One hockey fan's journey to the arenas of North America
Ray Twinney Recreation Complex - Home of the Newmarket Hurricanes
November 10, 2016 - Newmarket, Ontario
Scattered across North America you can find cities and arenas that at one time housed minor pro or major junior hockey, but for one reason or another, have seen those levels of hockey pass them by. One such place is Newmarket, Ontario. This suburban city about a half hour north of Toronto, and its arena, the Ray Twinney Recreation Complex, were home to both the OHL and AHL a few decades ago. Having opened in 1985, this arena which is built in a park-like setting saw the AHL's Newmarket Saints take to the ice from 1986-1991. Shortly after the Leaf's affiliate vacated Newmarket for St. John's, Newfoundland the OHL came to town in the form of the Newmarket Royals, although the Royals only lasted a couple of seasons before being relocated to Sarnia and becoming the Sting in 1994. Fast forward a couple decades and hockey is still being played here, albeit at the Junior A level, where the Hurricanes get good fan support when compared to other OJHL franchises, but find a mostly empty building on most evenings. The arena has the footprint of a typical mid-sized 1980's arena. Blue metal siding and a blue metal roof sit above the brick walls on the lower story. Large parking lots flank the building, and the complex is a busy place as it also houses a second ice pad and the city's indoor pool. Unlike many of the community arenas springing up across Canada in the last decade, the Ray Twinney Complex's main arena is large enough, at 3700 seats, to host big time events. The blue siding is a bit weathered, and a Hurricanes logo is affixed to the corner of the exterior wall giving the place an old fashioned feel. Thursday night is game night for the Hurricanes, and we took advantage of an afternoon Remembrance Day game 20 minutes away in Stouffville earlier in the day to make this a OJHL double. Junior hockey has been a staple in Newmarket for decades, dating back to the early days of hockey, and the Newmarket Redskins won the Memorial Cup in 1933. The junior teams have gone by different names over the years, with the teams being known as the Hurricanes since 1995. Ray Twinney Recreation Complex is a place where time has stood still to an extent, and is a place where you can get a glimpse of what hockey was like in the 1980's, and that is not a bad thing.
The main entrance to the Ray Twinney Complex brings you into a lobby with an information desk, some trophy cases, and a box office window to the right, where tickets can be secured for the evening's game. A ticket to this contest against the St. Michaels Buzzers was $12, inline with most other venues in the OJHL. The lobby's trophy case features memorabilia from past teams, including the aforementioned Memorial Cup banner. Entry to the main arena is via a simple entry door to the corner of the lower concourse hallway. Immediately inside the entrance is a Hurricanes merchandise booth, as well as a table where 50/50 tickets and programs are sold. The arena itself is striking, with brightly colored seating circling the ice underneath a high peaking ceiling. The seating is comprised of 8 rows of plastics seats with 2 rows of plastic benches behind. Seating in the center ice area is blue and features armrests, with the ends and corners made up of orange and yellow seats. An older center ice scoreclock hangs from above, and a press box hangs from the rafters on one side. The white tin ceiling is offset by brown rafters, and the venue has a big arena feel to it. The pitch of the seating is not very steep, but with small crowds on hand (in comparison to the seating capacity) for Hurricanes games sight lines are very good. The front row of seating sits back about 10 feet from the ice surface and is elevated so even the front row provides a good view. A pair of aisles also circle the ice. One aisle runs in front of the seating area, which also serves as the location for team benches and the penalty box as these area are simply roped off during the game. An additional aisle runs across the top of the seating. The lower concourse runs underneath the stands, and has white concrete walls and a gaudy blue flooring. A Newmarket Hockey Wall of Fame sits along the concourse near the main entrance, and features photos and jerseys of many junior alumni who went on to play at higher levels. The Ray Twinney Recreation Complex has an appealing look which is both colorful and simple, and you can almost picture the AHL and OHL players taking the ice here back in the day.
The game day experience and presentation at Ray Twinney Recreation Complex for a Newmarket Hurricanes game is one built on tradition. Thursday's are the main game day here, and 200-300 fans turn out each week to support their team. This is similar to attendance at other venues in the league, although the number feels small when you consider that this arena has a capacity to hold major junior or the AHL. The Hurricanes take the ice in warmups with special warmup jerseys sponsored by the local Mercedes Benz dealer. There are a number of contests to get the fans involved, including a chuck-a-puck contest. The building has a sense of history and character to it, so watching a game here feels nostalgic, even if you were not around for the arena's hey-day in the 1980's and early 1990's. The view of the action is good, and the arena has several old school quirks, such as having the team benches in the middle of the lower concourse aisle, and not having any glass at all behind the benches. To an extent it feels as though you have stepped back in time a bit. At the same time, this arena feels much more big-time than some of the newer community arenas used at the Junior A level today. Although the fans are supportive they are a typical Ontario crowd, meaning they understand every nuance of the game and don't get too excited unless the play on the ice is remarkable. The goal horn is tremendously loud when the Hurricanes score, and the thundering noise of the horn breaks up the silence a bit as a couple hundred fans in a building than can hold nearly 4000 seems rather quiet given the setting. The game itself was fantastic, with the Hurricanes coming up just short as the Buzzers took a 5-4 overtime win. Newmarket made its mark on minor pro and major junior hockey a couple of decades ago, and will always hold a place in history. Times have changed however, and both the OHL and AHL have outgrown arenas such as this, favoring newer, larger venues with all of the modern trappings such as luxury suites and video boards. Watching a game here seems pure however, and the level of play in the OJHL is solid and worth watching. It is a shame that thise type of venue and market is not the norm in big-time hockey anymore, but a visit to Ray Twinney Recreation Complex is a worthwhile one for hockey purists, and the colorful nature of the arena, its interesting history, and seemingly unchanged infrastructure make it a great reminder of how the game used to be enjoyed.
A box score of the game can be found Here Other informationabouttheNewmarketHurricanescanbefoundat:HurricanesHome Other information about Ray Twinney Recreation Complex can be found at: ArenaHome More photos of Ray Twinney Recreation Complex can be found Here
A hockey fan's guide to college, pro, and junior hockey arena reviews. All photos and text copyright Andy Ritter 2007-2017