The Niagara Icedogs are going from the oldest arena in the Ontario Hockey League to the newest. The doors to the Meridian Centre open Thursday night and the Icedogs hope to christen their new facility with their first win of the season.
The $50-million dollar Meridian Centre was build on-budget, and on-time. It has a capacity of 45-hundred for hockey games, 6-thousand for concerts, and there’s not a bad seat in the house.
For St. Catharines native, and third-year Icedog centre Jordan Maletta, it’s literally been a lifelong dream to play here: “It’s unbelievable, just like the NHL. Gym, hot tubs, cold tubs, sauna, steam room. It’s everything we could ask for and more.”
There’s a theatre for watching film. On-site gym facilities. And a pretty posh locker room.
It’s a far cry from the Garden City Arena, which was built in 1938, and re-named after local sportswriter Jack Gatecliff following renovations in 1996. It’s cozy double-seats had room for only 28-hundred fans. It was cold, the bathrooms were outdated and so were the concessions. But none of that mattered to the players.
Bill Burke, team owner: “We never had anyone complain about the Jack, because that was a great atmosphere. But it was time just to get to the next generation.”
While Bill Burke’s ‘players’ never complained, the same can’t be said for visiting teams, and there were ‘other’ downsides too.
Marty Williamson, head coach: “You know, as far as the business side, and recruiting, it was much more difficult. You walk into that building and then some of the top buildings in the league. I always thought we had a wonderful organization, and we were missing one thing and that was the rink.”
The Icedogs are hopeful that the home-ice advantage will help put an end to their recent six-game losing skid. And in a couple of years, there’s a good chance the Memorial Cup could be played here too.
Bill Burke: “We’re so thrilled and blessed that this is our new home and it’s top shelf for sure.”