Toronto, ON- History is rich in the OUA East, and the conference’s simple arenas highlight everything from memorial buildings to famed junior hockey rinks. While there may not be many fancy amenities in the conference, the old barns have some of the best charm in all of U SPORTS.
49 Sports has ranked the OUA West, AUS and Canada West, but today, we’re taking a look at the arenas that make up the OUA Eastern Conference.
10. Laurentian University- Countryside Arena
Through drooping safety nets on one side of the arena, fans can enjoy a night of U SPORTS hockey in Sudbury. The off-campus Countryside Arena is really not a great venue, however, it does have extra locker rooms which is always a bonus. Although there is only one-sided seating, they are at least proper seats rather than benches. As a reporter who can’t get out to Sudbury on a regular basis, it has been a challenge to cover this team, as the broadcast camera angle is often from the arena corner, making half the rink basically invisible. For select games, the camera is in a better position, but it is an unexpected tossup whenever I’m tuning into a Voyageurs game.
There is a great arena in Sudbury, the Community Arena, however, that’s reserved for the municipalities’ beloved OHL team, the Sudbury Wolves.
9. Ontario Tech- Campus Ice Centre
Having an on-campus rink is always nice, but the Campus Ice Centre, nicknamed “The Dog Pound,” is not too great itself. The first thing that I notice is that fans are only on one side of the arena, and once there, they can only watch through plexiglass and safety netting. Although the netting is white and blends in with the ice, it seems to go much higher than other areas, leaving fans with a semi-obstructed view.
The 500 person arena does have seats rather than benches, which puts it above other OUA rinks such as Waterloo, however, it’s far behind any of the elite arenas in university hockey. Even with its small capacity, the Ridgebacks struggle to attract fans in a saturated hockey market with everything from OHL to NHL also available.
8. Royal Military College- Constantine Arena
The Constantine Arena does not offer many luxuries to fans looking to enjoy a night of OUA hockey. The rink has only one-sided seating, however, the benches do offer some solid vantage points of the game. While the inside of the arena does not offer much for fans, I absolutely love the retired CF-100 Canuck Canadian Airforce plane outside the rink, it’s certainly unique and is a great identifier of the school.
For the players, the locker rooms inside the Constantine Arena are quite large, and even though they are not separate locker stalls, the rooms are still athletically pleasing. Does it remind me of the mock-Montreal Canadiens locker room in the Hockey Hall of Fame? A bit. Overall, this is a simple, yet workable arena with unique touches.
7. Carleton University- Carleton Ice House
Capacity: 350 (seated)
For a team with the history of Carleton, one would love to see a nicer arena. The Carleton Ice House is on campus, but that’s pretty much where the positives end. The arena has no seats near the ice, rather it is an elevated balcony far away from the action. There are 12 dressing rooms in the two rink facility, but it’s hard to see exactly what they’re used for. The main rink boasts only 350 seats, making it one of the smallest arenas in university hockey.
6. Universite du Quebec au Trois-Rivieres: Colisee Trois-Rivieres
The Patriotes play in one of the only bowl arenas in the OUA, and not just the eastern conference, for this, they get vaulted up the list. The Colisee has a very vintage feel to it, with unpainted concrete everywhere you look, but as a whole, it’s a nice arena. Like many old barns, the glass is exceptionally low, leading to a lot of pucks out of play, however, the Patriotes are a very skilled team and tend to keep the puck on their stick.
The building which opened in 1938 is set for 2020 renovations, but it’s still pretty good without. Through the rink’s history, it has hosted everything from U SPORTS, to the skill of the QMJHL and the fights on the LNAH. The player benches can be a little short, but the Patriotes and their visitors make it work, however, one would imagine these will be extended in the renovations. The paint is also chipping off basically everything, which makes the rink look worse than it actually is.
5. The University of Ottawa- uOttawa Minto Sports Complex
Home of the OUA East champions, the Minto Sports Complex is simple yet effective. While I can’t go against the rink for having bench seating, it doesn’t exactly have seats either, more like shaped pads? Either way, they’re only one side of the arena. The facility has two rinks, with the varsity rink holding just over 800 in sitting capacity. Fans are forced to watch the game through white safety netting, however, it’s not as bothersome as at Ontario Tech.
The player amenities are newly renovated and slick. Each member has their own individual stall and cubby, something not seen in too many U SPORTS arenas. While the fan experience may not blow you away, the locker rooms are some of the best. The rink is also right on-campus which is great, but there is still limited student support. The one-sided arena is simple, and there’s nothing wrong with it, placing it right here on our list.
4. Queen’s University- Kingston Memorial Arena
Ah, finally something with four sides! The home of the Queen’s Gaels has a very classic feel and even has a portrait of the Queen overlooking the ice. However, it seems like a bit of an opportunity lost. The rink is off-campus, and in a community such as Kingston which has such a passion for university sports, one has to think that a top marketed, on-campus hockey team could draw a crowd.
The arena features seats of every flavour, from benches, to double seats and foldable singles. At various points around the rink, a fan can barely see through the glass thanks to so many pucks missing the net. At least it seems to mostly be the away teams missing the net, as the Gaels have been a solid offensive team over the last few years. However, even though the 2018 Queen’s Cup championship was won at the arena, the banner hangs back on the main campus.
It is a nice, classic arena, however, even though it’s ranked highly here, it pales in comparison to newer arenas such as Saskatchewan’s Merlis Belsher Place and Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.
3. Nipissing University- North Bay Memorial Gardens
Inhabiting the same home as the OHL’s North Bay Battalion, the Nipissing Lakers have one of the better rinks in the OUA East. The concourses are large, the stands spacious, and all of that leads to an enjoyable North Bay evening. However, all of this is quite aways from campus.
The stands almost remind me of soccer stands rather than an arena bowl, but they do surround all four sides of the ice, giving the rink amazing atmosphere potential. While many North Bay fans prefer turning out for the Battalion rather than the Lakers, the arena is very nice for both. It also houses one of the few video jumbotrons in U SPORTS hockey, however, it’s seldom turned on for the Lakers.
2. Concordia University- Ed Meagher Arena
Renovated in 2013, Ed Meagher Arena is the freshest of the OUA East and is about as nice as you can get for a one-sided rink. The seats are fitted to 2/3 people, and there is ample standing room behind them, did I mention they also have backrests? The fans are also on a different level than the ice, and although it makes a distant feeling, it offers a good viewpoint from every area of the smaller arena.
The rink and ice are up to NHL quality since their renovations, so much so that Hockey Canada held it’s IIHF World Junior Championship assessment camp at the rink in 2014, a team that boasted future Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat.
Also in the refurbishment was an environmental dedication, and now the arena is one of the greenest in U SPORTS. There is a mural on one side of the arena that has the word’s “Concordia Stingers” on it, and although a simple detail, it makes the rink feel like home.
While one-sided arenas are far from the best, Ed Meagher Arena and the Concordia Stingers make the best of it.
1. McGill University- McConnell Arena
McConnell Arena may be old, but the storied history of the barn makes in a very attractive building. The arena has three-sided seating, in a near bowl style. Although there is not much height to the stands, the vantage points are generally pretty good. It is right on campus, mere steps away from the student residences, putting it in a perfect location for student support.
One of the interesting things about the rink is the fact that the first row of seats are not level with the ice, rather they’re just a bit higher. I like this, as it offers a more vertical view of the game, but it may not be to everyone’s fancy. McConnell Arena is simple, but its storied history helps vault it to the top of the list.
In the coming days, 49 Sports will be unveiling the top 15 U SPORTS hockey arenas, taking into consideration all of the arenas ranked in the series so far.
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