April 2, 2011 - Owen Sound, Ontario
I don't know what it is about small market towns that gets me so hyped up, but a hockey trip to Owen Sound is certainly worth the drive. Its 22,000 residents and location along the banks of the Georgian Bay make this a fun setting for hockey. An unlikely playoff matchup of the small town Attack against the hated, big budget London Knights had all the makings of a remarkable game. Instead it, along with the Attack's entire playoff performance this year, became an event. The streets of Owen Sound were lined with signs declaring "Go Attack Go" at almost every business, and the fans in this town certainly love their team. I had called from the previous night's game I attended in Kitchener and was advised that only standing room seats were left, so I took the gamble, left early, and arrived in town an hour or so before the box office opened again at 2pm, and was able to snag a standing room ticket for $17.75. The Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre sits on the edge of downtown near the bay, and is approaching 30 years of age, having been built in 1983. There are large parking lots to the front and rear, and a park-like area near the shore, with a walking path along the bay. The front of the building has a cement and glass facade, with blue metal accents in the top corners.
The building is well kept, and the lower level houses a box office area and team store, which surprisingly was out of just about everything during this first round playoff matchup. Those that don't follow the OHL may not know that the Attack went on to win the OHL Championship and play in the Memorial Cup, so I am hoping they restocked everything, otherwise they clearly missed out on some sales. The hallway on the lower level which faces the bay also houses the Owen Sound Sports Hall of Fame, and it is nicely done, paying tribute to past area teams and athletes. Owen Sound is also quite a lacrosse town as well as being fond of hockey. The hallway also houses a concession stand and restrooms used during the game. The arena itself is also referred to as JD MacArthur Arena, but that designation is not listed many places, although is written on the ice itself. Most folks just call the building "the Bayshore", and the building now pays tribute to Harry Lumley, the former Hall of Fame goalie and Owen Sound native. The main access to the seating area is off of the main, glass walled lobby, with stairways leading up from the box office area and ending up on the main concourse which runs above the seating bowl. Once on the concourse you realize this place is small, and has such a low ceiling that it feels even smaller than the 2983 seater that it is. Red plastic seats circle the ice everywhere except where the zamboni door is in one corner. There are luxury suites seemingly suspended over the ice on one side, and the concessions and concourse get very crowded, or at least they did on this night, when there was 3607 fans crammed into the joint including standing room. They even brought in a couple 5 row bleachers to set up in one corner where folks could stand. Gotta love when a barn is full. There is standing room on one end and in the corners and along 1 side where the pressbox is. The luxury suites on the other side take away the view of the ice from the concourse, with the walkway now running behind the suites. The concourse has blue concrete walls, and is wide in some spots, and narrow in others. Trying to navigate around the arena at intermission is certainly a chore. The place was packed however, with fans standing 2 deep in many spots. The large crowd, coupled with the low ceiling and seemingly disproportionately large gray steel support pillars make this place feel very crowded and small. That is not a bad thing though as it adds to the atmosphere.
Although things are probably not as electric inside the Bayshore for a regular season game, the atmsophere here is all hockey. From the tiny scoreboard which is still barely above the ice, to the old school pressbox which litterally looks like a blue box hanging over the seats, this place is old school. There are songs at intermission and some advertisements, but the game is clearly the focus, and the fans, although somewhat subdued for being packed in like sardines, were certainly vocal at the right times, and very supportive of the Attack. Save the giant bear head that the team skates through during intros the game presentation could be from 20 years ago in its styling, and that is a good thing. Playoff hockey is always intense, and a scoreless first period of this game 5 of the opening playoff series kept the fans on edge. The Attack blew it open in the second though, and it was party time in Owen Sound from there as they outshot the Knights 44 to 14, and took the win 6-0. The hometown fans were excited, and they all seemed very friendly and willing to discuss their team or hockey in general. I can only imagine how crazy things got as the Attack advanced in the playoffs and untimately won the chamionship. Who would think an out of the way place like Owen Sound could achieve such a thing, doing so by knocking of teams from the giant cities of London, 2 time defending Memorial Cup champs Windsor, and Mississauga? Well the Attack fans believed and were rewarded. A packed house in a small barn to watch skilled hockey is always the recipe for a good time. Add those factors into a beautiful, scenic small town and you are almost guaranteed to have fun at the Bayshore.
Other information about the Owen Sound Attack is available at: Attack Home
Other information about the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre is available at: Arena Home
More photos of the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre are available Here