Sting

Sarnia Sting

Arena Name: Progressive Auto Sales Arena
Capacity: 5,200 (4,118 seated)
Built: 1998
Address: 1455 London Rd., Sarnia, Ontario, N7S 4P8
Telephone No: (519) 541-1717
Ice Surface Size: Regulation
Franchise Date: 1994-95
OHL Championships: None
Memorial Cup Championships: None
Colours: Black, Gold & White
Official Web Site: SarniaSting.com
Venue Web Site: ProgressiveAutoSalesArena.com
Former Arena: Sarnia Arena

OHL

 Progressive Auto Sales Arena

Progressive Auto Sales Arena

 What's the Arena Like?

First Visit: December 13, 2003
CHL Arena: 14
OHL Arena: 14

Sarnia - back in the team's brief heyday in the 1990's, they were a team to be feared. After moving from Newmarket, the Sting were quickly built into a superpower by the Ciccarellis, and since it coincided with the Knights' worst run of form in their history, I remember as a teenager hating the Sting for, essentially, being so damn good. Although I was too young to travel to games with unwilling parents, I had made the 50-minute trip to Sarnia more times than I could count to visit family, and I heard stories around the Ice House about the intimidating atmosphere at the old Sarnia Arena. Sarnia was a road trip I wanted to make even before I'd ever done an OHL game.

By the time I finally got to the new Progressive Auto Sales Arena for a game, things had changed. Sarnia is the only city in southern Ontario to have never had an OHL team at any point before the 1990's, and one of the conditions of the Sting moving to town was that a new arena would be built for them. Sarnia Arena was never large enough to host the OHL permanently anyway, so what the Sting and the city wound up building was the very first OHL arena of the new breed, loaded with corporate suites, one of the OHL's first video scoreboards, and a bland, boring, suburban quietness that has never stood out from the pack.

Much like its cloney brothers in Barrie, Mississauga, et al, the RBC Centre is surrounded by parking lots and located within spitting distance of a 400-series highway, in this case the 402. The arena is located on the grounds of Lambton College and is within a well-landscaped setting surrounded by college buildings. The arena itself is rather nice-looking from the outside, done up in tasteful salmon pink and blue-grey. It has the unmistakeable profile of a hockey rink. There are several glass doors which look directly into the rink itself, which gives a view of the place even from the outside on non-game days. One of the building's biggest flaws is at these doors, though - the main ticket office fronts externally, which means that anyone needing tickets has to stand outside to get them. That's fine in the fall or spring, but on a -20 night in February, it's practically criminal.

Inside, the building's 5000-odd seats are all uniformly maroon-coloured and there is a wide concourse that affords a view of the ice even when you're on a food run. In fact the Sarnia SEC and the Guelph SEC are the OHL's two most identical arenas from the inside, and if you've been to one, the other is very similar. Both rinks have a restaurant along one side at the ring, both have an upper level which extends most of the way around the rink in a "U" shape which is the private box level. The scoreboard as of my last visit was the eight-sided class of the OHL, though I imagine it's been replaced since I was last there. The sound system is good, not too loud, and the music selection is terrific - the sound crew is also the OHL's best. Every time the opposing team scores a goal, or takes a penalty, or something like that, there's a cleverly appropriate song played. Facilities are good - there are sufficient concessions and washrooms around to handle even the biggest crowds. The parking lot is free, but unfortunately it's not easy to get into or out of, so arrive early if possible.

The Sting used to posess a decent team store, but for some reason it was converted into a coffee pub a couple of years ago. Now, souvenirs are hawked out of a couple of tiny booths on the concourse. I have no idea why this would have been done - the old setup was great. The team store had old copies of the Sarnia Observer on the wall from when the franchise was moved in from Newmarket, and it was interesting to read the Observer's take on the OHL and what the team will mean for the community. (The "OHL Announcement Expected Today" edition refers to the team as the "Sarnia Stingers"!) I don't know what became of the display, but it's a shame that it's no longer posted.

Sting fans have a reputation for being quiet, and they generally are. That said, I've only ever seen the Knights play in Sarnia, and with Sting fans still considering us their biggest rival, they get a lot more amped for our visit than most teams. I can't really speak for how Sting fans act when the Knights aren't around, but it creates something of a dilemma for the purposes of the website, since every non-London fan I have spoken to tells me Sting fans act in a quiet manner I have really never seen. My best advice is to visit yourself and form your own opinion.

In the past, I've complained loudly and vociferously on this website about being accosted by an aggressive usher in Sarnia and threatened with having my camera confiscated if I continued to take pictures, without a flash, in the intermission. However, while I still stand by what I wrote about that incident, I've heard from numerous fans that they've had no problems whatsoever with taking pictures in Sarnia, and I haven't had any either in repeat visits. So, I'm deleting most of what I wrote before. That said, the incident put a hugely negative spin on my first visit to the PAS Arena, and I still doubt I will ever warm to the place after having the most unpleasant incident I've ever had in all my travels there. It does go a long way in showing just how the building employees are the public face of the team and the arena, and how one bad apple can put a negative spin on a visit. But still, in fairness, you'll probably be OK with taking pictures there.

In summation, the PAS Arena is quite a lot like most other new OHL rinks, and like Guelph and the new rink in the Sault in particular. Facilities are nice and there's plenty of free parking. Atmosphere, at least when the Knights are in town, is decent. Yet in spite of the fact that the PAS Arena is a mere 50 minutes from my house, I've only been a few times and am in no particular hurry to get back. Apart from the giant scoreboard, there just really isn't a lot about the place that stands out. Still, while the Sting haven't had nearly as successful a second decade as was their first, the fans still support the team well, and bland suburban rinks like Sarnia's can be a great place to be a visiting fan, where your cheering for the road team won't get you into any trouble.

 Inside Progressive Auto Sales Arena

Progressive Auto Sales Arena

 Future Developments
There are no plans to renovate or replace Progressive Auto Sales Arena.

 Franchise History
The Sarnia Sting are unique among OHL teams in that they began life in another major junior league - the QMJHL. The Cornwall Royals began play in the QMJHL in 1969-70 and quickly became one of junior hockey's powerhouses, winning the Memorial Cup three times in their first twelve years of existence. The OHL didn't like that the Quebec league had a team in their province, though, as youngsters from Cornwall and the surrounding area played in the Q, and not in the O. For the 1981-82 season the Royals transferred from the QMJHL to the OHL, which coincided with a drop in form for the team after the powerhouse 1970's. After years of declining attendance and economic depression in Cornwall, in 1992-93 the Royals were moved to Newmarket, but the move to York Region quickly proved to be an even greater disaster, as average attendances frequently dropped below 1000. The team flailed and reeled in Newmarket for two seasons before being bought by the Ciccarelli brothers, who moved them to Sarnia for the 1994-95 season. They played in the Sarnia Arena for the first three seasons in town, before moving to the new arena in 1998.

 Retired Numbers
91 Steven Stamkos
The Sting also have banners honouring native Sarnians Shawn Burr and Kerry Fraser, in spite of neither having anything to do with the Sting.

 Feedback
If anything is incorrect or you have something to add, please e-mail me at Email and I'll update the guide.


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Last Revised: October 14, 2019