Home of the Plymouth Whalers
Before I went to Plymouth, I had always assumed that it was just another one of the generic, never ending, sprawling suburbs of Detroit. I didn’t think that Plymouth had any identity or soul of it’s own. As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Plymouth is truly a beautiful little town.
Plymouth’s downtown appeared to be quite vibrant. It was full of neat little shops selling everything from children’s toys to fudge to ice cream. A selection of bars and restaurants also provide some night life. There is also plenty of free on street parking. Downtown Plymouth is definitely worth checking out for any visiting fan.
Unfortunately, Compuware Arena is not located downtown. Compuware Arena is located about 10 minutes from downtown on the outskirts of town. The area is full of undeveloped property and large industrial complexes.
Compuware Arena opened up for the 1996-1997 season. However, once you enter the building, you’d never guess that the place is less than 15 years old. Construction of this building took approximately 6 months. This place was built cheap and quick and it really hasn’t been taken care of too well over the years.
One of the first things that you notice when walking around the box office/lobby and the concourse is that this place seems to have a LOT of empty space. Perhaps this is by design to accommodate future expansion possibilities but it just looks strange seeing many square feet of nothingness. The corners of the concourse are especially spacious and empty.
The Arena Bowl seats about 3,500 which makes this one of the smaller arenas in the OHL. However, the wide concourse at the top of the bowl provides what seems to be infinite standing room. This building seems to have the acoustics of an indoor swimming pool. When the puck hits the goal post or crossbar, or even the boards, the sound echoes seemingly forever. The buzzer is deafeningly loud when it goes off.
The worst thing about this arena is the PA announcer. He has what sounds like a professionally trained ‘announcer’ voice and is probably a graduate of the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts. Although he has a very strong voice, he seems to have no idea how the game of hockey is supposed to be presented. He sounds like your typical 1970′s/1980′s radio Disc Jockey with the way he yells and pushes his voice. He really needs to listen to a classic PA announcer such as Bud Lynch or Paul Morris to learn how to present the game of hockey with both professionalism and class.
The seating was almost as uncomfortable as old Windsor Arena. However, Windsor Arena gets a pass because it was over 80 years old when the Spitfires moved out. There is no reason why an arena built in the last 15 years with so much empty space in the concourse should have seating that is so cramped.
The game I attended was a playoff game against the Windsor Spitfires. The atmosphere was actually pretty good. By conservative estimate, I’d guess that 50% or more of the sold out arena were fans from Windsor. Chants of “Lets Go Whalers” and “Go Spits Go” both constantly rang out all game, with each group trying to out cheer the other. I can’t vouch for what the arena is like when the Whalers playing a far-away non-rival such as Ottawa, but when I was there the atmosphere was great and a lot of fun.
In a way, I almost feel sorry for the Whalers and their fans. In the winter, the Whalers have to compete with the Red Wings and the Pistons for media coverage and unfortunately, they largely get ignored. Popularity definitely seems to be increasing though and hopefully one day the OHL will be as popular in the metro Detroit area as it is in Canada.
Since Plymouth is a quick 45 minute drive down I-96 from my hometown of Windsor, I will likely attend more games in the future. It is truly a beautiful town, it’s just a shame that their arena isn’t up to the same standards.