September 25, 2010 - Trois-Rivieres, Quebec
It is always great when you get a second chance in life. Thankfully I got a second chance at the Colisee Trois-Rivieres, this classic art deco arena in central Quebec, where my first attempt to see a game here was denied in March of 2008 due to a fierce blizzard the night before. I am glad I made it back for a game at this barn as they don't build 'em like this anymore. Colisee Trois-Rivieres was built in 1951 and sits on the fairgrounds just north of Autoroute 40. The grounds also house an old minor league ballpark, a horse racing track, and a secondary hockey arena, Arena Claude Mongraine. Even cooler is the fact that the parking lot and access roads within the fairgrounds are part of the racetrack which makes up the Grand Prix Trois-Rivieres. The start- finish line of the track sits almost directly in front of the arena, and the retaining walls and catch fencing are evident throughout the complex. Today's game was the final preseason game for the Caron & Guay as they faced off against the Riviere-Du-Loup 3L. Yep, the teams of the LNAH have weird names, but it keeps the sponsors happy. For those that are interested Caron & Guay is a large window manufacturer in Quebec. What was the best part about getting a second crack at this building? The fact that I didn't have to use a whole day to do it as I trucked on up to Three Rivers in time for warmups after catching an afternoon QMJHL game in Victoriaville. I love it when a plan comes together.
Everything about the Colisee says "classic hockey barn", from the white ornate exterior, to the simple sign reading "Colisee" in large red letters above the entryway. Stepping into the arena's lobby is certainly not that much different than it was in the 1950's. There is a box office window to the right, and several old style ticket booths lined up across the entryway. After entering past the arena lobby you can go up a flight of stairs to either your right or left and are on the concourse which runs atop the seating area of the arena. There is a wide concourse which runs atop the arena on 3 sides, and is squared off despite the seating area itself being curved. The concourse gets narrow on the end nearest the entrance. There a a few food concessions and beer stands on the concourse as would be expected. The entire concourse is flanked by orange railings. The designers of the Colisee did something really cool with the standing area behind the seats, as the standing area behind the back row is actually elevated about 3 steps above the concourse and seperated from it. It is almost like the last couple rows of seats and the standing room are above the concourse, yet the concourse runs behind all the seats. This is great as it leaves the entire concourse open for people to pass, and also makes sure the folks who prefer to stand don't keep getting bumped into by a guy who just ran to get a hot dog and a beer. The only downer is that it is hard to see the ice from the concourse due to the height difference. The actual building itself is not symmetrical, as the end away from the entrance actually has the seating area protrude under an overhang and the end seats on that side are somewhat obstructed by cement columns. The end seats on the end nearest the entrance are perhaps the best as they are free of support columns altogether. A press box sits within the high wall on that same end. Good cheap concessions are also a plus for the fans.
The feature on the inside of the arena which immediately catches the eye is the high, arching ceiling, and its equally impressive support columns, all colored white. These steel pillars actually jut upward from about the middle row of the seating making for lots of obstructed views when sitting anywhere above row 4. Blue seats surround the ice and at first glance they appear to be the new molded plastic style, but they are actually painted wooden seats. None of the seats are very far from the ice though, and this place looks much bigger than it is with its high roof, but has the feel of a small barn, with a capacity of 3500. The center ice scoreboard is sufficient, and although not much updating has been done the arena has enough comfort to be passable as a modern arena. Watching a game here feels like a throwback experience, but the place does not seem outdated for a building that is nearly 60 years old. You can easily see that this arena was worthy of hosting the QMJHL, which it did throughout the 70's and 80's.
As with most LNAH arenas the presentation is old school. The building itself lends a lot to that. The glass is low, very low. The fans are very close to the action and the players. In fact there is not even any glass behind the home team bench, and you can often see players turning their head and having a conversation with a fan while on the bench awaiting a shift. The view obstructing pillars are an annoyance, but like many of these old classic buildings, they somewhat add to the charm of the place (as long as the pole doesn't make you miss a goal). I have followed the LNAH pretty closely via the internet, and the preseason games often turn into fight fests, even by LNAH standards. This game had not a single bout however, but I was still glad to catch a game here. The sparse crowd seemed rather subdued despite the 4-0 shutout win for the Caron & Guay. A $10 ticket to see a good level of hockey was worth it in my book though, despite the fact that I am one of the biggest fight fans out there. Just taking in a game at the Colisee is a fun experience. The presentation is all business, with no real intermission contests or give-aways. The fans are here to see hockey, albeit some rough and tumble hockey. The second chance to get the Colisee Trois-Rivieres was a great way to cap off my early season Canadian swing. You don't get a chance to watch hockey in a place with this much character very often, yet the Province of Quebec has great arenas like this seemingly scattered all over. Thankfully the Colisee in one which has lasted through the years as it has probably the coolest exterior of any arena I have seen.
Other information about the Trois-Rivieres Caron & Guay is available at: Caron & Guay Home
Other information about Colisee Trois-Rivieres is available at: Arena home
More photos of Colisee Trois-Rivieres are available Here