Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Arena Name: Norris Center
Capacity: 4,000
Built: 1976
Used by the Greyhounds: 1979
Address: 650 W. Easterday Ave., Sault Ste. Marie, MI, 49783
Ice Surface Size: Regulation


 Norris Center

Norris Center

 What Was the Arena Like?

The James Norris Center is a multi-sport athletic facility located in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, on the campus of Lake Superior State University. Named for the former Detroit Red Wings General Manager and owner, the complex is home to the LSSU Lakers varsity teams, and the arena itself is home in particular to the LSSU Lakers hockey team in the NCAA. For about a month in 1979, it was also a temporary home for the Sault Greyhounds while the Sault Gardens was undergoing emergency roof repairs.

The Norris Center was built in 1976 and looks like it; it is a sprawling brown-brick complex with bright red aluminum siding, situated in a large parking lot among university dorms and classrooms. The lobby is dark and 1970s-ish. Once inside you can go straight ahead to the gym, right to the pool, or left to the Taffy Abel Arena, named for the local hockey hero and former NHLer. The arena itself is a bright and modern one, with Laker blue and gold paint everywhere. There is a twin-concourse design, with an underneath concourse holding dressing rooms and concessions while the upper one handles most traffic, and also has washrooms, concessions, and LSSU historical memorabilia. The upper concourse uses portal-style entranceways to the seating bowl.

The arena looks excellent on first glance. It was extensively renovated in 1995, with seats on one side of the building being removed in favour of private suites. The overall effect is to create a mini Ottawa Civic Centre feeling, where one side of the rink has a huge amount of seating extending into the rafters while the other side is smaller. There is also a standard scoreclock and banners hung from the ceiling honouring past Laker teams. In spite of playing in a tiny northern city, LSSU hockey has been excellent for much of its history, winning the NCAA title more than once.

The Norris Center was never really meant to be an OHL arena, and if roof problems hadn't forced it, it never would have been home to the league in the first place. Yet the arena is indistinguishable from a true OHL rink, with similar capacity figures and facilities, and it just underscores the similarities between the junior and college ranks.

 Inside Norris Center

Taffy Abel Arena

 What's the Arena Used for Today?
In 1979, the Sault Memorial Gardens sprung a somewhat substantial roof leak that closed the building indefinitely while it was being repaired. It was right during the middle of hockey season though, which meant that the Greyhounds were forced to seek out alternate accommodations, and this meant moving into the only other suitable arena in the Sault area, which happened to be the Norris Center. As near as I can tell, the Hounds only played in Michigan for a month or so, and moved back into the Memorial Gardens as soon as repairs were complete. Today the Norris Center still hosts the team it was built to host, the Lake Superior State University Lakers, and is merely a footnote in OHL history - apart from anything else, it would appear to be the answer to a trivia question as to when the first OHL game was played in the United States.

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: December 7, 2019