Note: This is a feature that will run periodically at BHDL, based mostly on our own experiences, and partly on the upcoming games scheduled for the Blackhawks. Our hope is that eventually we will have a post for all 29 NHL arenas that the Blackhawks visit, and maybe even a UC write-up from a visitor's perspective. If you've seen a Hawks game in another team's barn and want to contribute, send an email to
My first hockey road trip wasn't actually to a Blackhawks road game. I went to St Louis with my best friend sometime in January 2008 and the primary purpose of our visit was, believe it or not, to see St. Louis. Catching the hockey game (against either Columbus or Colorado, can't remember which) was only sort of secondary.
The game itself was great, but as it turns out, St. Louis in January is fucking dead. The weather was depressing, the streets were empty, and the Arch was quite the letdown. Plus we had to drive all the way back to Champaign after the game (spent only a day there) which kind of added a bit of stress to the whole trip.
My second visit to St. Louis was a much better experience (and you'll read about it soon) but it just goes to show that sometimes, there are other things to consider when going to an away game. Since hockey's a winter sport, the weather will always be a factor, and since most of the trips will be short-ish (I try to go only on weekends, with a few exceptions, so I don't use up too many vacation days at work) there's an added challenge of treading the line between going on a trip on a budget and making the most out of your stay in the NHL city of your choice.
But great hockey road trips make great memories-- there's the fun of discovering a new city (and arena) every time, the camaraderie from meeting other fans who've made the same trek you just did, and the thrill of being able to show support for your team in enemy territory (so long as you're never an obnoxious asshole, that is). One such trip is the one I made to Colorado at the end of last season.
It was the Hawks' last road game that year and my friend happened to be in Denver for a conference. The game was on a Friday so I decided to take that day off, arriving sometime that day and leaving the next day so we're back in Chicago for the Hawks' last home game against the Wings on Sunday. Slightly crazy scheduling but it left us enough time on Saturday to explore Denver too. Click "Read More" to, well. Read more.
- Flights - Booked months in advance, or depending on the time of the year you wish to fly, Southwest flights from Chicago to Denver are probably somewhere between $90 to $120. Not the cheapest, but that'll always be the case depending on the distance between both cities. January and February are dead months so flights are cheapest here, but you’ll also stand the most chance of getting stranded in a snowstorm, so plan accordingly.
- From the Airport to the Hotel - Always check the airport website, but there were shuttles available from the airport to a bunch of random hotels in the downtown area. It's cheaper than a cab and it dropped me off close to my hotel. Sometimes cab rides are worth it, and I’ve used Taxi Fare Finder more than a few times to figure out the most cost-effective method of getting to the hotel.
- Hotels - Here's the first tip: Look for promotions, and always book ahead of time. Because of a Yelp discount, I managed to book a room at the Hotel Teatro for a little over a hundred bucks, and Hotel Teatro comes highly recommended. It's a small boutique hotel that, while a little pricey, does have cool services like a free chauffered car that'll take guests anywhere within a certain mile radius around the city. But anywhere downtown would be fine for accommodations in the Mile High City. It's a small enough area that walking around wouldn't be too big of a deal.
- Transportation - The city has buses and trains that run through most of its streets. The best part, though, is that the bus that runs through 16th street is completely free. It's enough to get you from one point of the city to other areas. It can get crowded, naturally, but you're only going to be there for a couple of stops. Definitely no need for a car rental.
- Arena Accessibility - The Pepsi Center kind of reminds me of Soldier Field, in that the nearest public transportation drops you off a few blocks from it and you'll have to walk the rest of the way in. The walk's not as far as the mile and a half it takes to get to Soldier Field, but Pepsi Center is just outside the city center and was clearly built with the idea that most fans would be driving in. (Most actually do, I think.)
- Avs Tickets - They're fairly easy to come by, although they're not what I'd call cheap. 300 level seats were roughly around $50 each.
- Pepsi Center - Doors open an hour before puck drop. All in all, a pretty great place to watch hockey. Their store can get a little crowded, and they have a separate one for ladies (full of pink gear, I'm guessing, but we never stepped in there). You can never really go wrong with the nosebleeds either.
- In-Game Entertainment - Maybe I've just gotten used to the United Center, but there was something slightly cheesy with the Pepsi Center's in-game entertainment, from the players' entrance (skating through an arch) to the avalanche effect (one of our friends, who's never seen a hockey game and has little interest in the sport, found that very fascinating) on the jumbotron for every goal the Avs score, but at the same time, it was a fun environment and a decent arena in all.
- Heckler-per-Visiting-Fan Ratio - Pretty low. Some Avs fan grabbed my friend here, but only to tell her how awesome he thought Duncan Keith was (she was wearing his jersey). In all, so long as you aren't a jerk the Avs fans will leave you alone, and if you can get a "Detroit Sucks!" chant going they might join in too. Friendly people, as far as our experience goes.
City Recommendations (ie, Making the Most of the Trip)
- Pregame Meal: Larimer Square - I forget where we went for dinner (some gastropub, I think) but Larimer Square would have pubs, clubs, and people.
- Postgame Drinks: Falling Rock - This was recommended by a couple of guys at Mile High Hockey (and in fact you can check out everything else they’ve recommended at my post here), and it was a good bar with a huge selection of microbrews.
- Hangover Breakfast: Snooze - Great breakfast place. It's a bit far from most downtown hotels, but worth the trek.
Number One Trip Takeaway (ie, What I'll Remember Most About Denver)
I only have two words for you: Medical marijuana.