Culture + Style

Icy Hot: Slide Into Ottawa’s Rich Hockey Culture

Hockey is synonymous with Canada, and there’s no better place to immerse yourself in the official national winter sport than the capital city, home of the much loved Ottawa Senators.

Ottawa hockey has produced National Hockey League (NHL) superstars like Denis Potvin and Mike Gartner, and even the Canadian prime minister (a Montreal fan) urged the nation to root for the Senators on a recent Stanley Cup run.

Visitors can embark on a superstar Ottawa hockey experience by diving into the sport’s rich culture. Here are four paths to finding your puck bliss.

Attend a Live Hockey Game

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See the Senators in action. (Photo: Andre Ringuette)

Head to the Canadian Tire Centre to catch the Ottawa Senators in action on a quest for the Stanley Cup. With exciting local talent filling the lineup, the Senators are a hot draw at the magnificent 19,153-person capacity venue, and tickets are usually obtainable.

Pre-game, send tweets asking the stadium’s in-house organist (#SensSong) to perform anything from Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” to the Star Wars theme song.

At the concession stands, savor pulled pork sandwiches and famous Golden Palace egg rolls with plum sauce. Buy Sens hats, jerseys and stuffed toys at the Centre’s Sens Store.

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Lansdowne Park is a wallet-friendly alternative. (Photo: Ottawa Tourism)

For a more budget-priced alternative, hit up an Ottawa 67’s hockey game. This Ontario Hockey League (OHL) junior club, named after Canada’s 1967 centennial year, plays at TD Place Arena at the recently redeveloped Lansdowne Park.

Grab an al forno-style Mario’s Shopping Kart pizza (prosciutto, Parmesan cheese, pears) at nearby Crust & Crate Public House to fuel up as you cheer on future NHLers.

Hit the Skating Rink

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Hit the Sens Rink of Dreams, outside the Ottawa City Hall, to catch colorful LED lighting effects. (Photo: Ottawa Tourism)

Ottawa is one of the world’s coldest capital cities, which pays off when you want to lace up skates and twirl around one of more than 250 local outdoor rinks in winter. Even if you’re not as fleet-footed as Ottawa Senators players, you can still have a blast.

The Sens Rink of Dreams, outside the Ottawa City Hall, runs from November to March and features spectacular LED lighting effects. The picturesque Lansdowne Park skating court is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. with a heated changing facility.

And Rideau Canal, Ottawa’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers 4.8 miles of glorious outdoor skating between January and March. Stop to enjoy hot chocolate and cinnamon-and-sugar BeaverTails pastries at stands along the way.

Visit Historical Hockey Sights

Ottawa was an NHL founding member in 1917, and historical hockey sights abound citywide. Start at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General of Canada, where Lord Stanley of Preston lived when he donated the original Stanley Cup in 1892. On an hour-long guided tour, learn how hockey legends like Gordie Howe received the Order of Canada, and admire aboriginal artist Allen Sapp’s painting “It’s Time to Play Hockey.”

At the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, the permanent collection includes the world’s oldest-known hockey stick, handcarved in Nova Scotia in the 1830s. Stop downtown at the Royal Canadian Mint to score commemorative coins like the 25-cent piece commemorating the Stanley Cup’s 125th anniversary in 2017.

Also, look for the new “Lord Stanley’s Gift” monument set to open at the corner of Sparks and Elgin. A large chalice made of glistening aluminum bands represents the Stanley Cup, steps from the former site of the Russell House Hotel where Lord Stanley announced he’d create hockey’s most coveted prize.

Sports Bars and Craft Breweries

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Cold beer + ice hockey = A perfect match. [Photos: Ottawa Tourism (L) | Ottawa Winter Brewfest (R)]
It’s easy to raise a hockey-style toast in Ottawa. At Sens House on York Street, a nine-by-sixteen-foot projection screen is the crown jewel among numerous 80-inch TVs, and you can buy Senators bobbleheads, T-shirts and other memorabilia.

Or head to so-called Sens Mile, the uproarious collection of pubs along Elgin Street, to down pints while rooting for victory: St. Louis Bar and Grill and MacLaren’s are recommended hotspots.

Local craft breweries often incorporate hockey themes. Big Rig Brewery is named after founder and retired Senators star Chris Phillips and offers award-winning beers like the unfiltered Alpha Bomb IPA (6.6 percent alcohol).