Sarnia 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: http://www.sarniasting.com/
Venue Web Site: RBCCentreSarnia.com
Unofficial Sites: None
Former Arena: Sarnia Arena

OHL
RBC Centre
Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre
What's the Arena Like?
Sarnia - back in the team's 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.

By the time I finally got to the new RBC Centre for a game, things had changed. The loudness of the old barn had given way to the bland quietness of the new arena, and I was disappointed to find that the building was just another in the OHL's series of new suburban arenas. Much like its brothers in Barrie, Mississauga, Brampton et al, the RBC Centre is surrounded by parking lots and is 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 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, much like in Guelph, 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. There is the "Local Legends" restaurant running down the one side of the rink. There is a second ring of seats in an upper level which extends most of the way around the rink in a "U" shape which is the private box level, the boxes seem to hang over the ice more than in a normal new rink. The scoreboard is gigantic - it's eight-sided and has video boards, and is the class of the OHL. 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. There is also a surprising amount of memorabilia around, considering that the Sting are a young franchise for their city.

The team has four "retired" numbers but on closer inspection they merely honour Aaron Brand and Peter Sarno for winning OHL scoring titles, and Trevor Letowski and Danny Fritsche for being chosen to the World Junior team. I find this odd as it seems to me to be an attempt to cloak the team in more history than it really possesses. Still, they are valuing what little history they have, so I suppose I can't complain too much - although maybe someday the Sting will be able to put a championship banner alongside.

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 RBC Centre, 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 RBC Centre 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 RBC Centre 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 the RBC Centre can be a great place to be a visiting fan, where your cheering for the road team won't get you into any trouble.
Future Developments
After over a decade of searching for a corporate sponsor, the Sarnia Sports & Entertainment Centre was renamed the RBC Centre in the fall of 2009. Otherwise, there are no plans to renovate or replace the RBC Centre.
What Is It Like For Away Fans?
My rating of the RBC Centre may be skewed by the fact that London and Sarnia are archrivals, but Sting fans had almost enough sass to push them into the medium range. I've had a few minor encounters there, but that is probably due to the "local rival" factor, and everything I've heard about Sarnia says that a visit there is a walk in the park. If reputation is anything to go by, if you're a fan of a team that's not a traditional Sarnia rival you shouldn't encounter any difficulties.

Sports Nut Says:
I had heard rumours that the fans were amongst the quietest in the OHL. Well, all I have to say is, Barrie has competition for the title. Sarnia fans cheered the goals for a few seconds, booed a bad call or two, but did nothing else. Hell, the Guelph fans in the corner, along with my sister and I on the end, were the loudest there. They didn't even cheer for the team coming out for the 2nd and 3rd period. I never noticed it, but I was told that they didn't announce the Sting coming into the ice either. Way to motivate the crowds! Now, they did have a lady doing promos in the stands, but even then the fans sat there going "oh, nice" and that's it. Come on Sarnia, you can do better than that! Nearly 4000 fans and very little commotion in the crowd.

How To Get There

From Hwy. 402: Get off at Exit 6 (Modeland Rd./Hwy. 40 South). Go south on 40 to London Line exit (immediately after exit from 402). Follow the signs to "London Road" west, which will involve going straight through the intersection. From London Road turn left into Lambton College - the arena is set well back from the road.

There is a large amount of parking in front of the building, and it's free.
Inside the RBC Centre
Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre
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. In 1992-93 the Royals were moved to Newmarket, but the move to York Region quickly proved to be a 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.
Retired Numbers
None
Another Look Inside the RBC Centre
SSEC
Local Rivals
Primarily London and the West Division.
About the City
By Sarnian Buzzer:
The city Sarnia has evolved from "The Rapids" (early 1800s) to "Port Sarnia" (1836) to "Sarnia" (1857), and from a native hunting ground to an up-and-coming settlement to an industrial center. Sarnia gained city status in 1914. The adjacent communities of Sarnia Township and Bright's Grove (which became the town of Clearwater) became part of Sarnia in 1991, after a lengthy political battle. The population of Sarnia is listed at 81,900. Small towns adjacent to the city's border make the number living in the immediate area closer to 90,000.

Inhabitants of Sarnia consider the city a well-kept secret. Real estate prices and employment opportunities are reasonable. The crime rate is low, making Sarnia a good place to raise a family. Young people generally can't wait to leave, but many eventually return. Sarnia is predominately a blue-collar town. Much of the population is employed in the petro-chemical industry or businesses related to it. The municipal government is trying to attract other industry, and the fact that the city is located on one of the primary trade corridors to the USA and next to the border could change Sarnia dramatically over the next few years. Sarnia's biggest downside is its image. Most outsiders only know Sarnia from the media's perspective, which is that of a polluted toxic waste dump. Downtown has been dead for years. Numerous attempts to revitalize it have failed. There really is much more to this area than that, though - Sarnia's "Crown Jewels" are its waterfront and parklands. The city is bounded on two sides by shoreline, and the city is home to many who enjoy leisure activities on the water. The annual Bayfest concert festival attracts tourists, as does the Port Huron to Mackinaw Sailboat Race and the Celebration of Lights Christmas festival.

Famous Sarnians include astronaut Chris Hadfield - the Sarnia Airport is named after him. Others include 2003 Masters Champion Mike Weir, who is from Bright's Grove, James "Scotty" Doohan from Star Trek, former Chicago Blackhawk Pat Stapleton, Max Webster singer/songwriter Kim Mitchell, and comedian John Wing.

For more information about the Sarnia area please visit Sarnia Tourism at www.tourismsarnialambton.com.

Feedback

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


 

 


Copyright © Kevin Jordan 2002-09.
All rights reserved.
Last Revised: October 11, 2009