November 14, 2015 - Moncton, New Brunswick
The Eastern New Brunswick city of Moncton, known as the "Hub City", has been home of the QMJHL's Wildcats for 2 decades now. The Moncton Coliseum opened in 1973, and sits on the grounds of an exposition and convention center in an industrial part of town. The Q came to Moncton around the time that the AHL moved out of the Maritimes, and this venue hosted a few AHL teams from the late 1970's until 1994. The arena is flanked by a very large parking lot, and looks small from the outside. The long, low, dreary looking brick building houses the arena and adjacent meeting rooms and convention halls. The building is built into a hill, so the profile from the ground is that of a low-rise warehouse style structure. A small bilingual sign indicates the name of the building, and, from the parking lot side, the dark brick and even darker metal siding below the roof line makes for a rather depressing looking exterior. Standing back a bit and looking at the arena from the end of the building you will find that the roof slopes up at a sharp angle, giving the facility a doorstop like shape. The back side of the arena is much taller than the front side, and the arena bowl itself sits below ground level. It is a rather unique setup, although the exterior is not much to look at. There is a bit of a lawn area at the edge of the building, and some tall trees on the grounds. The main entrance to the box office area is up a set of stairs from the parking lot to the lobby area. A lower bowl seat for this Saturday afternoon matchup against Cape Breton was secured for a reasonable $17. The lobby maintains the looks of a 1970's era building, and until you get inside it is hard to be impressed by the arena. A separate side entrance has a colorful lobby with Wildcats murals, brightly colored walls, and a decently stocked team store. The main feature of the Moncton Coliseum's exterior appearance is how low the building looks, and the roof line as barely one story tall and slopes upward from there. The dark appearance does bring a bit of a nostalgic feeling and harkens thoughts of rugged teams doing battle during harsh Maritime winters back a few decades ago. Your impression of the building should not be based on the exterior though, as once inside you find a unique, lively, and somewhat colorful building which seems perfect for the style of hockey so prevalent in the Q.
Once inside the arena from the main box office lobby you find yourself at the top of the lower seating bowl. The whole arena has aqua blue seats, and the lower bowl circles the ice and is made up of 14 rows of plastic seats. A concourse aisle runs behind the lower bowl seats and allows for standing along the rail. On the far side of the ice there is an upper level of seating, made up of a large grandstand which has 20 rows of older wooden seats in the same shade of blue. The roof over the ice is very low, and a video board hangs above center ice as well. Exposed blue metal rafters angle sharply upward as they get near the grandstand side, and if you are seated on the lower bowl opposite the large upper grandstand you cannot see many of the upper level seats on the other side. It is a quirky configuration, but we like quirky. The entire lower seating bowl is below ground level, thus explaining the low roofline as viewed from outside. Moncton Coliseum is a busy place on gameday, and the building's low ceiling seems to magnify the noise level as there seems to be a constant noise of fans talking and conversing in both French and English as Moncton is a bilingual city. The layout of the arena is old school, and devoid of luxury suites of fancy, club style seating sections. The lighting inside the arena is kept rather dim, and the concourse features quite a few old school features such as a standings board where fans can see where the Wildcats stack up against the competition. The concourse atop the lower bowl also runs behind the large upper level grandstand, and this is where you will find all of the concessions and washrooms at the arena. The wide hallway under the grandstand is colorfully adorned with murals in Wildcats colors, there are quite a few different food concession stands close together, but with all of the food in one area the hallway gets very crowded at intermission as anyone looking for a snack heads to the same part of the arena. There is a variety of food available including the usual staples, a full service Tim Hortons complete with donuts, and even a stand serving the Canadian delicacy known as tacos. The concourse walls also feature team photos from Wildcats clubs of years past, and the venue clearly pays tribute to its history. A nice touch is the end wall of the arena which features life-size backlit photos of all of the Wildcats who have gone on the play in the NHL, including goalie Corey Crawford and Brad Marchand. We had a thought that they would soon run out of space for NHLers on that wall as it was getting full (in fact some of the alumni photos from older days have already been transferred to a stairway), but the city of Moncton will be getting new downtown venue which is slated to open in 2018. You can feel the history in the building, and the Coliseum has played an important part in hockey history in the area, and even hosted the Memorial Cup in 2006. Sight lines are not bad, although it is odd not being able to see the upper seats on the far side of the ice if seated in the lower bowl. The seats do provide a good view of the action, and the design is different enough to catch your attention as a visiting fan. The capacity is listed at 6554 for hockey, and with a crowd of 3700 or so on hand for this Saturday afternoon game the building was full of energy and noise and featured a very attentive crowd. The dreary and modest exterior appearance of the Moncton Coliseum is largely offset by the quirky, colorful layout on the inside, and this is a building that provides a great atmosphere in which to enjoy a game.
The gameday experience and presentation at a Wildcats game at Moncton Coliseum is vibrant and fun, yet centered on the hockey. Lots of ancillary activities were going on in addition to the game, but they were focused on hockey as well. Members of the Moncton Sports Hall of Fame were on hand and were interviewed at intermission. The Wildcats wore their camouflage jerseys as this game was very close to Remembrance Day. There were contests and giveaways happening as well, and intermission featured peewee hockey. There was even an appearance by Paul D'Amato, who player Dr. Hook McCracken in the movie Slap Shot. The line for autographs at intermission was quite long as fans all over and in several generations have enjoyed this classic movie. Things were busy off the ice, but fans were there for the game. The presentation is truly bilingual, with the National Anthem being played entirely in French, and all announcements in both French and English. The Coliseum feels like most of the QMJHL arenas in Quebec from a presentation standpoint. Techno is the music genre of choice at a Wildcats game, and the fans really get into cheering, making noise, blowing air horns and carrying on. When the Wildcats score the lights are turned off for a couple seconds as the goal song is played. Fans got to experience the lights-out celebration quite a bit as the Wildcats scored 5 times, but ended up losing to the Screaming Eagles 7-5. The odd layout does cause a few inconveniences for fans, as the concession hallway gets very crowded with everyone converging on one spot, and the low ceiling makes for a muffled PA system in a few spots. Nonetheless Wildcats fans take their hockey seriously and support the team quite well. The fans are able to raise the energy level inside the building, and that can certainly be felt by those in attendance. It is hard to argue against he fact that the Moncton Coliseum in outdated in design, and is certainly one of the least visually appealing venues we have ever seen from the outside. The odd configuration, quirky seating design, and historical tributes throughout the building make this an arena worth attending. The vocal fans here make the experience at a Wildcats game fun and full of energy. We hope that the new venue in town will capture some of the interesting traits of the Coliseum, and package them in a building with a more appealing design.
A box score of the game can be found Here
Other information about the Moncton Wildcats can be found at: Wildcats Home
Other information about the Moncton Coliseum can be found at: Coliseum Home
More photos of the Moncton Coliseum can be found Here