Ok, so it’s not the Moncton Coliseum. It doesn’t have the storied hockey history, well not yet anyway. It doesn’t have a massive parking lot where you can just arrive 5 minutes before puck drop, walk in and sit down.
We can talk about the parking issue or the lack of parking issue surrounding the Avenir Centre, but that’s like beating a dead horse, let’s look beyond the obvious, the Avenir Centre has certainly left its mark on the City of Moncton and hockey fans over the past year.
Sure one can dwell on the negatives or criticize certain aspects of the building, procedures and concessions, but lets face it, the Avenir Centre is a state of the art building and perhaps the best new sports facility east of Quebec.
The building itself is truly unbelievable and an amazing place to watch sporting events, concerts and specialized shows. It’s state of the art, but what do you see on your walk to the rink?
As a kid I remember sitting in the back seat just being tall enough to look out the window seeing Tim Hortons on the left, Highfield Square on the right, driving under the famed underpass and turning right and seeing the CNR buildings and then on to Co-op on Record St.
Those were the good ole days driving in downtown Moncton.
As the years went by, the downtown continued to change in front of our eyes. I still remember when the CN Shops closed down, Main Street, became a ghost town.
Those exciting drives into the downtown as kids, mostly turned into counting how many buildings had boarded up windows.
The route never changed, we always found ourselves driving down Main Street, either to get to Dieppe or Lewisville for hockey or the brand new mall that was being built. Nevertheless, did the red curly headed kid that grew up on the outskirts of Moncton really observe, grasp and comprehend what was going on behind the boarded up windows and the closed down clubs, theatres and restaurants?
The City of Moncton in the late 80’s and 90’s were like most cities in the Maritimes, struggling to hang on, struggling to make a go of it, but what was life like in the undercurrent of the city?
From my high school days into my university days coming home to go out with friends, the downtown had always a different complexion, a different vibe, a different outlook, everything was changing. For the good or bad?
As they say everything changes with time.
A Different Perspective
I lost track of the amount of times, I walked to and from the Avenir Centre last year, but I won’t be able to erase what I witnessed on those walks.
From hearing and seeing altercations to seeing people intoxicated, to feces on sidewalks, to people sleeping in minus ten degree weather, my ten-minute walk to the rink, was unique, but yet the same. Night after night. Month after month.
So this is what life is like on the street.
Moncton may have it’s new beautiful downtown events centre, which is truly amazing, but like all those car rides as a kid, that’s just superficial, what I saw on my walk to the rink was real life, real struggle, which is reality for so many.
I have lived in Moncton my entire life, and all those trips up and down Main Street in the car never really made me appreciate or comprehend what other people’s lives in my hometown were really like.
Sure you see the homeless as you drive by, but it’s different when you walk by on your way to a sporting event, being played in a multi-million dollar facility.
It’s easy to walk by and not pay attention, not acknowledge their existence, and many times that’s exactly what I did on my walk to the rink last year.
I felt ashamed as I walked briskly by them.
Every time I walked by or every time I walked by their uninhabited spot on the sidewalk over the winter months I was left wondering where they were?
Where would they go? Where could they go?
Sure there was a shelter, but many of them chose to live on the street, chose to live like that year round. Can you spare some change, still echoes in my mind.
Can you spare some change? “I’m afraid not, I always say.”
To be honest with you I don’t carry cash on me. I know it’s a horrible habit, but I just don’t. Every time I say no, “I’m afraid not,” it hurts me. Every time I walk by, my pace often quickens.
Every time I walk by, I try to avoid, but it’s unavoidable. This is what I see on my walk to the rink.
It seems like the closer you get to the Avenir Centre there are less homeless on sidewalks.
Closer and closer to the rink, I would often see families with young kids, friends and couples talking about their days, laughing and joking around, happy, excited and anxiously awaiting the game.
I often wonder in those moments, if those people experienced what I just saw?
What did their walk to the rink look like?
Did they say, no I’m afraid not, to?
You see everyone’s walk is different, just like everyone’s path in life.
As a young kid growing up in Moncton, we never thought homelessness was a problem. We just assumed that it was a ‘big city’ problem, and that would never happen in our small hometown.
Downtown Moncton has transformed and it continues to evolve.
The city has a beautiful brand new events centre that’s state of the art, that’s truly awesome, that we should all be proud of, but what’s happening around that beautiful new building?
It was definitely time for a new arena to be built, and the downtown was the perfect spot for it, but with all the transformation that has happened, have we just grown accustom to seeing those living on the streets as being normal?
Just like it was normal seeing all the boards going up over windows during those tough financial times?
What do you see on your walk to the rink?