By Ken Hegan for MSN
So May is the perfect month to visit our nation’s capital city. The sun’s peeking out, the Rideau Canal is sparkling, and the filthy snow mounds have all melted away (I’m referring to the 14 teams that didn’t make the playoffs).
Granted, the Sens may not last long in the playoffs. Their first round opponent is the speedy Montreal Canadiens who magically rose from a 28th-place finish last season to win the Northeast Division this year with the league’s 4th-best record. This highway #417/#40 series will be tough for Ottawa to survive.
But none of that matters right now. Our nation’s capital is bubbling with the excitement of spring and deciding where to watch the Senators destroy the Habs.
So as a public service to hockey-mad tourists headed for Canada’s lovely capital city, here’s a list of:
10 BEST SPOTS TO WATCH SENATORS PLAYOFF GAMES IN OTTAWA
#1) SCOTIABANK PLACE
1000 Palladium Drive (off highway #417)
Great sightlines (the furthest seat is only 42 meters from the players) and private suites that are low & near the ice make Scotiabank Place one of the best arenas in hockey. Best place for beer here: Bert’s sports bar, co-owned by Bert Inniss and Sens’ owner Eugene Melnyk. Billed as ‘the official Sens Army® headquarters’, Bert’s serves stone-fired pizza (all entrées are less than $20), banana daiquiris, 23 large screen HD TVs, and live bands for post-game entertainment.
WARNING: this rink is located wayyyyy outside of town, 29 kilometers west of downtown Ottawa. Do not walk. Hitch a ride or take a bus.
#2) BIG RIG BREWERY
750A Iris Street, Ottawa
Big Rig is a new brew pub and sports bar owned by Sens player (and former #1 draft pick) Chris Phillips. As my friend Don says, Big Rig boasts “Lots of puck bunnies and big screen TVs.”
Big Rig is located out near Ottawa’s huge IKEA and not too far from Scotiabank Place.
379 Preston Street, Ottawa
An Ottawa tradition since 1934 (it’s Ottawa’s oldest sports bar), the Prescott (or the “P”) was known as the Preston Hotel up until 1941. The Prescott is a hockey-watching — and hockey player-watching — tradition, as Montreal Canadiens hockey legends Aurel Joliat and Doug Harvey were apparently regulars at the Prescott every day until they died.
Today the Prescott offers TVs, Italian food, square pizzas the size of pool tables, and according to their Facebook photo (above), they even offer Stanley Cup baby rides.
575 Bank Street, Ottawa
The Clocktower is for the discriminating craft beer drinker who also likes fresh original food. There are four Ottawa locations – including the ByWard Market – but the best option might be the original location where they actually do the brewing. That’s in the neighbourhood known as The Glebe and it’s just south of downtown Ottawa.
Open for 20 years now, this casual-dining chain boasts 7 locations in the National Capital region. Sens games are always on and with audio, too, so you can hear the play by play and the roar of the Scotiabank crowd. Broadway Bar & Grill arranges bus charters to games and offers special deals at most locations. For maximum viewing pleasure, Broadway Riverside has a 55″ HD screen at the bar.
290 Rideau Street, Ottawa
Big TV screens and good eats. The owner of Don Cherry’s, Dan Cowley, has an NHL vet for a father…his dad Bill Cowley once played for the Boston Bruins. So you’ll see plenty of hockey memorabilia around the restaurant, including Stanley Cup menus signed by Art Ross and Ditt Clapper. Don Cherry’s is located at the corner of King Edward and Rideau Streets, on the ground floor of the Quality Hotel – just on the edge of Ottawa’s ByWard Market neighbourhood.
#7) HONEST LAWYER
An Ontario chain with 6 locations, Honest Lawyer is the Ottawa bar for ADHD folks. If you can’t sit still, you’ll love their video games, foosball tables, billiards tables, bowling lane, and more of what they call ‘Restaurantainment’. Located just steps from Parliament and the University of Ottawa, you can expect lots of TVs, wing specials, and a crowd of young fans who are way too excited to drink their full beers.
33 Clarence Street, Ottawa
Locally owned, the Senate is VERY popular with rabid hockey fans who tuck into their pub grub with gusto. The volume is high and every seat can see a TV (or 4!). The Senate has ten 50” screens, memorabilia, old skates in case you get in a brawl and need a dull, rusty weapon, a “Wall of Canada” representing each Canadian NHL team, Daniel Alfredsson’s game used stick, and Jason Spezza’s 200th goal stick.
#9) THE LAFF
42 York Street, Ottawa
The Chateau Lafayette, or the Laff, has been around over 160 years, established in 1849. Which means it’s literally been serving Ottawa since before it was even Ottawa. Their TV’s aren’t huge but you come here for the casual atmosphere, the scruffy and eclectic clientele, the quarts, and a ceiling mural that shows God serving low-priced Molson beer.
#10) REAL SPORTS
90 George Street / ByWard Market, Ottawa
This 2-level bar boasts a gigantic 2-storey HD screen. Sure, Real Sports is actually owned by the same company that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs (boo, hiss). But if you demand a spectacle and a wicked view of the Senators, the only way to get a bigger Senators-watching experience is by going to the actual game.
Any great spots I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below and maybe I’ll see you celebrating along Sens Mile.
And whether you’re in Ottawa or somewhere else, where are your favourite spots to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs?
— Ken Hegan
Read more of Ken’s travel stories here
Game photos: The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick; Sens Mile photo courtesy Jantine Van Kregten
Big thanks to the Senators fans who helped compile this list