September 25. 2010 - Victoriaville, Quebec
Part 1 of my saturday Quebec hockey double started in the small town of Victoriaville. A 4 o'clock matchup against Rouyn-Noranda was on tap at this rather nondescript barn which sits along the main route in Victoriaville, along with strip malls and restaurants. The exterior of the building looks like the community rink you might find in most Canadian towns. The squarish structure which was built in 1980 has a brick and metal exterior in various shades of brown and beige, and has a small parking lot alongside. Nonetheless this is a classic place to watch Junior hockey. There is essentially one entrance, with a box office in the lobby, the entrance is even with the ice level of the rink, but fans are directed up a side staircase to enter the main arena. The building bears the name of the local banking chain Desjardins. The tickets are also designated with Colisee Desjardins as the game location, but the actual arena itself is referred to as the Ampitheatre Gilbert Perreault, after the former Buffalo Sabre great.
A ticket for this afternoon matchup cost $14. Once inside I was very surprised as I had expected the colorful seats and old school feel of the building described Here by fellow arena traveller and Junior hockey historian Kevin Jordan of OHL and QMJHL Arena Guide fame. What I found was completely different as the Colisee had recently undergone a major renovation which replaced all the seats with mostly black plastic seats, and added VIP seating on 3 sides which hangs above the concourse. This is still a classic little barn, only now with more seats shoe-horned into the tiny confines. The lower seating bowl circles the entire rink. A rather narrow concourse cirlces above that level, with an additional tier of 4 or so rows above the concourse on the side across from the arena entrance. The VIP boxes are fit in where there seems to be not enough room for them, and the view must be good, as they are essentially hanging from the ceiling. A pair of newly installed video boards are also part of the recent remodel and they sit on each side of center ice at the top of the seating area. A nice touch is that the seating in the lower bowl behind the benches used yellow seats to spell "Tigres" showing the town's support for the team. Everywhere you look you see black and yellow, almost too much so, but the black makes the place have a very modern look. The new video boards themselves were used as part of the pregame intros and explained to fans that 434 new seats were added and the total capacity of the arena now sits at 3420. At least I think that is what it said as my mastery of French is minimal. The building is so small it is amazing that they managed to cram that many seats into the space without it feeling too crowded.
Without seeing a game at this arena under the old configuration it is hard for me to compare, but they certainly did a good job modernizing the building. The low ceiling and small capacity still makes the place feel a bit old-school, but it is not like many of the "truly old" buildings I have attended in Quebec. A small but functional scoreboard sits above center ice. There is standing room on the 3 sides of the arena. No standing is allowed behind the benches as that is where the upper level seats are. The standing spots are not marked, but do have a metal railing complete with a shelf for your beverage. The concourse is a bit narrow, although sufficient for the crowd of a little less than 2100 on hand for this game. The concourse does get very crowded near the main entrance as there is also a large food concession booth there as well which clogs traffic. I like that the small merchandise store is called the "Boutigre", and thought that the general amenities of the building were good. Sight lines are very good from everywhere in the building as well. The fan experience seemed very tame during this game, although I am sure it gets much louder during games against rivals rather than this matchup against out of the way Rouyn-Noranda. The presentation is all business here. There are not even any fan contests during intermission. They do play the usual Q league standard techno music a lot, and the between period entertainment consists solely of a raver-type light show flashed onto the ice. Hockey is the main attraction here. The crowd was made up of a lot of older folks, who, although supportive of the Tigres, did not get overly vocal or rowdy. The atmosphere was very quiet actually. The Huskies beat the hometown Tigres 3-1 in a rather dull game, but this place has the potential to be very loud with its low ceiling, and large number of seats crammed into such a small space. With the recent upgrades to the arena I am sure the Colisee Desjardins will continue to see QMJHL action for years to come.
Other information about the Victoriaville Tigres is available at: Tigres Home
Other information about Colisee Desjardins / Amphitheatre Gilbert-Perreault is available at: City Home
More photos of Colisee Desjardin / Amphitheatre Gilbert-Perreault are available Here