Are Ice Hockey Arenas Cold? (and what you should wear)

When going to watch an ice hockey game, we know that the temperature of the building will need to be somewhat lower to keep the ice from melting, but how low will it be? How should I dress? Really, how cold will the arena be?

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If you are going to a professional hockey game, the temperature in the arena will be between 60F (15C) and 65F (18C). You will be comfortable wearing a light jacket or hockey jersey. Whereas, recreational rinks are quite a bit colder and temperatures are often 55F (12C) or cooler and require heavier clothing options.

Professional Hockey Arena Temperatures

For professional hockey arenas, the NHL-recommended air temperature for all new venues is: 60F (15C) at start at keep it to 65F (18C).  

Of course, the ice itself is cooler than that because water freezes at 32F (0C). The surface temp for the ice is in between 19 and 21 degrees at the start of the game. As the number of people come to the game the temperature in the building will rise causing the temperature of the ice and inside the building to increase as well. The NHL does not want the ice increasing above 24 degrees by the end of the game.

To counter this, the ice technicians in the building will use certain pipes and an HVAC system to try and control the temperature by cooling the building.


This will, of course, have an effect on the people in the stands! If you are in a more northerly climate, say Edmonton in January, the effect should not be that great because it will be so cold outside and the temperature inside is easier to manage. If you are in a warm-weather climate like Arizona in June (although, they have never made it to the Stanley Cup finals), then the ice technicians will really need to increase the air conditioning (making it colder) to keep the ice from melting.

I use those two examples because this is what exactly happened to my brother-in-law. He lives in Edmonton and is used to going to games at Rogers Arena, where the temperature inside is the comfortable 60 to 65F. When he was in Phoenix, he went to an Arizona Coyotes game with his wife not thinking about what to wear, and he went in his t-shirt and shorts. What he found was that the Coyotes had to blast the air conditioning to keep it cool enough so the ice did not melt. To prevent himself from freezing the whole game he had to buy a blanket from the souvenir shop!


So, what should you wear to a professional hockey game?

If you bring a light jacket or a hockey sweater (then you will look like a big fan) to wear over your normal clothes, you will be more than comfortable for the whole game. At a professional hockey arena, there is NO need to bring gloves, a heavy coat, or a ski hat/toque.

I think the best advice is to think movie theatre temperature. I have watched plenty of movies in the summer where I have walked inside with nothing but shorts and a t-shirt. It has taken me a while to learn from my mistakes, but now I will always bring a hoodie or a sweater into the theatre with me. Do the same thing when you go to watch an ice hockey game and you will be fine.

Not sure how big of a hockey fan he is, but wearing layers is definitely appropriate


Recreational Hockey Arena Temperatures and What to Wear

If you are going to watch your son or daughter, niece, nephew, or neighbour for the first time at a recreational ice hockey arena, it is a whole different story from the professional ice hockey arena!

Temperatures at recreational hockey arenas are usually 55F (12C) and lower, much chillier than a pro venue.

Whenever I go to watch one of my nephews play, I will definitely bring a warm jacket, my gloves, and my ski hat/toque. My sister-in-law (who goes to almost all of the games) also brings a blanket, either to sit on a hard, cold bench, or to keep on her lap. The arenas are cold and when you have to sit for 1 to 2 hours watching a game in temperatures below 50F, your body temperature can drop quickly.

Some recreational hockey arenas have enclosed sitting areas separate from the ice that are more a normal indoor temperature. However, I feel that this separates you from the action that is happening on the ice and the experience is not as good.

I think the best solution is hockey arenas who have installed overhead heaters in the stands. These overhead heaters will usually warm the spectators up that necessary extra 5 to 10 degrees that makes the temperature (and therefore your watching experience) much more comfortable.

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What about the players, are they cold at the rink?

The players in the NHL are quite hot when they play in an NHL game. I had the opportunity to play in a NHL arena for a friend’s 40th birthday party and I could not believe how hot I was! I usually wear a t-shirt under my equipment, but I had to take that off because I could not stand having any extra warmth.

For recreational arenas, the hockey gear itself is usually more than enough to keep the player warm once they begin skating. Hockey is a high intensity sport, which generates a lot of heat and sweat from the player. I think it is good to wear a t-shirt if needed under the hockey gear, but no more than that is needed.


What happens to the quality of the ice as the game goes on?

The quality of the ice is a major concern for the NHL and local ice technicians.  It is quite common for the ice to be not as good at the professional level as it is at a recreational arena because of the extra heat in the building. With newer technologies, the NHL is trying to stop this problem. The next time you are watching hockey, watch to see how much the puck is bouncing, and if the players are having a hard time completing passes to each other. If those things are happening, they are the best indication that at that point in the game the ice has deteriorated to a poor quality level.


Do arenas have hot drinks to buy?


The professional arenas have many different options of food and drink that you could buy, and most recreational areans have a little concession that will sell coffee, hot chocolate and other treats – usually at more affordable prices than the big leagues!

Related: New to hockey? Check out our Hockey 101 post – a straightforward guide to help you watch hockey. What do all of those lines on the ice mean anyway?


Conclusion

If you are going to attend your first hockey game, whether it be in a professional arena or a recreational arena, congratulations! It is a great sport to watch and you will be amazed at the speed and skill of the players.

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