Former Arenas of the Western Hockey League
This is by no means a complete directory or listing, it's just a photo gallery of the various former WHL arenas that I've happened to see in my travels around this great country, along with brief descriptions/explanations.
Former Home of the Billings Bighorns
Originally the Yellowstone METRA (for Montana's Entertainment, Trade and Recreation Arena), the MetraPark Arena was built in 1975 on Billings' fairgrounds. Two years later, the original Calgary WHL franchise uprooted from Alberta and moved in. The team lasted five seasons in Montana, and produced such NHLers as Dave Barr and Andy Moog. They moved to Nanaimo in 1982, and today are the Tri-City Americans. The arena was recently renamed the Rimrock Auto Arena and is still open for concerts, indoor football, and other usual arena events.
Former Home of the Calgary Centennials and Wranglers
The Stampede Corral was built in 1950 on the grounds of the Calgary Stampede as the main arena for the city of Calgary. It was used by a variety of Calgary teams over the years, including the WHL's Centennials and Wranglers. The NHL's Flames also played in the building between their move to Alberta in 1980 and the construction of the new Olympic Saddledome, built a stone's throw away in 1983. The Corral is still open today and is used for a variety of functions, including the annual Stampede. The Corral was also used in the 1988 Winter Olympics as a secondary venue for hockey and figure skating. This picture is by Chuck Szmurlo and is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
Estevan Civic Auditorium
Former Home of the Estevan Bruins
The Estevan Bruins were one of the founding members of the WHL in 1967 and had had a tremendous amount of success previously in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. However, even in the late 1960's and early 1970's, the town was a little too small to be economically viable in a league encompassing the whole of the WHL, and so in 1971 a deal was worked out where the WHL Bruins moved to New Westminster, British Columbia, becoming the legendary New Westminster Bruins. A new team was then re-created in the SJHL in Estevan, also called the Bruins, who affiliated with the New Westminster team. The Civic Auditorium today is still home to the SJHL Bruins.
Kamloops Memorial Arena
Kamloops, British Columbia
Former Home of the Kamloops Blazers
The tiny Kamloops Memorial Arena was built in 1948 and was home to various Kamloops teams from then onwards, including the Kamloops Chiefs from 1973-77 and the Blazers from 1981 to 1992. The arena is still open and hosting hockey today.
Kelowna Memorial Arena
Kelowna, British Columbia
Former Home of the Kelowna Rockets
Kelowna Memorial Arena is a bandbox that was used as a temporary home for the Rockets from 1995-99 (while their new arena was under construction) as well as the short-lived Kelowna Wings from 1982-85. The rink only holds 2,600 including standees, and has a 180' X 80' ice surface comparable to the St Mike's College Arena which was formerly home to the OHL.
Cranbrook Memorial Centre
Cranbrook, British Columbia
Former Home of the Kootenay Ice
The Edmonton Ice had such a rough go of it in the Alberta capital that when they cut their losses and left after the 1997-98 season, a fifty-year-old, 1,704 seat barn in southeastern BC seemed a good option by comparison. The Memorial Centre was home to the Ice for two seasons while the RecPlex was under construction, at which point it went back to being a community barn.
Frank Crane Arena
Nanaimo, British Columbia
Former Home of the Nanaimo Islanders
Published under a Creative Commons License.
While Vancouver Island was home to the WHL for over two decades with the presence of the Victoria Cougars, the smaller logging town of Nanaimo only hosted the WHL once, and for one brief year, 1982-83. The team, originally located in Calgary, was relocated to Nanaimo from the equally unlikely city of Billings, Montana, and left to become the second, less successful incarnation of the New Westminster Bruins. They are today the Tri-City Americans. Frank Crane Arena was built in 1975 as a compliment to the previous Nanaimo Civic Arena, and is today home to the BCHL's Nanaimo Clippers.
Queen's Park Arena
New Westminster, British Columbia
Former Home of the New Westminster Bruins
Queen's Park Arena is one of the oldest remaining hockey arenas in Western Canada, yet I'm told it's still full of life inside, having been recently renovated. It hosted the legendary New Westminster Bruins teams of the 1970's that won four consecutive WHL titles, as well as the not quite as legendary second generation Bruins, which won nothing. It's today home to the minor hockey and lacrosse.
Prince George Coliseum
Prince George, British Columbia
Former Home of the Prince George Cougars
The Prince George Coliseum, built in 1958 and seating about 1,800, was never intended to be a WHL rink. The city began building the CN Centre as soon as word came round that the Victoria Cougars were looking to move to Northern BC, and the Coliseum was only used as a stopgap during the team's first season there, 1994-95. The gigantic roof trusses visible in the outside shot are there to hold up the roof - the original roof caved in in 1964, and renovations "spruced" up the then six-year-old building to make it safe. The Coliseum is still home to the city's BCHL team, the Spruce Kings.
Former Home of the Seattle Thunderbirds
Mercer Arena is a part of the Seattle Center complex that also includes the Thunderbirds' current home, the KeyArena. Mercer was built in 1927 and was home to the Thunderbirds alongside the KeyArena (then called the Seattle Center Coliseum) in a venue-splitting arrangement similar to the one that exists in Portland, from their arrival in the Emerald City in 1977 to 1994. It was a U-shaped seating facility that held about 4,000, and until the mid-80s (after the team was renamed the Seattle Thunderbirds from the Seattle Breakers), the end boards at the open end was topped not by glass, but by chain-link fencing. The T-Birds played big games at the Coliseum, and smaller ones at Mercer. In 1994 the city of Seattle announced a major renovation to the Coliseum, and so while the NBA's Seattle Supersonics relocated for a year to the larger Tacoma Dome and the massive Kingdome, the T-Birds played their full schedule at Mercer. When the 1995-96 season opened, the Thunderbirds moved permanently into the KeyArena. Mercer Arena is abandoned today, with a plan currently before the city council to turn it into an opera house.
Former Home of the Seattle Thunderbirds
KeyArena, formerly the Seattle Center Coliseum, is first and foremost a basketball arena that was the only home that the missed and lamented Seattle Supersonics ever had. Although built in 1962, the arena was given a $75-million renovation in 1994 that was supposed to ensure the long-term future of the NBA in town, yet a short 14 years later the team was uprooted in one of the great acts of sports villainy in history, right up there with the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn, the Jets leaving Winnipeg, and every time the Yankees play. Half a season later, the Thunderbirds also left, to their new, purpose-built arena in the southern Seattle suburb of Kent. While I never made it to a WHL game there, I've been told by more than one person that it wasn't a great experience, as the arena floor wasn't really big enough for hockey and the T-Birds never sold enough tickets to fill the place. KeyArena is today only home to the WNBA, and the city is debating the rink's long-term future.
Former Home of the Tacoma Rockets
The Tacoma Dome is a geodesic dome in the southern Puget Sound city of Tacoma. Designed by the legendary Buckminster Fuller, the dome seats an improbable 17,000 people for hockey. It was home to the expansion Tacoma Rockets from 1991 to 1995, before common sense prevailed and the team was moved from their geodesic home to Kelowna.
Ray Marcham says: The Tacoma Dome is the ultimate multi-purpose arena - and, frankly, not good for any sport. It hosts American football, soccer, basketball, hockey and indoor soccer. The side seats for Rockets games were horrible - the pitch was too shallow. The "front row" of seats were still 50 feet away from the ice, and the arena floor was the main concourse. There were four rows of temp seats set up along the boards to try and give it a "real" hockey feel, but it didn't work. There are no corner seats, as the seating is much like an old-style English football stadium. Except when Tacoma played Seattle, they didn't draw well. There was a reason they went to Kelowna as fast as they could.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Former Home of the Vancouver Nats
Kerrisdale Arena is a footnote in WHL history, having only been home to one team, the Vancouver Nats, for one season, 1971-72. I have very little information about the building, other than apparently it hosted some pretty kick-awesome looking concerts in the 1980's.
Victoria Memorial Arena
Victoria, British Columbia
Former Home of the Victoria Cougars
Built 1949, Demolished 2003
Victoria Memorial Arena was built in 1949 and was home to the many incarnations of the Victoria Cougars. The Cougars originally played in the BCJHL, but moved into the WHL in 1971. They were mainly a bottom-feeder during their tenure in the Dub, having won only one league title. The Cougars left for Prince George in 1994, leaving Vancouver Island without major junior hockey. The Arena was demolished in 2003, with its replacement, the horrifically-named Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, being built on the site. The rink is now home to the ECHL's Victoria Salmon Kings.
Former Home of the Winnipeg Jets, Monarchs, Clubs and Warriors
Built 1955, Demolished 2006
Winnipeg Arena was originally built in 1955 to replace the ancient Shea's Amphiteatre, a venerable old horse barn that was already a relic of a bygone age by the end of the Second World War. Constructed right next to CFL-friendly Winnipeg Stadium in the western suburbs of town, it originally had 10,000 seats, but was drastically expanded when the WHA came a-knocking on their door. Apart from two WHL franchises with four names between them between 1966-77 and again from 1980-84, it was also the only home the NHL's Jets ever had. After the Jets left for the unquestionable hockey mecca of Phoenix, Arizona, the old Arena hosted the IHL and later AHL's Moose until the 2004 opening of the new MTS Centre downtown. The Arena was demolished in March of 2006. I personally visited in the summer of 2003 and was given an impromptu mini-tour of the darkened rink's interior by a bored box office employee, for which I am eternally grateful. The place was tiny inside, with seats shoehorned wherever they could fit them in, and seemed so small that it was hard to believe it had ever hosted the NHL.
This is a list of the rest of the former arenas used by the WHL. Unlike the Quebec League, which is both closer to me and also located in regions in which I've done extensive travelling, I've been in WHL territory exactly three times - once in 1983, when I was more preoccupied with strained food in tiny jars than in arenas, plus train trips to Vancouver in 2002 and Winnipeg in 2003. All three trips were in the summer. You sense the pattern. I'm not likely to get out west any time within the next year or so at a minimum, but hey, this information isn't available anywhere else on the internet, so it's worth having. The other thing that you might notice if you're sharp-eyed is how many of these buildings have been demolished. Unlike in the Quebec league, where only one former rink was rubblized, or in Ontario, where a couple have bit the dust but most are still standing, the West appears to have a little more cavalier attitude towards its history. It's a damn shame, really.
This list may contain omissions or mistakes, please email me if you have any corrections. Also, if you have any photos of arenas on this list, please send them to .
Brandon Wheat Kings 1967-69
Wheat City Arena
Built 1913, Demolished 1969
Brandon Wheat Kings 1969-72
Built Unknown, Demolished 2004
Flin Flon Bombers 1967-78
Regina Pats 1966-68; 70-77
Regina Exhibition Stadium
Saskatoon Blades 1967-88
Built 1937, Demolished 1989
Weyburn Red Wings 1966-68
Calgary Buffaloes 1967-68, possibly others
Max Bell Arena
Edmonton Oil Kings 1967-74
Built 1913, Demolished 1980
Edmonton Ice 1996-98
Spokane Flyers 1980-81
Spokane Chiefs 1985-95
Built 1954, Demolished 1995
Great Falls Americans 1979-80
Four Seasons Arena