One hockey fan's journey to the arenas of North America
Pyramid Recreation Centre - Home of the St. Marys Lincolns
November 3, 2019 - St. Marys, Ontario
St. Marys, Ontario is a small town which is home of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. The town has also been home to the junior hockey teams known as the Lincolns since the 1950's. The team name was derived from the car that was raffled off the help raise funds to get the team started. St. Marys has been home of the Lincolns ever since, and fan support is strong for this GOJHL club with the team attracting much support from fans in attendance and sponsors in the community. Pyramid Recreation Centre opened in 1977 as a single pad facility, but was later expanded to house a second ice pad, as well as a swimming pool and other facilities. The Lincolns play their games in the original arena, now known as the Rock Arena, in a retro looking space that has a seating capacity of 1400 plus room for standees. The exterior of the building features brick walls, a flat roof line, and green trim. The sprawling complex has a couple of entrances, with the main entrance being near the pool and featuring a large glass facade. The facility is located next to the town school, and the entire community has a small town feel. Lincolns hockey is a tradition here, as is the minor hockey organization, with teams going by the name the St. Marys Rock. The Lincolns are the second oldest Junior B team in Ontario, behind only the Waterloo Siskins, but success on the ice has been limited in recent decades, with their last league title in 1994. Nonetheless, the Lincolns are clearly a huge part of local culture and help bring pride to their community. Pyramid Recreation Centre, although essentially a simple community arena, is clearly well maintained and well loved by local residents.
Pyramid Recreation Centre was a busy place before this Sunday afternoon contest against the St. Thomas Stars, with many families on hand to enjoy the aquatics facility and young players competing in minor hockey on Sunday morning. Tickets for Lincolns games are $10, and can be purchased from the ticket table set up in the lobby. A very well stocked merchandise table also sits in the lobby, and there is quite a bit of green and red Lincolns signage through the common areas of the arena, leaving little doubt whose home this is. After purchasing tickets fan can head up a stairway to the top of the main grandstand, or head across the lobby past the concession stand to an ice level entrance to the smaller grandstand on the far side of the ice. The main grandstand is a steeply pitched concrete slab with wooden benches that just give off a great old school vibe. Sight lines are good, despite there being netting in front of the entire grandstand. There is a standing rail above the grandstand, and the seating is comprised of 8 rows wooden bleachers on the end sections, and 8 rows of blue plastic chairback seats in the center ice sections. The flat ceiling features orange metal rafters, and the interior walls are a rather drab pale yellow cinder block with some brick accents near the top. The team benches are situated on the far side of the ice, away from the main grandstand, and there is 3 rows of the same type of wooden bench seating on that side of the ice. A single scoreclock sits at one end of the arena, and there is a bar, known as the SML Lounge, for the initials of St. Marys Lincolns, which has enclosed seating overlooking the ice. The main grandstand has the front row elevated about 5 feet above ice level, and the far side seating is down at ice level itself. The arena is kept tidy, and reeks of history, as old banners hang on the walls celebrating past team success, and the place just feels like the proper type of venue that you should watch Junior B hockey at. In keeping with the old school vibe the ice surface is smaller than regulation, with a dimension of 190'x85', making for tight confines and a physical game. Pyramid Recreation Centre is certainly nothing fancy, but it has the intangible trait of character, and a simple feeling of tradition that makes experiencing a game here feel not much different than in the late 1970's when the arena opened.
The game day presentation at Pyramid Recreation Centre for a Lincolns game is simple, but keeps the fans involved. Announcements and music are presented over a PA system that is very echoey, and the presentation is largely focused on the on-ice action. Unlike many GOJHL clubs, the team does have a mascot, a lynx, named Linc, which is a witty play on the team name. The team colors are evident throughout the arena, and a good crowd was on hand to support the hometown team, with many fans in attendance bringing noisemakers and even an air horn. Despite this being a community arena in a small town the experience feels big time, and is a throwback to decades ago when hockey was simpler, and the game was more physical. There is no activity at intermission, other than the resurfacing of the ice, and the crowd seems to all enjoy socializing with one another during intermission. The arena itself does a great job preserving the history of local hockey, and a nicely done photo mural sits in the small upper lobby near the bar entrance that pays tribute to the town's old arena as well as St. Marys teams of the past. The renovations over the years also seem to have been done in a unified way so that even though one section of the complex is much older than another, it all feel like it has the same design and style. The game was an entertaining one, with the Lincolns very loud goal horn sounding 7 times as they took a 7-3 win. With steep seating and great sight lines, and a sense of history throughout the building this simple arena stacks up nicely from a fan experience standpoint against many of the other newer, and more amenity filled arenas in Ontario. The crowd here also seems louder and much less reserved than in other places across the province, while still being extremely knowledgeable. St. Marys may be a bit off the beaten path, but enjoying some old fashioned hockey in this character filled arena is a truly enjoyable experience.