THE REGINA EXHIBITION STADIUM
RUMORS SAY THE RINK IS COMING DOWN
RUMORS SAY THE RINK IS COMING DOWN
- AN EARLIER POST -
by: Ron "Scoreboard" Johnston
Celebrating 90 years of memories. No, we are not celebrating 90 years from the time the Regina Pats were formed, that was last year. Or the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they are celebrating their 100th birthday next year. Actually it is 90 years since the Exhibition Stadium was built.
I heard in the spring of 2009 that the Exhibition Stadium doors where going to be permanently closed sometime in 2010, and will eventually be demolished. Since the opening of the Agridome (now Brandt Centre) in 1977, the Exhibition Stadium today is used for agricultural exhibitions, minor hockey, broom ball, and other special occasions. It is presently the oldest standing hockey arena in Canada still in use. Now, with a new six-rink multiplex slated to go online at Evraz Place in December, Exhibition Stadium has officially reached the end of its life cycle. I thought it would be nice to write a story and put it on my Regina Pats History and Regina Pats Alumni Web Site. Should I put it on now or wait until January? Then I remembered that the rink was built in 1919, so that meant that it would be celebrating its 90th birthday on December 4th, this year, (2009).
I am sure many are not aware that the Amphitheatre and Winter Fair Building was located on the same spot as the present Regina Exhibition Stadium. (Sketch by William P. Argan)
This building was erected in 1913 and opened in February, 1914. The rink ice size was 85 feet by 200 feet. The seating capacity was 5,000. The total cost $130,000.
The building was turned over to the 77th Battery when war was declared in 1914. The structure was used as a military barracks and drill hall until fire destroyed it on December 18th, 1917.
Our nephew visited us at the end of June and I took him to visit the old rink where his father had played. He took something like 60 pictures both inside and out. How the rink had changed. The outside walls, made of brick, had certain areas where the bricks were falling showing holes. I almost did not recognized the inside of the main part of the rink. The centre clock and the press box high in the rafters were both gone. The well-known pillars, the wooden seats and cement steps were still there. Here are just a few pictures showing how the outside bricks are falling away from the building.
North-East Corner of the Rink
What use to be the Main Entrance – North Side
East Side – Looking north (Pasqua Hospital in the background)
One of the Old Dressing Rooms
It brought back good old memories
The new Stadium, later to be known as the Exhibition Stadium, was situated just east of Pasqua St. and south of Dewdney Avenue, behind the Grey Nuns Hospital now named the Pasqua Hospital. The ice service was from east to west and was known for its many pillars around the rink. The broadcast booth was situated high in the rafters of the Stadium on the south side and the only way a person could get to it was by the long steel ladder that went straight up to the door. When I was with the Pats, I could remember tucking my game book under one arm and climbing up with the other arm, step by step. The east end of the rink had the ice surface come right to the brick wall, there were no seats and it had a high wire screen . Above the ice was a long press box with open windows, plus the goal judge was seated at the centre of that box high above the goal. High above the centre of the ice, was the time clock under an “Export Cigarettes” sign.
See the picture below.
In the mid 1960's and 1970's the east gate (which is shown open in the right picture) led out to where the cows and horses were located during the cow and horse shows. Just to the right were what use to be the new dressing rooms, (Regina Pats and Visitors). The press box is located just to the right of the sign “next Pats home game” The goal judges box was located right above the goal mesh.
The rink was built of bricks and as I looked at the rink, probably for the last time, I could see a section on the east side where the bricks had fallen out leaving a big hole. The long wooden seats and wooden back benches were still around the north, west, and east area of the ice surface.
Oh how I can remember those special children games, where prizes were handed out to the kids. The attendance was up to near 6,000 or more. The kids were everywhere, even hanging onto the the steel ladder to the press box.
The rink was opened at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 4, 1919, with nearly 3,000 spectators present. They saw a program of fancy skaters, Anna Munkin, Lillian Egan and Henry Bronk. Then followed open skating until 10:00 p.m. Nine days later, the first hockey game was played on Friday, December 19, between Vics and Moose Jaw Maple Leafs in the Senior Leagues home opener at 8:30 p.m. Reserved seats were $1.00 or 75 cents with rush seats at 50 cents.
The rink would become the largest west of the Winnipeg Amphitheatre. Ninety years plus one month later, the rink was no more. January 2010 the rink doors will close for the last time. (Photo: right - Winnipeg Amphitheatre - Manitoba Archives)
The Leader mentioned that the rinks' name would be called "Stadium" submitted by Mrs. W. G. Styles in a name contest . In 1935 the Stadium name was changed to the Exhibition Stadium.
A group called the Queen City Gardens Limited, President Jack Hamilton, was created August 13th, 1938, and they decided to shelve the idea of the new downtown rink and approached the Regina Exhibition Board regarding leasing the Stadium rink. They ordered an ice plant from Canadian Ice Machine Company on October 20th. At the same time they bought an ice maker from Frank Bauman of Minneapolis. The ice plant was finally finished at the end of November, in time for the opening game of the new Saskatchewan Senior Hockey League. They also made improvements to the rink: open waiting room on the east side, repairs to the ladies washroom, players dressing rooms remodeled, plus a new paint job all over the rink. The Stadium name was changed to the Queen City Gardens.
The Stadium was known for its many steel pillars throughout the rink. The Regina Pats played at the rink from 1920 until the club was disbanded in 1934. Then they reorganized in 1946 and played there until 1977 when they moved into the new Agridome.
(Photo: Bryan Schlosser, Leader-Post files)
Most people said that Foster Hewitt was the first to ever broadcast a hockey game. Hewitt broadcast an amateur hockey game March 22, 1923, but Pete Parker broadcast the first professional game eight days earlier on Regina Radio Station CKCK.
The following was taken from the Regina Leader-Post, March 14, 1972, by Sports Writer, Ron Campbell.
"It was March 15, 1923, the radio listeners in this area were surprised to hear the first complete professional hockey game ever broadcast in Canada. The broadcast originated from the Exhibition Stadium and was carried by CKCK radio on Hamilton Street. At the time it was operated as part of the Morning Leader, with a studio on the fifth floor of the Leader-Post building.
Calling the play-by-play that night was L.D. "Pete" Parker who was visiting the city as part of the radio station's 50th Anniversary observances being held that year. "It was just an experiment" said Pete, recalling that fabulous night. "Bert Hooper was the whole radio department at that time. He did everything, broadcasting and engineering. Bert was always looking for something new as far as broadcasting was concerned and, while I had done some, I guess the main reason why he asked me to do the play-by-play was because I had always been a real hockey nut." said Pete.
(Sketch by William P. Argan)
"It was the first game of the Western Canada Hockey League play-offs between Edmonton Eskimos and Regina Caps leading to the Stanley Cup. The broadcast went off pretty well and caught all of our listeners by surprise."
Pete called the game from high in the rafters on the west side of the Stadium where the present broadcast booth is located; however, a special closed-in box was built to house Pete and he used a cradle-type telephone and an amplifier.
During 1955 the City of Regina was celebrating their Golden Jubilee and the entire Memorial Cup series was played at the Regina Exhibition Stadium. The officials for the game were both from the east, Charlie Delziel of Montreal and Len Corriveau of Quebec City.
It had Turk Broda, goalie of the Toronto Maple Leafs back in the 1950's, coaching the Maple Leaf farm team, Toronto Marlboros. The Marlboros' won in five games, having the last two games going into overtime.The last game was played before 5,718 fans.
Throughout the five games, there were 25,821 spectators attending, almost 8,000 more than witnessed last year's final in which St. Catherine Tee Pees defeated the Edmonton Oil Kings in five games.
Regina Transit Buses lined up in front of the Regina Exhibition Stadium waiting for the fans to depart from the Memorial Cup game.
(Photo:Regina City Archives Photo)
It was noted in the second game Saturday, that the Stadium Manager, Bob Gillies, announced seats sold-out, standing room only at $1.00 per person.
There never was a Pats team that won the Memorial Cup at the old Exhibition Stadium. The Regina Pats had only three chances, in 1952, 1955 and 1969. The only team that did win was a team approximately 500 miles away from a northern Manitoba mining city, the Flin Flon Bombers in 1957.
Flon Flon Bombers finished in first place in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League that year with 88 points, twenty more than the second place Regina Pats. The Bombers went on to defeat the Ottawa Canadiens and ex-Pat's Murray Balfour in the Memorial Cup in seven games. The first three games were played in Flin Flon, the rest of the series was then moved to the Regina Exhibition Stadium.
Photo: Flin Flon Bombers – Web Site
The building is expected to be demolished sometime down the road as part of a long-term revitalization plan for the exhibition grounds.
"Many people, even our current customers, love the quality of the ice in there and have fond memories of the building." noted Evraz Place President and CEO Mark Allan, "but it's clearly at the end of its useful lifespan. That was something we subsidized so the community could have ice. As soon as we have the new ice we're not going to subsidize that. One of the things I've found in my six years here is if we have too many sacred cows on the property ... it contributes to our demise. It's at our peril that we ignore these things and don't face them. Just because something is difficult to do doesn't mean we won't do it. We're going to step away (from the Stadium). We'll try and do it respectfully but we will step away."
Allan said he's open to ideas about how to go about honouring the facility which was a long-time home to the WHL's Regina Pats.
"It's important to respect what the building has contributed to the community." he said. "We'll be putting our heads together on that this fall. We will make some sort of a gesture. I don't want to make it a bigger issue because I just don't have a choice in what I want to do but I want to be respectful as we step away."
Ask former Pats player and coach Al Dumba about the Stadium and the memories immediately come flooding back. They begin when, as a youngster, he watched his heroes like Fran Huck and Bill Hicke, then they continue with his first training camp at age 14. He remembers standing in line outside the office of GM Del Wilson, waiting to learn if he had made the team. He recalls being in awe from his first meeting with head coach Bob Turner who had won five Stanley Cup rings with the Montreal Canadiens. Dumba also remembers the brawls that were a regular occurrence, never to forget the infamous night in the 1973-74 season when Tiger Williams and other members of the Swift Current Broncos led a revolt into the stands.
"There are lots of old funny memories that we talk about all the time still." said Dumba, now the colour analyst on Pats' radio broadcasts. "I still skate in there two or three times a year at least. You can see some of those old rooms. It brings back a lot of thoughts about old teammates and everything."
That said, Dumba insists shutting the doors is for a higher purpose and he, for one, is a believer in progress. "It's going to be sad -- we're going to think about it -- but at the same time you always want to see bigger and better things." He continued, "You don't want to live in the past but you sure want to remember the past. Hopefully there will be something done when it is taken down, maybe some type of monument or something just to kind of help people remember. If they could save maybe a piece of it or a part of it, I'm not sure what they could do. It would help if they could do something nostalgic with it." Much of that nostalgia -- although certainly not all -- is associated with the Pats.
"It may sound like an oxymoron but I have good memories of Exhibition Stadium." former Pats star Dennis Sobchuk said. "I remember the chicken wire, the people, and the horse smells. The Regina Pats were the team. If you tuned on to TV or radio or read the paper, it was all Pats. You thought it was the epitome of junior hockey. You would go into Exhibition Stadium and your eyes would be wide open. It was like going to the old Montreal Forum."
Darrell Davis interviewed Gord Berenson on April 7, 2008. Berenson said that while in Regina he stopped to see the Brandt Centre, home of the Western Hockey League's Pats, without realizing the decrepit Exhibition Stadium was still standing nearby. He said, "When I was a kid, really a kid, like 11 years old, my mom would wake me up at 5 (a.m.) so I could get to the Stadium every Saturday morning.'' said Berenson. "I knew how to get into the Stadium. I would go in there and skate in the dark until the games started at 8. That was my favourite day -- I couldn't wait for Saturday morning.''
There is a person who was previously associated with the Pats and is almost as old as the rink. Murray Armstrong is 93 years old. He played and coached in that old Regina Exhibition Stadium. Even two players whom he coached in the 1950's, Bob Turner and Lorne Davis, played and coached in that rink.
The Canadian MacDonald Brier was held at the Regina Exhibition Stadium in 1955. The Brier was started back in 1927 and up until1955, the largest attendance for the Brier was 32,000 which was the previous year at Edmonton. In 1955 at the Regina Exhibition Stadium, the attendance was 51,725. It was only the second time that the Brier had been held in Saskatchewan, it had been held in Saskatoon in 1946.
In 1955, the MacDonald Brier Canadian Men’s Curling Championship was held at Exhibition Stadium in Regina. The Saskatchewan team, wearing white sweaters were skipped by Garnet Campbell of Avonlea, playing on Sheet D, (the second sheet from the right). Campbell and brothers Don, Glen, and Gordon won all 10 of their games to give Saskatchewan its first Brier championship.
Photo: Saskatchewan Archives Board R-B1159
Wednesday, May 7, 1958 there was a large concert, consisting of Sam Cooke, the Eberly Brothers, George Hamilton, Paul Anaka and many more.
See a short video - by CBC News, dated - 20 October 2010: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/watch-regina-rink-s-days-are-numbered-1.872646
There were many other great performances: Louis Armstrong, The Ice Capades and the Shrine Circus. As mentioned the rink was called many names, another was "The Barn" and one that I started to use "The Cow Palace".
There were many more activites at that old rink.
In 1966, Regina Leader Post, dated September 9, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra performed. The orchestra, under the direction of Victor Feldbrill, gave a matinee performance for students at 3:30 and then the main "pop" concert at 8:15 p.m. In 2002 the Womens's CIS Hockey Championship was held at the Regina Exhibition Stadium, from February 28 to Sunday, March 3. The Gold Medal game as played at 2:00 p.m. on TSN-TV. It had Alberta defeating Laurier 5-2.
A Massed Band in 1971 performed at the Exhibition Stadium, featuring the 10th Field Regiment RCA Pipes and Drums (P/M George Crawford; the Wa Wa Shrin Pipes and Drums (P/M Duncan Fisher-Ex-Regina Pat); and the Fraser Pipe Band (P/M Doug Lutz)
SPA Archives Photo
World's Curling Selection committee choosing site for 1973 Silver Broom World Curling Championship... They were checking out the Exhibition stadium in Regina.. The building was in darkness and the committee were having difficulty seeing anything.. When all at once the door at the end of the stadium opened up and the massed bands came forward as the lights came up .. this was an idea of Doug Lee and George Crawford that was credited with the committee choosing to bring the event to Regina in 1973.
Also the Montreal Canadiens played some Exhibition games in the rink. Louis Armstrong performed and the list goes on.