeen teams in Ontario and three teams in the United States.
Not only are OHL games filled with pure excitement, it’s rewarding to see Ontario’s young hockey players grow and strive to become tomorrow’s future NHL draft picks. OHL players have a small window to win the coveted OHL title, the J. Ross Robertson Cup and then continue to pursue the national Memorial Cup, considered the toughest trophy a young hockey player can win.
The Belleville Bulls were bought by Hamilton owners in 2015 and became the Hamilton Bulldogs, and in just three years they rallied to win the OHL championship. The Bulldogs play in the largest arena in the OHL, FirstOntario Centre.
The Frontenacs have a storied past that dates all the way back to 1897. They have undergone a couple of name changes before new ownership settled on the name Kingston Frontenacs in 1989. A Frontenacs break out star is 2019-20 CHL Rookie of the Year, Shane Wright. Fans support the team at the Leon’s Centre in downtown Kingston.
The 67s name is a reminder of when the franchise began and the year that celebrated Canada’s 100th birthday. The 67s have three championship trophies and two Memorial Cups under their belt. Attend a 67 game at the TD Place Arena located in the Glebe neighbourhood in Ottawa, easily accessible by public transportation.
The oldest franchise in the OHL, the Generals have won five Memorial Cups, the most in the CHL, and have made an impressive amount of appearances at championships. Tribute Communities Centre proudly showcase the jerseys of Generals alumni such as Bobby Orr, Eric Lindros and John Tavares, who at 14 was the first player ever to get exceptional player status to play in the OHL.
For over 60 decades, Petes is the oldest continuously operating OHL team. A strong fixture in the Peterborough community, the Petes have also graduated the most NHL Players in the OHL. Hall of Fame’rs Scotty Bowman, Steve Yzerman, Chris Pronger and Wayne Gretzky once laced up their skates and suited up in the Petes uniform during their youth. The Petes have made numerous Memorial Cup appearances and championship finals. Home games are played at the Peterborough Memorial Centre, just minutes away from downtown Peterborough.
Barrie Colt first made its appearance in the OHL as an expansion team in 1995/96 season and remarkably made the playoffs that season. Three years later they were OHL champions and Memorial Cup finalist. The modern Sadlon Arena in the south end of the city is home to the Colts.
When the OHL expanded to Brampton, Toronto and Mississauga during the 1990s, Mississauga cheered on the IceDogs, but the team was sold and relocated to St. Catharines years later. In its place, the Toronto Majors relocated to Mississauga. The fans voted for the team to be renamed to the Mississauga Steelheads as a tribute to the Steelhead fish species native to the Mississauga area. Although they have yet to clinch a championship, the Steelheads hosted the 2011 Memorial Cup at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre (formerly the Hershey Centre).
Formerly known as the Mississauga Ice Dogs and partially owned by famed sports personality, Don Cherry, the IceDogs moved to St. Catharines from Mississauga in 2007. Seven years later, state-of-the-art Meridian Centre became the venue for their home games. Although the IceDogs have made two Championship appearances, they are still fighting for a Championship win.
When the Brampton Battalion and their mascot Sarge relocated to North Bay in 2013, they filled a hockey void left by the community’s beloved junior hockey team, the North Bay Centennials, who relocated to Michigan. Home games are played at North Bay Memorial Gardens, which is close to the Trans-Canada Highway. In addition to watching the Troops play, fans can explore the plethora of nostalgia at the arena’s Sports Hall of Fame.
The Wolves joined the OHL and entered the Sudbury community in 1972. Home games take place at Sudbury Community Arena on Elgin Street. Built in 1951, it’s fondly known as the old Barn on Elgin Street. Inside the Old Barn, the Wolves playfully have a menacing low-tech ritual each time they score a goal against their rival team. You’ll have to experience it in person to fully appreciate the tradition.
The Sleeman Centre has been the home of the Storm since 2000 where the team has won three championships. Their performance during the 2018-19 season was the height of drama, as they demonstrated pure grit to claw back to win in an exciting come-from-behind victory in three different series on their trail to clinch the J. Ross Robertson Cup.
The Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, or the ‘Aud’ is full of community pride for its OHL team, who boast an impressive resume. In the team change rooms, each locker bears the nameplates of Ranger predecessors. There’s also an alumni Hall of Fame that showcase previous Rangers who went on to play in the NHL. The Rangers have clinched four championships and two Memorial Cups.
The energy at Budweiser Gardens is electric when team favourite, London Knights hit the ice. The franchise has won two Memorial Cups and four championship trophies and has been a leader in its division for many years. The Knights has an exemplary training program and its alumni include John Tavares, Max Domi, Darryl Sittler and Nazim Kahdri.
Owen Sound may have the smallest OHL market, but you wouldn’t know it from the strongly passionate and proud fanbase. Fan support and appreciation is clearly on display when the Attacks play home games at Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre, and the team reciprocated the love when they won their first OHL championship in 2011.
The Sting’s franchise started in the OHL in 1994 when Cornwall’s junior hockey team was bought and relocated to Sarnia. Notably, it’s the first franchise to have drafted female, goalie Taya Currie. The 2016 Western division champions play at Progressive Auto Sales Arena, located on the grounds of Lambton College and easily accessible from Highway 402.
The city of Sault Ste Marie owns and operates GFL Memorial Gardens, where the Soo Greyhounds play their home games. While at the Gardens, be sure to look up to the rafters to admire the retired jersey of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, who was on the Greyhound roster in the late 70’s. The Greyhounds have won three championships. Their third appearance at the Memorial Cup was the charm, as they took the title.
The Spits hold the distinction of winning back-to-back championships during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. They’ve also won three Memorial Cups. Home games are held at the Windsor Family Credit Union Centre (WFCU), which is accessible by transit and close to Highway 401.
From special events to game day food and merch, there’s so much to enjoy at a hockey game.
Make sure to also check the arenas for special events, like game nights designed specially with children in mind. If you have little ones, don’t miss the opportunity to play on the ice during breaks – just ask your ticket handler for more info.
Browse the merch while you’re at the hockey arena and pick up a signed jersey from your favourite player or buy your own hockey stick to get a feel for the sport yourself.
Be sure to look up your stadium ahead of time and plan to take a car or public transit to the game. Each venue has varying parking fees and availability, so be sure to check the local options before you go.
From concession stand eats to fine dining restaurants, there are plenty of great dining options while you watch your favourite team skate across the ice. Some arenas have on-site bars where fans can gather over classic dishes like poutine while keeping one eye on the game via HD TV.
At the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, the menus are crafted by Executive Chef Greg Ryall, with dishes that range from stone-fired pizza and burgers to fine dining with wine pairings. Food choices ranges from high-end experiences like the Platinum Club to comfort food like the Mac & Cheese Boutique and Sully’s build-your-own poutine at the Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto. You’ll definitely work up an appetite cheering the Hamilton Bulldogs on. After the game, head to That Planted Fork, where you’ll find specialty pies like the Big Mac pizza – and it’s all vegan.
Fun Facts about Canadian Ice Hockey
Did you know …
- The NHL freezes its hockey pucks before each game so they don’t bounce on the ice.
- After winning the Stanley Cup in 1924, the Montreal Canadiens once temporarily misplaced their trophy on the side of the road when they set it down to fix a flat tire.
- Every member of a team who wins the Stanley Cup gets to spend one day with the trophy.
- There are several typos on the Stanley Cup, including five different misspellings goaltender Jacques Plante’s name.
- Nobody knows for sure what the origins of the game of hockey are, but some believe that frozen cow poop was used as a puck back in the day.
- Ice rinks are usually less than an inch thick with ice.
Last updated: November 4, 2021