Owen Sound's New Arena Opened in 1938

Owen Sound's New Arena in 1938 opened a new era in Grey and Bruce counties with the first artificial ice making machine in western Ontario north of Kitchener.

In the late afternoon of Friday, October 21, 1938 Owen Sound’s main street was mobbed with people lined up outside Parker's Drug Store. A curious passerby might think that the store was having the sale of the century. And indeed, it was a sale that the whole community had been waiting for! At 5:00 pm Parkers would start selling tickets to the grand opening of Owen Sound’s new arena. It was not long before all 3,000 tickets had been sold.

Why the excitement about the new arena? Traditionally hockey teams in this area had been forced to start their season once winter had set in and the temperatures reached a consistent level to maintain ice in the arenas. The new arena was outfitted with the first artificial ice plant in western Ontario north of Kitchener. No longer would local teams be forced to travel great distances to practice or play early season games. Consequently, communities from Collingwood to Walkerton were excited about the new Owen Sound arena.

In order to build the arena, the community had worked tirelessly. A plebiscite was held to achieve the support of the citizens in Owen Sound in order that public funds could be used to build and maintain the arena. The electorate voted almost two to one in favour of the proposal. The provincial government was lobbied not only by representatives from Owen Sound but from many area communities to get the necessary legislation allowing the city to run its own arena.

Opening night was Wednesday, October 26. It was raining but that did not dampen the spirits of those going to the gala. Three thousand dignitaries and fans crammed the building eager to see the state-of-the-art facility. Interest was so keen that a reporter for the Sun Times witnessed something which had not been seen in this community in a long time, if ever. Tickets for the event were being sold by scalpers! The reporter wrote that he overheard a young boy tell his friends that he had sold a pair of tickets for a $1.00!

The festivities went off without a hitch. After the speeches and presentations figure skaters from Toronto and Kitchener entertained the audience. There was a barrel jumping exhibition and races were held. Fred Pitchford won the 1/4 mile race; Cliff Graham outskated the competition in the ½ mile event; John Guidi of Ryerson Public School outdistanced the field in the boys under 14 race and in the under 12 race it was a youngster named Harry Lumley who captured first prize! The evening concluded with a 20 minute exhibition game between the Intermediate Trappers and the Junior Greys.   

Two nights later on Friday, October 28 hockey fans in the area received another treat. The new arena played host to the Toronto Maple Leafs and their number one farm club the Syracuse Stars. The game was probably the first professional hockey game ever seen by many hockey fans in the Grey and Bruce area.

Interest in the game was heightened by the fact that two Owen Sounders were playing. Former Greys, Norm Locking and Jack Markle were members of the Syracuse Stars and the Maple Leafs respectively. To honour these local players who had achieved the pinnacle of professional hockey success the city presented each of them with silver trays before the start of the game.

Adding to the local flavour of the game, two more former players from the community, Hap Day of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Teddy Graham of the Chicago Black Hawks, served as referees.

Teddy GrahamTeddy Graham 1931-32 Chicago Black Hawks

The completion of the new arena had everyone, not only in Owen Sound, but throughout the region excited about the prospects for the sport of hockey in the area.

NB The game between Syracuse and the Maple Leafs also marked another first for sports in the region. Foster Hewitt broadcast the game live from the press box. The legendary Hewitt was impressed by the new arena, calling it “one of the outstanding rinks in Ontario”.

A version of this article first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times.

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About Owen Sound Hockey History

Benny Grant: Memorial Cup Champ grew up in Owen Sound and enjoyed a hockey career, which included a surprising turn of events that led to a stint in the NHL.

"Buck" Jones, like most Canadian boys, dreamed of playing in the NHL. Little did he realize that one day he would wear the sweater of an NHL club and would be the idol of youngsters like himself!

Owen Sound Hockey Heritage stretches from rural farmhouses on Saturday night to backyard rinks to cheering for local hockey successes and hockey heroes.

Ralph "Cooney" Weiland skated from a Memorial Cup championship in Owen Sound, to a Stanley Cup in Boston to fame as a U.S. college hockey coach.

Doug Brindley: From Maple Draft Choice to a role in Slap Shot: a Memorial Cup champ; coached by Don Cherry; and he played in the WHA; what more could a Walkerton Ontario native ask for in a hockey career?

Goalie "Red" Henry: An All-Star Netminder: Another great Owen Sound goalie who played for the love of the game.

"Hap" Day was a Hall of Fame hockey player, coach and general manager as well as a life-long Toronto Maple Leaf.

Harry Lumley spent his Hall of Fame hockey career tending the nets for four NHL clubs and he spent one period of a hockey game goaltending for a fifth NHL team.

Henry Kelso: Owen Sound Sports Legend not only contributed to the sporting life of his students, he also had a significant influence on the rest of their lives.

The 1959-60 Owen Sound Greys: A Tough Act to Follow: Tragedy struck this hockey team of young men, yet they persevered.

Newspaper Sports: Owen Sound Hockey History was detailed in the pages of the Owen Sound Sun Times in detail in the days before the radio and television eras.

Owen Sound Goalies: Why does Owen Sound produce so many fine goaltenders? There must be something in the water! 

Owen Sound Platers: Ray McKelvie the quiet and knowledgeable leader behind the success of the 1999 hockey team.

Junior Hockey Commentary: Should there be controversy about the use of non-local hockey players? This article was written in 1998 in response to a letter to the editor in the Owen Sound Sun Times

Pat McReavy enjoyed a long hockey career which brought him three championships, the Stanley Cup, the Allan Cup and a World Hockey Title.

Owen Sound Junior Hockey History began almost one hundred and twenty years ago and is rich with championship teams, great players, and dedicated fans. 

Owen Sound's New Arena in 1938 opened a new era in Grey and Bruce counties with the first artificial ice making machine in western Ontario north of Kitchener.

"Red" Armstrong, a fiery spirited hockey player, known more for his fierce checking than his scoring prowess surprised even himself on his first NHL shift.

Some Great Owen Sound Greys. The history of this hockey team is a story of players who were not only local boys, but came from many locations to hone their skills.

Tommy Burlington: the Greatest North American Never to Play in the NHL captured scoring titles in every league that he played, bringing comparisons to NHL greats.

Owen Sound Hockey History is rich with stories of championship teams, star hockey players, and community support.

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