Home of the Ottawa 67′s
Ottawa is a large city of about 1,000,000 people. Downtown is extremely lively and there are many shopping and dinning options. The ByWard Market is definitely worth visiting as well. The classic architecture downtown is simply amazing.
The Parliament Buildings are especially worth visiting. When I was in Ottawa, free tours of the Centre Block including the House Of Commons were available.
The Ottawa 67′s play at the Rona Centre. The Rona Centre is actually located underneath one of the grandstands of Frank Clair stadium. This stadium is the former home of the Ottawa Rough Riders and the Ottawa Renegades of the CFL. It’s hard to imagine that there is a 9800 seat arena hidden under there. If nothing else, the whole complex is a fine example of efficient usage of space.
The Rona Centre is a fairly uninviting building from the outside. It was about an hour and 45 minutes before game time and none of the ticket offices seemed to be open. I had a very difficult time trying to figure out where the Will Call booth was to get my tickets. Luckily, we found a friendly security guard who brought us exactly where we needed to go. Although the building seemed uninviting from the outside, the staff and security are all top notch people to deal with.
The concourse is huge and full of kiosks and concessions. Interestingly, at the game we went to there was a WWE style wresting ring set up in one corner. There were some live WWE style wrestling matches to watch in the concourse during the intermissions. This was one of the strangest things I’d ever seen, but the crowd loved it. I never figured out what wrestling promotion it was exactly (feel free to comment and tell me), but all the smack talking, and wrasslin’ was good fun to watch.
Once you enter the seating bowl, you see that this building is just as strange on the inside as it is on the outside. Due to the building being built underneath the grandstands of a football stadium, the roof at one side is extremely low, only allowing for about 10 rows of seating.
The other 3 sides of this arena are NHL sized with a full upper and lower bowl. The seats are all upholstered and are movie theatre quality. With the best seating in the OHL, the absence of cup holders seemed strange, but I’m just nitpicking. The JumboTron was probably top notch when it was first installed, however it is dim and difficult to see when the arena is fully lit. It definitely lags behind the bright, vivid LCD JumboTrons found at newer arenas such as Windsor and Kingston.
I’d heard before that Ottawa was very promotion-heavy but when I was in attendance, this didn’t seem to be the case. Before the game started and between periods, the JumboTron was used to simply pipe in music videos rather than commercials which are often seen at other arenas. Ottawa did not have a promotions girl, but they do have a team of cheerleaders. While one can argue that cheerleaders have no place at a hockey game, I didn’t find them to be nearly as intrusive as I initially thought. They stood up to dance after every whistle but as soon as the game resumed, they quickly and quietly sat down on the stairs of the aisle-ways and were neatly tucked out of the way.
The most unique part of the Ottawa 67′s experience (by a long shot) is the trumpet player who plays after certain stoppages in play. Often after a whistle, the roaming trumpet player will appear in a random section and play some classic arena music. The crowd really gets into it and appreciates him. This guy is a very good musician, the fans love him and I give him much kudos for adding something truly unique to the experience.
Speaking of the fans, they are top notch as well. They are living proof that the OHL can co-exist in an NHL market and not get lost in the mix. Despite the fact that on the other side of town, the Ottawa Senators were also playing at home, the Ottawa 67′s still drew a respectable crowd of just under 7000 fans. The 67′s also seem to get decent media coverage which is another rarity for an OHL team in an NHL market. It is true that the 67′s have existed several decades longer than the current incarnation of the Ottawa Senators, so it is very nice to see fans clinging on to tradition. The Toronto area OHL teams could learn a lot from the 67′s in terms of how to run a successful OHL team in a big city NHL market.