October 1, 2011 - Fort Erie, Ontario
An expensive car repair bill made me nix a planned multi-day rink roaming trip before the season kicked off in Elmira, but I was still jonesing for some hockey, so I decided a one night, 3 game trip to the Niagara region would do. I ended up just across the river from Buffalo, in Fort Erie, for some Saturday night Junior B action. The Fort Erie Leisureplex is a modern, multi-purpose building constructed in 1996. It has a sharp looking glass atrium style entryway, and houses 2 ice pads, meeting rooms, and other recreational facilities, including a skate park which is only a couple hundred feet outside of the main entrance. The arena the Meteors play in is named the Fort Erie Kinsmen Arena, but on all league and team press they are referred to as simply playing at the Leisureplex. The exterior of the rink itself is made up of tan and brown cinderblocks on its exterior, but has a noticeable blue roof. The entryway, with its glass facade and modern styling, looks more like the entrance to a mall than to a hockey arena. The walkway to the main entrance features ornate landscaping and a pond to walk by. In fact with the landscaping all around you can barely see the silhouette of the arena itself when approaching the main entrance.
Once inside there is a good sized pro shop off to the left of the entrance, and a spacious lobby with high columns leading up to a large green staircase. Atop the stairs is the box office, an arcade, a snackbar, and a restaurant style pub. Trophy cases also adorn the walls on the landing of the upper level, and the building is very neatly kept. Tickets for the Meteors games are a reasonable 8 bucks. Once inside the arena itself you are standing on the upper concourse, which circles the entire arena. The entire ice surface is surrounded with 6 rows of maroon plastic seats, and looks more suited for a college hockey, or even a minor league team. Capacity is listed at 1600 seats, but with standing along the rail I am sure it could hold well over 2200. The arena is modern, and bright, albeit basic. The temperature is kept very cold inside, and the small crowds the Meteors draw don't warm things up too much. Nonetheless this is a good place to watch a game, with good sight lines, comfortable seats, and a decently run game presentation. The Leisureplex has a couple of nicely done murals on the concourse of former players, including former Bruins undersized agitator Randy Burridge. The Fort Erie Sports Wall of Fame sits on the end wall above the concourse as well. The ceiling arches up to a decent height, but the rafters are kind of low, thus making the center ice score clock seem a little low. The scoreclock is also surrounded by netting. Another feature of the Leisureplex which you don't see too often is the zamboni door, which is an overhead type door where a section of boards in the corner was actually notched out and mounted on posts, and it slides directly up and down, instead of swinging open. Not a big deal, but it is cool to see different features like this which I have only encountered a couple times in my travels. I had a feeling watching the game that the ice was large, but learned later on that it is indeed an Olympic sized sheet, a negative in my books.
I fell in love with Junior B hockey after seeing a Elmira Sugar Kings playoff game last year in front of a packed house. I enjoy the style of play in the GOJHL, and like to catch some hockey off the beaten path once in a while. The Meteors have a historically bad team. That is no secret. They have produced NHL players including Randy Burridge and Jarrod Skalde, but Fort Erie has not had much to get excited about hockey wise for a long time. A small but typical crowd of a couple hundred turned out to watch the boys put up a solid effort against the Buffalo Blades, despite losing 6-3. Game was fun, and featured the hard hitting Junior B style, and had 3 fights. The fan experience would certainly be better with a larger crowd, but they do their best to make it fun. The PA system is loud and crystal clear. There are contests at intermission and give aways, and the program book is nicely done and informative for a couple bucks. If I lived in Fort Erie I would certainly attend most of the games, and the cool thing about the GOJHL, and the Golden Horseshoe Conference which is made up of the Niagara region teams, is that road games are easily attendable too. Hard nosed hockey at a good price is always fun. Seeing that hockey in a modern arena in Fort Erie is a pleasure. Invite some friends with you if you go to help fill the place up.
Other information about the Fort Erie Meteors is available at: Meteors Home
Other information about the Fort Erie Leisureplex is available at: Arena Home
More photos of the Fort Erie Leisureplex are available Here