One hockey fan's journey to the arenas of North America
Stouffville Arena - Home of the Stouffville Spirit
November 10, 2016 - Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ontario
Junior hockey is plentiful in the greater Toronto area, with teams in the OJHL covering much of the area. In Whitchurch-Stouffville the Spirit have been a tradition since 1996, having started as a Junior A franchise in 1995 under the Clippers name, the name that the local Junior C and Senior teams were known by dating back to the 1940's. Stouffville Arena sits in a residential area next to a school and soccer fields, and features 2 ice pads. The arena opened in 1985, and has a simple boxy looking exterior which is covered in gray fluted concrete. The flat brown metal roof goes along with the 1980's stylings of the building. Stouffville Arena meets the needs of local hockey players and skaters nicely, and, although a modest building, has a bit of character to it. The Spirit have had a number of successful teams over the years, most recently winning the Buckland Cup as OJHL champs in 2012. A newer arena sits across town known as the Stouffville Clippers Sports Complex, but the team has found a home at this older venue. A large sign near the entrance to the building features the Spirit logo and declares that the arena is home of the Stouffville Spirit. The team frequently hosts home games on Thursday night, but this game was a Thursday afternoon game with a 1230 start as it was the Remembrance Day game and allowed for students from the nearby local schools to attend as a field trip to root on the Spirit. Like many other OJHL venues, Stouffville Arena's main function is to serve as a community center and arena for local residents, but it also has a decent seating capacity for the Junior A games, and the team has a good following of fans.
Once inside the main entrance to Stouffville Arena you find yourself in the main lower lobby area. There is a small pro shop on site and a single concession stand which serves as the food concession for the venue. On game day the Spirit set up a ticket table at the entrance to the rink itself, and tickets to the Spirit games are $10, which is inline with other arenas in the league. The lobby has a 1980's look with brick walls and a simple tile floor. Skylights in the roof of the lobby provide additional lighting, which could be clearly seen on this game as it was a mid-day game. A plaque to Stouffville native and former NHL'er Keith Acton is displayed in the lobby, and with this being a game geared for school students the lobby was a busy place filled with elementary aged kids before the game. The main arena is accessed through a metal door from the lobby, and features a single large grandstand on one side of the ice, and the benches and penalty boxes on the opposite side. The flat, low ceiling is held up by yellow metal rafters, and the pitch of the grandstand is rather steep for a building with such a low ceiling. Eleven rows of seating is comprised of blue metal benches attached to the large concrete grandstand structure. The end wall away from the lobby has lots of banner hanging, not only for the Spirit, but for local minor hockey teams as well. The near end of the arena features an enclosed seating section which is heated, and is has 2 rows of blue plastic chairs. A large mural which spells out "Stouffville" in red letters sits on the end wall above the enclosed seating section and below the upper meeting rooms which also overlook the ice. Sight lines from the grandstand are very good, and, unlike most community arenas in Ontario, there is not netting in front of the seating area. A single scoreboard sits on the end wall above one of the goals. The arena is well kept and looks rather sharp with the bright blue benches on the grandstand. The arena looks to have a capacity of about 1000, but more fans could be crammed in with standees along the boards and far end. Stouffville Arena has the feel of a classic 1980's arena, and is the type of place you picture small town junior hockey being played at.
The game day atmosphere at Stouffville Arena for a Stouffville Spirit game is laid back and fun, but still centered on the hockey itself. With this being an early afternoon game, and with a crowd made up largely of students the vibe was likely a bit different than the usual evening crowds. The young fans in attendance were very vocal, and also very focused on the game rather than the constant concession stand trips which you often see from similar school day games at other venues. With the game being held near the Remembrance Day Holiday, a Canadian Forces color guard was on hand for the anthem before. The "Go, Spirit,Go" chant could be heard quite often at this game as the fans cheered on their team against the Lindsay Muskies. The arena itself has a utilitarian feel to it, but also has quite a bit of charm, from the large Stouffville mural on the end wall which can be easily seen, to the lower enclosed seating section which has trophy cases and artifacts from the town's hockey past. On display in this area were also some old fashioned photographs of the Stouffville Clippers senior teams from the 1940's and 1950's, and it is always nice to see an arena pay tribute to the area's hockey history. There was no merchandise table or Spirit items for sale, although merchandise selection at other OJHL venues is often somewhat limited as well. The game presentation did feature some opportunities for fan participation in the game as there was a chuck-a-puck contest at intermission as well as a fan of the game giveaway which found one fan coming away with a free pizza. The game was quite entertaining and the fans enjoyed the action as the Spirit claims a 3-2 victory over the Muskies. With the abundance of hockey options from which fans can choose within an hour of Toronto, Stouffville may get lost in the shuffle a bit, but a trip to Stouffville Arena to take in a Spirit game will provide a fun location to view hockey in an atmosphere that is a bit of a throwback to arenas one would have found a few decades ago. The area seems to have a lot of support for the Spirit, and the arena is a solid place to house a Junior A team, and is a place that also pays tribute to the local hockey successes that have come before the Spirit.
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A hockey fan's guide to college, pro, and junior hockey arena reviews. All photos and text copyright Andy Ritter 2007-2017