September 14, 2014 - Princeville, Quebec
If you are a hockey fan looking for a game to attend somewhere in North America Princeville, Quebec would probably not be one of your first choices. This small town in the rolling hills 2 hours east of Montreal is not the kind of place that you end up unless you plan to go there. We hadn't even planned to attend a game here until we were in Drummondville a couple days before with time to kill and stumbled on this 1970's era barn as we were riding around. Centre Sportif Paul de la Sablonniere opened in 1975, and has a futuristic look to it, and seems like an unlikely home for a Junior A franchise. The Princeville Titan call this little band-box home, and have done so with much success, claiming a league championship in 2012. The arena sits on the edge of town next to a park and small fairground, and has a gravel parking lot. The exterior is made up of tan and brown metal siding, and the walls cantilever outward as they reach the top of the building. A block letter sign sits on the end of the facility, and a square lobby sits on the end of the building, with entry made through a modest set of double doors. This small town arena seems to fit perfectly with the peaceful setting of the area, and, although it is most likely not the first arena on your bucket list, is a simple, yet quirky, place to host some very entertaining hockey. It is the kind of arena you picture when you think of hockey across rural Canada, and is a hub of activity for the town of Princeville. Nicely done posters announcing upcoming games are stuck to the entry doors, and the Titan logo adorns the wall near the entrance. From the outside you can tell that this arena has the makings of an old school hockey experience.
Once inside the entrance you find yourself in a small, but functional, lobby, and the Titan have a ticket table set up with free lineup sheets available. A $12 ticket allowed for general admission to this game against the Saint Hyacinthe Laureats. There is a snack bar to the left which also features about 8 tables to sit at. Once you enter the arena itself you realize that the confines are tight. Just about every square foot of the arena space is used for seating, a pressbox, or the ice itself. The seating is made up of 3 rows of colorful wooden seat goodness, with seats running down both sides of the arena. A small pressbox is perched over the narrow concourse which runs above the seats. From the concourse you can see the inside of the slanted walls, which tilt inward from the ceiling. There is a section of bar seating on one side from the blueline to the end wall, and that area features a glassed-in area which overlooks the ice. Sight lines are not great from the front rows, but no seat in the building is more than 12 feet from the ice surface, providing about as intimate an atmosphere as you can imagine to watch hockey. The wooden seats and small confines along with low glass add to the effect of being on top of the action. It would almost feel right for the arena to have chain link instead of glass above the boards. Center ice features the Titan logo, which is the same as the QMJHL's Acadie-Bathurst Titan's. A simple scoreboard sits on the wall on one end. As with the rest of Quebec the benches are on opposing sides. The throwback nature of the arena continues with a plexiglass roof over the visitors penalty box. We haven't seen a listing for the capacity of Centre Sportif Paul de la Sablonniere, but would guess it to be around 1,000. The arena is neither modern, nor fancy, but is full of so much character that it is an amazing place to watch a game.
The gameday presentation at a Princeville Titan game can be described in 1 word - LOUD. The PA blasts music which may not be loud in a 4,000 seat arena, but is at a very high volume for this tiny barn. The fans are loud. The goal horn is especially loud, and is rather unique. The goal horn set up features 10 tractor trailer horns plumbed together and sits on the concourse in the corner of the arena. As you can imagine this set up is loud, and sounds incredibly cool as it shakes the building. With fans being so close to the ice even the carve of a skate and the sound of the puck circling the dasher is loud. There is not a whole lot of pomp and circumstance at a Titan game, and intermission is void of any activity at all, except for the zamboni resurfacing the ice. Fans head to the lobby to grab a snack and warm up, or to the bar area on the other end to do the same in between periods. Fans in the stands have airhorns and noisemakers of their own, and although there are not really any organized chants they got into the action for this Sunday afternoon contest. The game featured lots of physical play, some intense hockey, and a 6-1 victory for the Titan. Fast-paced hockey played only a dozen feet from a person standing above the top row of seats is truly a treat to experience. We're sure that the Princeville Titan and Centre Sportif Paul de la Sablonniere will continue to fly below the mainstream hockey radar, but catching a game here is a fun and unique hockey experience. What was thought of as modern and state of the art in the 1970's may seem dated to many today, but having a chance to relive a bit of the style of arena that has made hockey a Canadian tradition is something not miss.
A box score of the game can be found Here
Other information about the Princeville Titan can be found at: Titan Home
Other information about Centre Sportif Paul de la Sablonniere can be found at: Arena Home
More photos of Centre Sportif Paul de la Sablonniere can be found Here