An early look at the two new NHL arenas this season

Climate Pledge Arena, one of the NHL's newest arenas

Hockey is just around the corner, and for traveling puckheads awaiting the return of the NHL, there’s a good reason to be excited: Two new arenas will be making their debuts on the hockey landscape.

These venues will have many differences between them. One is an old arena reconstructed, the other is brand spankin’ new. One is on the laid-back West Coast, the other is on the sports-mad East Coast. One is hosting an expansion team, the other will be home to a team with four championships and lots of tradition. One will stage its first game in mid-October, the other will have to wait all the way until just before Thanksgiving.

With training camps getting set to begin and the opening of the new season about six weeks away, I thought it would be a good time to take a little closer look at these two new buildings: Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle and UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y.

If you’re considering an NHL road trip this season, take a look at our NHL road trips for the 2021-22 season for inspiration!

Climate Pledge Arena

The new home of the Seattle Kraken is in fact an old venue in a location familiar to Seattleites.

Once known as the Seattle Center Coliseum and then KeyArena, the arena was home to the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA before the franchise was relocated to Oklahoma City — to the continuing chagrin of Seattle’s sports fan base — in 2008.

The arena isn’t getting so much a facelift as a complete rebuild. Only the historic pyramid-shaped roof remains from the old building, which was built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair along with the other iconic structure nearby, the Space Needle.

If you’ve been to Seattle for a sporting event in the last decade, you might not be as familiar with the Seattle Center area as you are with SoDo, the neighborhood where T-Mobile Park and Lumen Field are located.

That’s OK, because which other arena in the NHL is accessible by monorail? The Seattle Center Monorail, also built for the 1962 World’s Fair, can take fans from Westlake Center in the middle of downtown to Seattle Center, a journey of about one mile. Riders holding tickets to a Kraken game will be allowed to ride for free.

Inside, the seating bowl at Climate Pledge Arena promises to be as modern as any other major pro sports arena. One interesting quirk: The building will have two overhead, 3-sided videoboards, one hanging over each end of the ice, rather than the traditional center-hung scoreboard.

And if you’re wondering about the arena’s name, the rights were purchased by Amazon, which decided to use it as a vehicle for bringing attention to climate change while pledging that it would be the “first zero-carbon arena in the world” and powered exclusively by renewable energy.

This has resulted in the building getting a pretty catchy nickname: The Greenhouse.

UBS Arena, one of the new NHL arenas for 2021

UBS Arena

The new home of the New York Islanders will need some extra time for completion, so the Isles will begin the season on a 13-game road trip before finally playing their first game at the new joint on Nov. 20.

That odyssey should be nothing compared to the arena saga the Isles and their fans endured for the better part of 15 years, playing through relocation speculation, then an ill-fated move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn and then a much-welcomed return to their renovated-but-too-small former home, the Nassau Coliseum.

UBS Arena won’t have the tradition that the Coliseum did — at least not until the Isles win four Stanley Cups within its walls the way they did at the old place.

But it will have one of the most modern arenas in the NHL, complete with the new bells and whistles that fans have come to expect — like bar overlooks, outdoor terraces, event-level premium spaces and HD scoreboards.

Beyond that, location will play a big role in the experience of watching a game at UBS Arena, for Isles die-hards and visiting fans alike.

Elmont is an unincorporated town on the western edge of Nassau County, close to the border with Queens. This puts UBS Arena a few miles closer to New York City proper and thus makes Islanders games just a little more accessible to visitors than in the past.

In addition, public transit will be available to UBS Arena, unlike the Coliseum. The Long Island Rail Road has a special-event station at Belmont Park, the race track that is located next to the arena. It will be in operation for Isles games and other UBS Arena events, and a permanent stop is also being constructed to service the arena.

Beyond its use for the Islanders, UBS Arena is touting itself as a state-of-the-art concert facility (its website says the arena is “made for music“), with an emphasis given to the building’s acoustics. So expect it to compete with the area’s other arenas — Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center and Prudential Center — for the biggest musical acts when they pass through New York City.

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