January 21, 2018 - Napanee, Ontario
Greater Napanee, a community about 20 minutes west of Kingston, is a town of about 15,000 residents with a tradition of junior hockey dating back to the 1960's. It is also known to motorists passing through on the 401 Freeway as the hometown of pop star Avril Lavigne, thanks to highway sings that tout their pride in their famous local resident. Strathcona Paper Centre opened in 2004, a couple hundred yards from the 401, and has not only served as a community arena, but has been home of the Napanee Raiders since opening. This twin pad facility has an industrial look and is situated along a strip of shopping and restaurants that seems to be expanding around the arena. The low-rise blue metal building looks large from the exterior, and a gray brick and glass lobby sits in the middle of the building and serves as the main entrance to the facility. Signage facing the highway allows passersby to be aware of the arena, and the small sign above the entrance refers to the building as the Greater Napanee Community Centre. An additional raiser-letter sign sits on the blue upper facade of the bulding bearing the Strathcona Paper Centre name. A very large parking lot sits outside the arena, and grassy lawns are on both sides of the building. The appearance has a bit of a warehouse look, but this is certainly a solid venue for Junior C hockey. Napanee has had several teams over the years, and after a 3 year period without a junior franchise the Raiders have been a staple in the community since 1989. This venue also had a brush with the big time as World Junior Pre-Tournament action came to Napanee with a game between the national teams of the Czech Republic and Finland in preparation for the 2014 World Juniors. The arena complex is comprised of a pair of ice pads, with one pad known as the Cintas Rink serving as a smaller community rink, and the larger capacity Goodyear Rink hosting Raiders games, and being named after Goodyear Rubber Company, the largest employer in the area. The Raiders have built up a solid following, often playing on Sunday nights, and Strathcona Paper Centre is a modern and comfortable arena where fans can enjoy junior hockey.
Fans entering Strathcona Paper Centre on game night will find a Raiders ticket and merchandise table in the lobby. Tickets for this Sunday night game against Picton were $7. The lobby also features a snack bar concession stand with the usual arena fare, and a Greater Napanee Sports Hall of Fame wall outside the Goodyear Rink honoring local athletes. Additional trophy cases are in the lobby paying tribute to area teams, as well a a dedicated trophy case honoring Avril Lavigne, complete with platinum record awards and dresses she has worn on stage. The modern lobby has walls made of gray and brown cinder blocks. The Goodyear Rink features seating on both sides of the ice, with a large elevated grandstand containing 10 rows of navy blue plastic chair seats, and a smaller seating section on the other side of the ice with 3 rows of blue plastic seats at ice level. The large grandstand is accessed via a stairway at the center of the building or an elevator. A narrow concourse aisle runs above the seating and allows for standing room for patrons as well. The seating capacity is listed at 1000, but the arena looks, and feels larger than that. As the seating is the large grandstand is elevated there is no netting in front of the stands. A single scoreclock sits on the end wall above one net, and the sight lines from the main grandstand are quite good, although the near boards are a bit obstructed. Gray metal roof beams slope away from the grandstands. There is also lounge seating in one corner of the rink where fans can watch in comfort if they so choose. A large Goodyear sign sits above the team benches in full view of the large grandstand. The layout of the Strathcona Paper Centre's main rink is one that feels more like a big time event venue than a simple community arena. Raiders hockey is well supported in Napanee, and the community clearly takes pride in its team.
The game day atmosphere at Strathcona Paper Centre for a Napanee Raiders game is focused on the game, and rather laid back but professional. There is a chuck-a-puck contest at intermission, but otherwise fans are focused on the outcome of the game and supporting the Raiders. This matchup against nearby rival Picton saw a fair number of fans from Picton on hand as they were only a half hour away. Team benches are in full view of the large grandstand as they are across the ice on the side with the small stands. A crowd of a couple hundred fans spread out in the seating area and were the typical Ontario crowd of knowledgeable but quiet fans. Despite being a fairly new building Strathcona Paper Centre feels like home of the Raiders, and the Sports Hall of Fame wall demonstrates community pride. Quite a bit of Raiders signage in the lobby and arena displays the black and siilver colors of the Raiders. Junior C hockey is much about local pride and small town rivalries, but this arena has a big time feel to it. The game itself was entertaining and hard hitting and a joy to watch. Local fans left happy as the Raiders claimed a 6-2 win over the Pirates. The arena has an interesting history with the World Junior exhibition game taking place here. Although primarily a community arena for area minor hockey players and skaters, the Raiders provide entertainment and and a reason for community members to come together to support the team. With a rather utilitarian exterior design the large and comfortable seating capacity here is a pleasant surprise. Junior C hockey often flies under the radar, and area hockey fans can make the half hour drive to Kingston to watch the OHL if they so choose, but the Raiders, and Strathcona Paper Centre, have an important role to fill in the community of Napanee.