Monday, 28 June 2010

End of an Era

Last week I dropped my daughter off on Main Street so she could do some shopping. I ducked into a parking lot and stared in shock at the scene across the street.

The Newmarket Community Centre arena, where my son enjoyed a brief Peewee hockey career, was gone. No, this wasn't the result of a tornado. This twisted pile of bricks, girders and aluminum siding was a victim of time.

I knew this day was coming, but not so soon. I've seen the demolition of many landmark buildings in this town over the last thirty-five years, but this one struck a chord. In my brief career as a hockey mom, I sat in those folding wooden seats, huddled with other parents under the only working heater while our kids slapped pucks against the boards with loud, echoing booms. Sometimes we stood at the standing area near centre ice so we could stamp our feet and hop about to keep warm. It was a great place to pan with our video cameras.

This was the place my son first strapped on skates and stumbled onto the ice. Smaller than his teammates, he fell at least twenty times until a boy took pity on him and kept pace, encouraging him with every stroke of the blade.

To get to the dressing rooms, one had to climb down a narrow set of stairs at the west end of the ice surface. We had a choice of three cramped rooms with scary looking shower stalls, scarred wooden benches and brass hooks to hang the kids' winter gear. Often, the parents crammed the steps in the tiny hallway while waiting for Coach to give the kids a pep talk after a particularly stressful game. Then we were invited inside, where we made arrangements for a post-game breakfast and the kids chatted about who made the best pass or almost got a goal.

Constructed before some building codes were in effect, this arena's parking lot straddled a tributary of the Holland River. One could see the babbling brook emerging from the east side. It ran right underneath the grocery store just south of the Community Centre.

This was the place where my son scored his first and last goal in the final minute of the Championship Game. An empty netter, and the place went wild. He still has the puck. Shortly afterward, Andrew hung up his skates, satisfied with his one-goal career.

We now have the Ray Twinney Centre, where the the Leafs' old farm team (Newmarket Saints) played, but it's not he same. It's a slick, shiny place and has no personality. We also have the spanking brand new Magna Centre but I haven't seen the inside yet except for a recent trade show.

There's nothing like the old, battle-scarred, barn-like rinks of the Twentieth Century.


Here is a history of the rink, (as well as the top picture) from the Town of Newmarket website:

• Originally named The Newmarket Memorial Arena in memory of those who lost their life in WW1,
the arena officially opened in December 1922. 

• Built for a mere $40,000 and financed by Andrew Davis – the primary shareholder – the Town of
Newmarket purchased the arena for $33,000 in February 1945. 

• In 1949, artificial ice was installed to prolong the skating season, and an extension was added
along the west end of the arena to accommodate ice-making equipment, dressing rooms,
washrooms, a lobby, a meeting room and additional seating. 

• In 1970, the arena underwent major modifications, which included an exterior facelift and
enlargement of the ice surface to regulation size. 

• The adjacent Community Centre was built in 1974 to address Newmarket’s increasing need to
provide space for community activities other than hockey.

• In 2002, the Community Arena underwent reinforcement renovations to the roof to extend the
life of the arena until the new Magna Centre was built.

• In 2007, the Magna Centre opened and the Community Arena was decommissioned.

• For years, the Community Arena was the event venue for Newmarket and it once hosted a variety
of special events including the Newmarket Home Show, Oktoberfest, and Newmarket’s
Bicentennial Celebration in 1980.

• A staple in Newmarket’s recreation history, the Community Arena was once home to the
Newmarket Redmen Hockey Team (winners of the 1933 Memorial Cup), and the Newmarket
Flyers Junior A Hockey Team. 

• The Newmarket Minor Hockey Association House League Championships and the Newmarket
Minor Hockey League’s House League Tournament also called the Community Arena home.