Ode To Old NHL Rinks (Part II)
This is part two of a three part series where I focus on some of the ‘charming’ old buildings on the NHL circuit that no longer host teams.
Buffalo Memorial Auditorium; Buffalo NY
The Aud, as it’s affectionately known, opened in 1940. So by the time the Sabres were awarded a franchise in 1970, this barn was already a little long in the tooth to host a NHL franchise. Think dark, grey and dank.
In spite of its aesthetic (and functional) shortcomings, the Aud has sentimental significance for me. I played my first NHL game there. I recall suiting up for the Calgary Flames in 1988 as we took on the Sabres in Buffalo. All the while I’m thinking “this is not as glamorous as I thought it’d be.”
In the visitor’s locker room there wasn’t room enough for the entire team to suit up in the same area. The forwards dressed in one section of the room and the D dressed in a separate space where trainer Bearcat Murray set up to treat players. I don’t recall being that crowded in most of the rinks I played in as a peewee.
I took a regular turn that night in a losing cause. I thought I showed pretty well. Got into my first NHL scrape with Kevin Maguire. But apparently that wasn’t enough to keep one Terrance Arthur Crisp from sending me back to the minors. Worry not, I’m over it coach!
As for the Aud, there is nothing like the character of an old dark rink to bring out the best in fans. Buffalonians loved their Sabres and the Aud was always rocking!
The Chicago Stadium; Chicago, IL
This is as close as North America ever got to constructing anything like the Colosseum in Rome. Playing in The Stadium was one of the great honors of my career. Players throughout the league spoke of this building in reverent tones. I doubt there will ever be another like it.
The Stadium was dark, the concourses were narrow and the upper balconies seemed to hover directly over the ice. The fire marshall would never let you build one like that today.
The rafters housed the 3,663 separate sections of pipe that comprised the Barton organ – the world's largest pipe organ. When Frank Pellico took his seat in front of the keys he became chief organist in the cathedral of sport.
Wayne Messmer singing the Star Spangled Banner was one of the great traditions of the Stadium. The fans made a practice of roaring through the entire anthem. It was rock show loud on even an average night; you could holler in the ear of the person beside you and they wouldn’t hear a word.
The Stadium was no run of the mill hockey rink; this was the Madhouse on Madison.
One memorable moment (though my Mom would just as soon forget) came in the form of a line brawl with the Leafs on Stadium ice one night. The clip (see link below) tells the story better than I can, with one side note.
Although it looks like insanity and chaos; I was trying to come to the aid of a teammate. Bryan Marchment was playing with a broken cheekbone in this game and Bob Halkidis of the Leafs was getting the better of him in a scrap. See if this makes any sense now.
See you around the rink.