One hockey fan's journey to the arenas of North America
Lambeth Arena - Home of the Lambeth Lancers
December 17, 2017 - London, Ontario
Through the course of our travels and having seen junior hockey at over 100 different arenas we have seen venues of all shapes and sizes, from large to small. When it comes to watching Lambeth Lancers hockey the best way to describe the arena is "tiny". Located on the southwest edge of London in the working class village of Lambeth, Lambeth Arena sits in a residential area and is attached to the town community centre and library. The steeply pitched roof of the building comes down the sides of the arena to form the walls, and a modern looking entryway and lobby sits at the corner of the building. This community arena opened in 1968, and saw renovations take place in 2006 to upgrade the look and interior of the building. Make no mistake about it though, Lambeth Arena is a small arena used primarily as a community rink. The dark colored shingled roof meets some metal paneling at the bottom of the roof, and the pitch of the roof gives the outline of the building one similar to a barn. The end wall and eave of the building is visible on the end over the squarish lobby area, and the entryway features lots of dark glass, which goes nicely with the red and gray brick on the lobby area walls. Despite the small size of the arena and the crowded junior hockey scene in the London area, the Lancers have had a fair amount of success over the years and are one of the mainstay clubs on the Junior C circuit and have been playing since the mid-1980's. Arenas such as this dot the landscape across Canada, and are increasingly being replaced with modern, although much more sterile and generic, buildings. Sunday night is hockey night in Lambeth, and the Lancers play at home nearly every Sunday night throughout the season. The building has a small footprint, and looks small from the outside, although the high arching roof adds some character and charm and a sense of grandeur. Although somewhat lacking in creature comforts, Lambeth Arena is a fun place to watch a game and is a throwback to the arenas of yesteryear.
Fans entering Lambeth Arena on game night will find themselves in the main lobby, which features a ticket and 50/50 table set up by Lancers staff members. Tickets for the games are $8. The lobby also contains a trophy case with wares from the Lancers and area minor hockey teams, as well as some plaques and other displays paying tribute to the Lancers. The ice surface is in plain sight from the lobby, and can be seen from the stools and ledge set up at ice level on the end of the rink to allow fans to watch from the lobby. A Lancers Wall of Champions also sits in the modern lobby, as does the food concession stand. The lobby features a green rubber floor with a Lancers logo built into the design. Fans choosing to watch from the main seating area will enter through a doorway into the arena itself and will find the smallest seating area of any arena we have ever attended. The seating at Lambeth Arena is comprised of 2 rows of blue plastic bleachers affixed to a concrete base. A blue plastic upper standing rail sits above the modest number of seats, and fans can choose their seat either by walking in front of the seating at ice level, or via the narrow aisle which runs behind the stands. Overall building capacity is listed as 594 per a sign in the lobby, but there appears to be seating for less than 200 fans, as aside from the 2 rows of benches there is also a small number of seats overlooking the ice in the lobby. That is it. The seats are all very close to the action however, and even from the standing vantage point above the stands you will be looking through the glass to see the action and be no more than 10 feet from the ice. Netting covers the entire seating area as well, making for a somewhat cramped feel to the seating area. Once you get over the small amount of seats and look around a bit you will find an amazing wooden structure which holds up the arena through thick wooden trusses and a glorious wooden plank ceiling that is unfortunately hidden by silver insulation panels. The walls to the arena are made of pale blue cinder blocks, and a single scoreclock sits on the end wall opposite the lobby. We love the older arenas with the vaulted wooden ceilings, and this is a great example of one of those arenas of the 1960's era, although if the wooden ceiling were exposed it would look like an entirely different, and more appealing building. The team benches and penalty boxes are on the opposite side of the ice from the modest grandstand, and there are lots of banners hanging in the arena honoring the Lancers, as well as local minor hockey and box lacrosse teams. Lambeth Arena has the bones of a classic wooden arena, along with some modern upgrades in the lobby and entryway. It is however a very small capacity building to house junior hockey, and we imagine the place is packed and overflowing for playoff games.
The game day presentation at Lambeth Arena for a Lancers game is about as low key as it can get. The PA plays loud and clear music, but PA announcements are muffled to the point of being nearly inaudible. Pregame ceremonies get right to the point as starting lineup announcements are skipped in favor of getting right to "O Canada". At intermission there is no on-ice activity and everyone congregates in the lobby to warm up a bit. Fans do get a sense of being right on top of the action here, and the close quarters viewing makes for a unique experience. With 7:30 start times on Sunday evenings for nearly all of their games the Lancers have a bit of an older following and not many kids are on hand at the games. This contest against nearby rival the Mount Brydges Bulldogs did not disappoint from an entertainment standpoint as the Bulldogs were winning 4-2 with 10 minutes left and a furious comeback effort found the Lancers claiming a 5-4 win when the game was all said and done. There really isn't much of a fan atmosphere here, at least for this regular season game, as the crowd in very subdued and rather quiet, but is certainly knowledgeable and supportive of their hometown team. With the small grandstand area being about half full and a lot of folks watching from the lobby the announced attendance for this game was still less than 100 fans. The sight lines are not the great, but the tradeoff is that you are very close to the ice and can see and hear nearly every interaction between the players. There is a bit of a sense of history here with the banners and displays honoring past Lancers, and the architecture is certainly interesting. We'd love to attend a game here when the place was full of fans as we would expect the atmosphere under those circumstances to be electric. Lambeth Arena will likely continue to serve as a modest community arena meeting the needs of local skaters and hockey players. Hopefully the tradition of having quality hockey in such close confines will continue here, and that the Lancers can continue to bring local hockey fans a throwback experience at Lambeth Arena.