Classic Arena offers A Hockey's "Field of Dreams"
A Journey into Galt
The National Hockey League used to feature classic buildings such as the Forum in Montreal, Maple Leaf Gardens, Chicago Stadium, the Olympia in Detroit, and the old Madison Square Garden on Manhattan's 50th Street. Today they are all gone. Baseball has managed to preserve two of their classic parks - Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. Hockey fans must look beyond the big leagues for their old arenas with character.
However, such places are to be found - including a special gem locally.
The Galt Arena Gardens is one of the oldest continuously-operating ice hockey arena in the world and the oldest operating arena in Ontario. Galt Arena Gardens was built throughout 1921 and opened in January 1922.
Needless to say it is a place of history. Red Kelly, Howie Meeker, Terry Sawchuk, Bobby Hull are among the NHLers who played there. So did Gordie Howe who perfected his game playing in town practicing in 1944 with the Galt Red Wings. His portrait graces one of the walls.
As importantly, in a world of increasing standardization and formula like sports and entertainment venues, the Galt Arena Gardens remains a place of character.
While much has changed since the rink opened in 1922, the bones remain—the original steel doors, the striking art deco brickwork exterior and that arched B.C. red fir roof, once painted white but now stripped down. The arena is also noted for its impressive external facade.
Long before the invention of the Zamboni, barrels filled with water were used to flood the ice, pulled across the surface by workers. The original flooding barrels from the 1940’s are still on display.
Today the Galt Arena Gardens is home to the Cambridge Winter Hawks of the OHL, the Special Hockey International team, Cambridge Ice Hounds, as well as to numerous other special events.
It is nicely shows how a place can be both about today and tomorrow while not destroying what made it so special yesterday.