An Arena Like No Other

I am a big fan of hockey rinks. I love big ones and I am fond of little ones. I dig the latest technology and luxuries that go into making them as convenient and fan friendly as humanly possible. Nothing is better than taking a step back into time by hanging out in older arenas. So, as you can see it is going to be difficult for me to advise anyone one visiting just one of my favorite buildings.

This holiday season if you’re looking to make a hockey pilgrimage let me do my best to whittle down my personal suggestions to 3:

The Whitney Forum is the home of the Flin Flon Bombers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and is a must for anyone who calls himself or herself a hockey fan. Here are the details on the building. It was built in 1958 in the northwestern Manitoba border town of Flin Flon and has been the home of the legendary Bombers ever since.

The Flin Flon Bombers joined the SJHL back in 1984, but their history goes back to the late 20’s. As soon as you step inside the Whitney Forum you step back into another era. The Bombers Wall of Fame features many well known names such as Bobby Clarke, Gerry Hart, Reggie Leach and Blaine Stoughton not to mention many well known local favorites. The rink feels like what tradition is meant to feel like; I can’t explain it any better than that. The team is always big and tough and the fans wouldn’t have it any other way. The colours made famous by the Bombers logo and kit are everywhere. There have been improvements, but not at the expense of the feel of the Forum.

Now before you think I have a thing for northern rinks let me admit that I do. My next pick for a rink to visit is the building that used to be called Thickwood Heights Arena but is now called The Casman Centre the home of the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The MOB have been in the AJHL since 1981/82 and almost since the drop of the puck in their first season they have been tough to beat at home.

The Casman Centre has undergone many, many improvements over the years. But in Fort Mac it has never been about building amenities as much as it has been about atmosphere. Saturday night games, which started a little later to accommodate shift change at the oil sands plants in the middle of winter were a display of what it took to survive in Northern Alberta. The sense of community, the emotion on display, the fact that it was minus 36 outside but inside the jackets were off and the jerseys were on just pointed to the hardiness of the folk who called this outpost home.

The third building on my little list is one I just recently got to myself and is home to one of the NHL’s newest/old teams. Back to Manitoba we go as I can whole hardly endorse a visit to the MTS Centre home of the Winnipeg Jets.

When it was built almost a decade ago it had the distinction of being described as too big for the American Hockey League and not big enough for the NHL. Yup, that was wrong. For the past three seasons the NHL has been back in Winnipeg and Jet’s fans have been making up for lost time.

By “big league” standards the MTS Centre is at best, okay. The scoreboard and ribbon boards are adequate, but not better than that. The seats themselves haven’t worn that well, and there are only about 15,000 of them. Doesn’t matter as about an hour before the opening faceoff the buzz builds and it doesn’t stop getting louder ’til the three stars have come and gone. There is a mix of old school tradition in the game presentation with youthful enthusiasm created by the crowd.

About The Author

Rob Kerr is the television voice of the Calgary Flames on Sportsnet West.  Prior to making the switch to TV in 2011 Rob was both the host of Calgary Flames hockey and afternoon drive host on Sportsnet 960 –the FAN for 8 years. CONTINUE.

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