December 20, 2019 - Dunnville, Ontario
Junior hockey has been a tradition in the small town of Dunnville since 1974 when the Dunnville Terriers were born. Now celebrating their 45th anniversary which was recognized by signage in the modern Dunnville Memorial Arena, the team had undergone a name change to the Jr. Mudcats in 2010. The colorful catfish logo pays tribute to the town's history as a mudcat statue sits in the town, and a Senior B team known as the Mudcats played in Dunnville in days past. The Dunnville Memorial Arena opened in 2011, and is a simple, yet modern single pad facility that is the perfect size venue for Junior C hockey. A brick and brown metal facade marks the main entrance to the arena, and the white cinder block walls of the arena have the same brown metal siding on the top of the exterior. The exterior design also features a flat roof and a large area of rectangular windows marking the front entrance. This Friday night contest against the Dundas Blues featured a decent crowd for a game so close to Christmas, and tickets were a reasonable $7. The PJHL is full of small market teams who play against regional rivals, giving the league and its teams short road trips to nearby opponents. The Mudcats theme is a cool one, and the team's logo is one of the best in low level junior hockey in Canada. The Jr. Mudcats have built a tradition here in Dunnville, and the team boasts some successful alumni, including the late Ray Emery who reached NHL notoriety with his goaltending and fighting ability.
Fans entering Dunnville Memorial Arena on game night will approach the lower lobby, where a Jr. Mudcats ticket table is set up next to a merchandise and chuck-a-puck table. The lobby features an open floor plan with a concession stand off to the left and some table seating which allows for a view of the rink from the end of the ice through large windows. In the corner of the lobby is a trophy case displaying some hardware from the team's past success, and an old school standings board featuring a white board with handwritten standings from the PJHL's Bloomfield Division, which adds a nice touch and gives a nostalgic feel to the arena. Fans looking to sit in the grandstand head up a flight of stair to the upper lobby, where a Dunnville Sports Wall of Fame is displayed. Access to the grandstand is via the upper concourse, which doubles as a running track at this multi-purpose facility. Seating is on one side of the ice, with 10 rows of wooden benches affixed to the concrete structure of the grandstand. The center section of seating is comprised of maroon plastic chairback seats, and the view from the grandstand is good, as the netting does not cover the seating area. A bar area sits on the end upper lobby and some fans choose to watch the action from there while enjoying a beverage. A large and bright Jr. Mudcats logo sits at center ice, and there is a single scoreclock on one end of the ice. Interior walls of the facility are tan and gray, and the arena has a basic industrial look but is kept spotless and still looks nearly new. In keeping with the exterior design, the flat ceiling features brown metal beams in plain view. Dunnville Memorial Arena is primarily a community arena, rather than a large event venue, but it does have features such as good sight lines and a modern appearance that make it an enjoyable place for spectators.
The game day presentation at Dunnville Memorial Arena for a Jr. Mudcats game is laid back and basic. Music is played at intermission but not during stoppages, and announcements are kept to a minimum. Fans do get to participate in a chuck-a-puck contest at intermission, but the atmosphere her is very reserved, and typical of what you would find in most other junior hockey venues in Ontario. A decent crowd of 200-300 was on hand for this final game before the Christmas break, and fans are supportive of their team, but not overly vocal or raucous. The arena provides some elements, such as the Mudcats logo and signage and banner hanging above the team benches, that make this place feel like home for the Jr. Mudcats and that provides a sense of tradition here. Fans spread out between the seating areas in the grandstand and the bar and many choose to stand along the standing rail on the upper concourse and along the track. The goal horn here is very loud, and it sounded 5 times in what was one of the more entertaining games we would see all year, as the teams skated to a 5-5 tie after regulation, and then a 7 minute 3 on 3 overtime period. Dunnville is the type of town that junior hockey belongs in, and this quiet community supports the Jr. Mudcats well. With the interesting importance in town history of the catfish and the sharp looking logo of the team, as well as the homey feel of the crowd at the arena, catching a Jr. Mudcats game at Dunnville Memorial Arena is a throwback type of experience that one can imagine having in the 1970's, complete with the handwritten standings board in the lobby and the team banners hanging in the arena.