Home Of The London Knights
For the most part, London is a very prosperous city. Downtown is very healthy and has a variety of things to do. By day, the retail scene is thriving. By night, the streets are full of UWO students enjoying the night life. There are some vacant store fronts but overall the city seems very healthy.
London is a very festival driven city. Throughout the summer, it seems that there is always something going on. There are many different events from the Western Fair to the London Ribfest. Unfortunately, it appears that the London Balloon Festival is now defunct.
One corner of the John Labatt Centre was built as a replica of the facade of the Talbot Inn, which stood here for over 125 years but has since been demolished. It’s nice to see some thought went into the architecture of this building.
The lower concourse is extremely spacious and when we visited, there were two bands entertaining the early crowd as we all arrived. Live entertainment in the concourse before games and during intermissions is always a nice touch and does a bit to increase atmosphere.
The John Labatt Centre easily has the biggest variety of food and concessions that I’ve seen anywhere in the OHL. You can find anything from subs to pizza to a Create Your Own Nachos stand. The only draw back is that they only seem to have very few iterations of each food selection. What this means is that if you want something specific, you might have a long walk through a crowded concourse to find it. To the JLC’s credit, you will find practically anything you could ever want to eat, but usually it’s best to just get what’s being served near your section.
Compared to the ultra-wide lower bowl concourse, the concourse for the upper bowl is very narrow. It doesn’t serve nearly as many seats as the lower concourse, but it still seems too narrow.
The seating bowl is massive. The new HD Jumbotron is NHL quality. The John Labatt Centre truly gives a very professional atmosphere to watch OHL hockey in. I found that there were probably just as many promotions after whistles as Windsor has (if not, more) but the key difference is that very few of London’s promotions seemed to be of the interactive variety. In Windsor, most of the promotions seem to involve the crowd in some way, whether it be a trivia contest or something else. In London, the promotions announcer seems to just read an advertisement before the game continues. I dislike all promotions, but London’s seem slightly less annoying.
I found that the crowd in London was very quiet. The 9000 strong in attendance cheered a bit when London scored a goal but that seemed to be about it. The game I attended was against Windsor and it was an extremely close, exciting, come from behind win for London. The fans seemed to be as enthusiastic as those you’d see at a golf tournament. Compared to Kitchener, Erie and Windsor, the John Labatt Centre seemed like a library during game play. I’ve heard that fans were much louder at the old London Ice House but unfortunately, I never attended a game there.
Experiencing the OHL in such a professional atmosphere definitely makes the John Labatt Centre a must-visit for any junior hockey fan. It’s a beautiful arena and I hope to visit it again some time soon.