Users of the Elmira Arena and community centre are the most ardent boosters of the Woolwich Memorial Centre now under construction. Still, there will be more than a few pangs of nostalgia when the existing building is torn down later this year to make room for the new project.
The arena is certainly dated, but it has been home to many glorious hockey moments, from novice games right through to the accomplishments of the Junior B Elmira Sugar Kings. There will be mixed feelings.
“There are a lot of hockey stars that have come out of the Elmira Arena,” said Jess Bender, chair of the End of an Era event scheduled to take place Apr. 25 at the arena.
Jointly organized by the Lions clubs of Elmira and Woolwich, the event will feature a number of activities, including a fun-day for parents and kids; a memory lane display at the Woolwich Youth Centre, showcasing pictures and other historical paraphernalia; and a dance at the arena from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m.
“The event is to commemorate the end of an illustrious era at the Elmira Arena. We want to make the community aware of the proud history of the Elmira Arena with the memory lane event,” said Bender.
In addition to photographs, that event will display sports equipment belonging to famous local alumni, including NHL greats like Rick and Rod Seiling; Butch Martin, who played in the 1956 and 1960 men’s Olympic hockey team; former Maple Leaf legend Darryl Sittler, who to this day still holds the record for most points in one game (10 – six goals, four assists); the late Dan Snyder, the charismatic forward after whom one of the ice pads in the new Woolwich Memorial Centre is named; forward Cam Stewart, who played with Boston, Florida, and the expansion Minnesota Wild; Jamie Wright, who played for Dallas, Calgary and Philadelphia and won a gold medal with Canada at the 1996 World Junior Championships; and defenseman Dennis Wideman, currently a core component in the Boston Bruins’ successful 116 point season in 2008-2009.
“Those are the big names, but there are many, many kids who have gone on to different levels,” said event organizer Valerie King.
As noted in Woolwich’s recent Hockeyville bid, the arena is a cornerstone of local history, home to minor hockey games, the Sugar Kings and beer leagues. The building means something different to many people. Built in 1949 the venue’s story spans a few generations.
For Bender, the story includes a husband and children who have made the arena a regular haunt.
“To me it’s important that way because it’s important to them,” she said.
The End of an Era event kicks off at 1 p.m. on Apr. 25 with a children’s play area that will include a bouncy castle and other games. Food and snacks including burgers and hot dogs and nachos will be on tap throughout the course of the day.
Upstairs at the youth centre, the memory lane display will run from 6-8 p.m. Following that comes a dance open to anyone ages 19 and up.
While most of the day’s events are free, tickets for the dance cost $12 and are available at Pampered and Polished in Elmira or by calling Bender at 519-669-4484. Proceeds from this event will go to the Woolwich Memorial Centre.