More Than Just A Rink

The Moncton Coliseum was more than just a rink.

It was the Hub City’s home of hockey, and it became cultural fixture for a region.

From Timbits Tournaments to the American Hockey League, to the QMJHL, the Coliseum ice has seen it all.

 For more than four decades the beloved Coliseum was the stage of some this regions greatest hockey moments and believe it or not, I was there to witness a few.

  I’m no hockey historian, but the Coliseum played a pivotal role in my love of the game.

My earliest memories of the Coliseum are some of my fondest. My grandmother would take my brother and I to New Brunswick Hawks practices and we would run around collecting as many pucks as we could.

Photo Credit CTV Archives

We wouldn’t only collect those classic iconic AHL pucks, we would hone our skills with on the flooded farmer’s field behind our home on the outskirts of Moncton’s city limits. 

 Every puck that we used to stick handle out back would have a story. We couldn’t take our eyes of the logo, we ran like the wind to collect as many as we could at those practices, we were too young to realize that the players were intentionally flipping them over the glass. 

At that time the Coliseum seemed so gigantic, we only could dream of one day skating and playing on Coliseum ice.  

As we collected the day’s bounty of pucks and exited the building our focus quickly shifted to the possibility of catching the next home game with our father.

Going to the Coliseum to watch the AHL was our version of Hockey Night in Canada. 

The Coliseum was more than just a rink to me; it was an extension of the dinner table. The rink was where my dad and my brother and I bonded.

The game and the rink brought us all together, it subtly grew our relationship, in turn growing our love and passion for the game.

Every time we walked in to the arena, we learned something.  Whether those lessons were on the ice or in the stands, there was a feeling of always coming away with something new. 

You see we didn’t run around the Coliseum like other kids our age did. Our father made us watch the puck constantly and always told us never to take our eyes off of it. We were fixated on the puck, every subtle play all the nuances of the game and the players, we loved it all.

  The game was theatre, the Coliseum its stage. 

I will never forget all three of us ducking out of the way from a puck that struck and possibly broke a women’s wrist that was sitting behind us during the warm-up one night.

I still remember my father leaning over and saying ‘Boys, that’s why you always watch the puck.’ 

We sat contently watching the warm-up and every second of each game. 

The players were our heroes, the NB Hawks was our team, the Coliseum our second home. 

Our father never forced us or pressured us in anyway to go to the game, it was an honour and privilege to watch a game, it was special time for hockey in the city, it was a special time for our family. As time went on, our family’s focus shifted to our early hockey endeavours. 

Nevertheless, there will always be one memory that will be forever etched in my mind, the night the Hawks won it all. 

I remember walking into the building that night and it seemed to take us an eternity. It might have been my five-year-old legs, but the old Coliseum parking was at full capacity. 

The sound was deafening, the Coliseum was electric, the Calder Cup was ours. 

From that point different franchises would come and go, however the memories of watching games with my dad and brother still resonate with me. 

In some odd way many Monctonian’s probably took the Coliseum and the American Hockey League for granted.  Everything changed when the AHL left town, in my opinion a part of the city lost its hockey soul that day. 

By that point my brother had already experienced all the negative and political side of the game he could handle by being cut off teams he should have starred on. I had been forging my way through the provincial ranks of the game and was in the twilight of my playing career with the Moncton High School Purple Knights.

The Coliseum was always there, it always held a special place in our childhood, but by that point we had all skated on the sacred ice. 

Before the QMJHL ever existed in Moncton, the Purple Knights called the Coliseum home.  For an hour and half every Thursday night we practiced there, and played some of our home games there as well.  It would be my final years of organized hockey and ironically many of us dreaded those days because it was so bloody hot in the building and the ice conditions weren’t always the greatest.

Being a prototypical hockey player with unique routines and rituals, I made sure that I was always the last one off the ice. 

I would always sit on the end of the home bench after practice for a minute or two looking all round the arena, starring up at the retired numbers and old AHL banners, thinking about my childhood and all those special conversations I had with my father and brother about the game and life and thinking about what it would be like playing in front of a sold out crowd.

As the years have gone by my role in the game has certainly changed. 

Nevertheless, the Coliseum was always there, the familiar confines, the guardian of all our childhood hockey memories. 

On a few occasions in its final year, I wanted to return to the home bench and reminisce, I never did. 

I will miss the Moncton Coliseum.

(Originally Published on Sept 26, 2018)

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