Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Copps Coliseum, Hamilton ON

Basic Information
Team: Hamilton Bulldogs (American Hockey League)
Game: 11/29/13 Bulldogs vs Toronto Marlies
Team Website: www.hamiltonbulldogs.com
Ticket Information: (866) DOGS-TIX or www.hamiltonbulldogs.com
Tourism Information: (800) 263-8590 or www.tourismhamilton.com
Online Broadcasts: www.hamiltonbulldogs.com or www.ahllive.com
Local Newspaper: Hamilton Spectator www.thespec.com

Team History: The Bulldogs have made the Copps Coliseum home since 1996, when the former Cape Breton Oilers moved from the Maritimes to Ontario. Now in their seventeenth season, the Bulldogs are the longest-tenured non-NHL city in Canada. The Bulldogs have appeared in the Calder Cup finals on three occasions: 1997, 2003, and 2007, in which the Dogs finally won the AHL's playoff trophy.

Affiliation: The Bulldogs are the AHL affiliate of the NHL's legendary Montreal Canadiens.

Seating Capacity: Copps Coliseum has a hockey seating capacity of 17,383, but for Bulldogs games, the upper concourse is usually closed off, giving the building a capacity of approximately 7,500.

How About That Name (And Some History): Opened in September 1985, the Copps Coliseum was built in hopes of bringing NHL hockey to Ontario's third largest city. Since it opened, several attempts have been made to purchase an expansion team or moving an existing team to Copps, but were thwarted by the ownerships of the teams in Buffalo and Toronto, feeling that a Hamilton based team would cut into their market. The most recent effort to bring the NHL to town came in 2009, when a Canadian investor attempted to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes and move them to Hamilton. The investor, Jim Basille, previously attempted to purchase and relocate the Nashville Predators and move them to a renovated Coliseum.

The Coliseum, which has hosted events such as curling, pro wrestling, and myriad other events, was named for Victor Copps, a former mayor of Hamilton.

Copps Coliseum will be a venue used during the 2015 Commonwealth Games, which will be hosted by Toronto and Hamilton.

Getting There: Copps Coliseum is located in downtown Hamilton, on York Blvd. From Buffalo, cross over the Peace Bridge and get onto the Queen Elizabeth Expressway eastbound. Proceed for approximately 50 miles into Hamilton. Exit the QEW at Burlington St (exit 90). Follow Burlington St for 4.3 miles, making a left onto Wellington St N. Follow for a mile, making a right onto Wilson St. Take Wilson St until it turns into York Blvd, and the Coliseum will be on the left.

On the Town: Known as Canada's Steel Capital, Hamilton is located on the shores of Lake Erie in south central Ontario, approximately one hour east of Buffalo, NY and an hour west of Toronto. With a population in the metropolitan area of almost 750,000, Hamilton is the third largest city in Ontario, and the ninth largest metropolitan area in all of Canada.

What is now known as Hamilton was originally inhabited a aboriginal nation known as the Neutral Indians. They were driven out of their homeland by the Five Nations before the French and Indian War. The Five Nations allied with the British in their battle against the French and their Huron allies. In 1784, ten thousand British settled in "lower Canada" (southern Ontario). Shortly after the end of the War of 1812, one George Hamilton (the son of a local entrepreneur, not the heart-throb actor), purchased a local farm. Hamilton, along with the local representative of the British crown, began selling land parcels in the area, and in 1846, the town of Hamilton was incorporated.

Well known Hamilton natives include Second City TV alumni Martin Short, Dave Thomas and Eugene Levy, Neil Peart, drummer from the legendary Canadian rock trio Rush, Olympic ice skating star Toller Cranston, and Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden.

Major Airport: Munro Hamilton International Airport is located approximately seven miles southwest of downtown Hamilton.

What To Do Before The Game: This was an "up and back" for Linda and I, but on a previous trip, I visited the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, which is located in downtown Hamilton, not far from the Copps Coliseum. Like it's counterpart in Canton, the museum in Hamilton tells the story of not only the Canadian Football League, but the growth of high school and collegiate football in Canada. For more information, visit www.cfhof.ca.

Where To Eat Before The Game: We arrived at the Copps just before the doors opened, so we decided to eat at the arena. However, the Jackson Square mall is located just adjacent to the Coliseum, and the mall has a food court if you want a quick meal beforehand.

Where To Stay: I didn't stay in Hamilton on this trip, deciding to stay closer to home in Buffalo. I would check with your favorite chain to see if they have locations in the area.

Ticket Prices: Bulldog tickets are priced between C$34.80 to C$24.00. Note: the Bulldogs sell their tickets online through Ticketmaster, so expect to pay the normal ludicrous surcharges.

Getting In: The main entrance is on York Blvd. Once entering the building, there is a flight of stairs which takes you to the concourse.

Parking: While there are several surface lots within a walking distance of the Copps. we decided to park next door at the Jackson Square shopping mall. For five dollars, it was a good call, as it was adjacent to the arena, and was well lit for departing.

Arena Food: As one might expect for an arena of this size, Copps Coliseum has a significant selection of concession items and prices. In addition to the standard hot dogs and other arena fare, the Coliseum featured stands featuring several Canadian and local products including Pizza Pizza, Coyote Jack's (gourmet sandwiches), and Cin City Mini Donuts. Linda and I decided to purchase our dinner at the Coyote Jack's stand, which we found we really enjoyed while visiting the arena in Sarnia two years ago. I had a hot dog, an order of French fries, and a bottle of Diet Pepsi, which as a "combo" meal, cost C$10.00, which I didn't find to be too out of the ordinary. The fries were hot, salty, and tasty, and the frank was larger than average sized, delicious, and served (in what seems to be a Canadian thing) on a large "hoagie" style bun.

Linda had a sausage sandwich, and (for the purposes of this article), sampled the Canadian staple, poutine. Here's what she had to say:

"I had turned down several prior opportunities to try poutine, which is French fries, with cheese curds and beef gravy, at other hockey games in Canada. This time, I promised Rich that I would try ut for the sake of the website. After stopping at the Coyote Jack's stand, I bravely ordered a portion. It was huge! There was definitely enough to share. The fries were hot, and done to a crispy finish that really held the thin and savory beef gravy. The white cheddar cheese curds provided a touch of melty goodness. In a word, I have to say that I found poutine to be-DELICIOUS! The hearty dish was a perfect choice to have at a hockey game. It was my first serving of poutine, but definitely won't be my last!"

My impressions of the poutine were similar. I thought it was quite tasty, but I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more if the cheese was a bit warmer. However, that wasn't a deal breaker for me.

Here is a sampling of concession prices at the Copps Coliseum:

Hot Dog: C$4.42   Hamburger: $7.08   Nachos: C$5.99   Draft Beer: $8.63   Pretzel: C$4.40  Bottle Soda: C$3.79   French Fries: C$4.20   Pizza Slice: C$4.42

Soft Drinks: Pepsi is the brand of choice at the Copps Coliseum.

ATMs: There are several "no brand" ATMs in the arena main lobby.

Souvenirs: There is a small alcove in the concourse which sells a smaller than expected line of merchandise.

Restrooms: Scattered along the main concourse, all are clean and well stocked.

Mascot: Bruiser the Bulldog

Dance Team: None

Scoreboard: The Copps Coliseum has a fairly standard sized center-hanging scoreboard, which has four HD-quality video screens, as well as four sections which provide all of the standard game information.

The PA announcer had a good delivery and voice, and the music (due to a promotion with a local country station) leaned towards that genre, which thrilled Linda no end!! The music was clear and was played at a decent volume.

At one end of the arena was a large Bulldogs sign which emitted smoke after the home team scored.

Stadium Staff: As in most buildings I've visited in the Great White North, the staff at the Coliseum was quite pleasant and friendly, although they get a small black mark from me when I tried to get directions back out to the QEW after the game, and one or two had absolutely no clue. One girl I asked smiled at me sweetly and said "I take the bus, I don't know any of the streets here".

Atmosphere: It was a rowdy Friday night at the Copps when the Bulldogs took on their provincial rivals, the Toronto Marlies. While there were a decent amount that came from Toronto, the atmosphere was friendly, yet passionate.

Overall Rating: It's obvious that the Copps Coliseum was built with the NHL in mind. The arena has all the bells and whistles that a "top flight" arena needs, it serves the AHL quite well. While I think the ticket prices are a little on the high side, the home of the Bulldogs is definitely worth a look if you're in Canada's Steel City.