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Where do the Penguins like to play?

| Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009

All this talk of Mellon Arena closing its doors, the time seemed ripe to ask the Penguins about the NHL's other 29 rinks.

Like, which is their favorite — besides home — and which would they rather avoid?

The Trib asked 23 players and found that Montreal's Bell Centre is the clear-cut favorite while Long Island's Nassau Coliseum is, well, not the clear-cut favorite.

French-Canadians Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury, Pascal Dupuis and Max Talbot were among the eight players to ring up the Bell Centre.

"Playing in front of my family is special to me," Fleury said.

The Bell Centre has the NHL's top capacity at 21,273. It might have the top atmosphere, too, considering the city's rich hockey history and its passionate, knowledgeable fans.

"It's also the way the building's built; the fans are right on top of you," said forward Craig Adams. "Whenever you're there, it feels like a big game."

Oh, and one other thing: The Bell Centre serves delectable hot dogs on toast.

"Yes," Adams said, "the hot dogs are outstanding."

Other arenas to gain multiple votes in the "favorite" category included Toronto's Air Canada Centre and Philadelphia's Wachovia Center, each with three.

Ruslan Fedotenko likes Philadelphia because he started his career there, as did Mark Eaton. Evgeni Malkin likes Toronto because of "good people, good atmosphere."

Sidney Crosby's favorite is Philips Arena in Atlanta.

"He didn't say that, did he?" asked linemate Bill Guerin, who rated Philips his least favorite, as did Talbot and Letang.

Why Atlanta, Sid?

"The lighting is so great there, so bright," he said. "I love playing there."

It shows. Crosby has five goals and 12 points in seven games in Atlanta. And the lighting situation makes sense, seeing as the arena is named for a light bulb company.

Tyler Kennedy enjoys Ottawa.

"It's just a nice Canadian town, not all the hoopla," Kennedy said. "It's not like Toronto or Montreal. I like that."

Here's what most players don't like: Rickety old Nassau Coliseum, which has the NHL's smallest capacity (16,234). Seven players named it their least favorite. They shouldn't feel bad. The Islanders apparently don't like it, either, as they want out, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who grew up on Long Island, recently said, "There is probably no worse major-league facility right now in North America than the Nassau Coliseum."

Crosby, as one might expect, tabbed Wachovia Center as his least-favorite arena. Linemate Chris Kunitz doesn't care for American Airlines Center in Dallas because it evokes bad memories. His defending Cup-champion Ducks were eliminated in the sixth game of the Western Conference quarterfinals in Dallas in 2008.

"You never forget that," Kunitz said.

Sergei Gonchar doesn't like the ice in Florida. Mike Rupp doesn't like the thin air in Colorado. Alex Goligoski doesn't like Madison Square Garden (which is Brooks Orpik's favorite rink because of its storied history).

"The lights are, like, yellow," Goligoski said. "And the crowd's kind of far off."

Three players — Jay McKee, Matt Cooke and Malkin — declined to identify their least-favorite arena.

Malkin's take: "I like playing in every arena."

Even Philly?

"No, not Philly," he said, laughing. "A little bit dirty fans."

He then started to peddle backwards ...

"But it's a good atmosphere ... lots of boos ... I like it."

Rating the rinks

Here's how the Penguins ranked their favorite and least-favorite NHL arenas, excluding Mellon Arena:

Player: Favorite/Least Favorite

Craig Adams: Bell Centre, Montreal/Nassau Coliseum, Long Island

Chris Bourque: TD Garden, Boston/Nassau Coliseum

Matt Cooke: Saddledome, Calgary/None

Sidney Crosby: Philips Arena, Atlanta/Wachovia Center, Philadelphia

Pascal Dupuis: Bell Centre/Nassau Coliseum

Mark Eaton: Wachovia Center/Nassau Coliseum

Ruslan Fedotenko: Wachovia Center/Madison Square Garden, N.Y.

Marc-Andre Fleury: Bell Centre/Nassau Coliseum

Eric Godard: Wachovia Center/BankAtlantic Center, Florida

Alex Goligoski: Air Canada Centre, Toronto/Madison Square Garden

Sergei Gonchar: Air Canada Centre/BankAtlantic Center, Florida

Bill Guerin: Bell Centre/Philips Arena

Brent Johnson: United Center, Chicago/Rexall Place, Edmonton

Tyler Kennedy: Scotiabank Place, Ottawa/Nationwide Arena, Columbus

Chris Kunitz: Rexall Place/American Airlines Center, Dallas

Kris Letang: Bell Centre/Philips Arena

Evgeni Malkin: Air Canada Centre/None

Jay McKee: HSBC Arena, Buffalo/None

Brooks Orpik: Madison Square Garden/Nassau Coliseum

Mike Rupp: Bell Centre/Pepsi Center, Colorado

Martin Skoula: Xcel Energy Center, Minnesota/HSBC Arena

Jordan Staal: Bell Centre/Nassau Coliseum

Max Talbot: Bell Centre/Philips Arena

The Face-off

Columnist Joe Starkey and beat reporter Rob Rossi take the circle for this week's question:

What are your favorite and least favorite NHL arena features?

Starkey: My favorite feature is the night lamp at every press-box seat in Atlanta. Very classy. My least favorite is unquestionably the catwalk under the roof at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary. It stretches from one side of the arena to the other and cannot be avoided on the way to the press box. I cannot describe the terror. Only reading Rossi's copy is scarier.

Rossi: Scary• Try listening to Starkey sing "O Canada" in Ottawa! The video board in Buffalo is stunning. Its clarity would have helped refs' properly overturn Brett Hull's Cup-winner for Dallas in 1999. Now, the inflatable purple octopus that drops from the rafters before games in Detroit — hey, I'd avoid shaking the hand of the guy who came up with that idea.

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