One of those Classic Arenas: Verdun Auditorium

One of those Classic Arenas: Verdun Auditorium

A Journey into Hockey

As mentioned before we think that for all the talk of hockey heritage the game, its fans and the rest of us too are all losers because we do not have a Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Notre Dame Stadium or Lambeau Field that helps us tie the past to present to future.

There used to be the Chicago Stadium, Philadelphia Spectrum, St. Louis Arena. Boston Garden, Maple Leaf Gardens and Montreal Forum. But we are now almost decades and a generation from their final days.

We could go on about their loss and how it could and should have been different, but choose not to do so here and now. Rather we point to places (though not on an NHL level) where that connection to the game and a sense of place and transcendent time can still be felt.

A recent article about Elise Beliveau and her thoughts about anew movie about her late husband (Jean Beliveau) and other topics (P.K. Subban) caught our attention. Attached to the article was a picture taken at the Verdun Auditourium (see below).

That picture and the classic arena caught our attention as  much as the wonderful and thought- provoking piece.

The Verdun Auditorium, being used as a backdrop for the movie about Jean Beliveau (circa 1953-1971) is such a classic place.

Inaugurated on November 28, 1939 during World War II, this structure was leased to military authorities during the war. The auditorium served to host a number of major events, including the 1942 ceremony in honour of Royal Canadian Air Force pilot and Verdun native George Frederick Beurling.

In 1946, the auditorium was converted to hockey and ice skating rinks. The Verdun Maple Leafs, which gave rise to player Maurice Richard, trained there for many years. Today, the auditorium is home to the local games of Selwyn House College. The Canadiens de Montréal also trained there frequeny;y when the Forum was not available and before the opening of their practice facility in Brossard.

The Verdun Auditorium, which is a showcase for such political phenomena as the Referendum of 1980, and a site for performances such as the rock group Pearl Jam and the singer Bob Dylan, remains a choice venue not just for Verdun residents but for those of the city of Montréal as a whole.

This concrete structure is 300' long, 165' wide and 60' high. It can seat 3,795. The auditorium's annex, the Denis-Savard arena, was built in the 1970s. In Shawingan, the city hall and an auditorium are modelled along the same lines.

A commemorative plaque was unveiled on June 18, 2004 in tribute to the exceptional career of famed Verdun resident William Scott “Scotty” Bowman and his valued contribution to the development and influence of amateur and pro hockey.

The Auditorium, the 4,100-seat arena that once hosted acts ranging from Nirvana and Bob Dylan to the Grand Prix Wrestling events put on by the Vachon brothers and broadcast on CFCF TV, will be receiving a $26-million facelift that officials hope will bring back some of the lustre of its heyday.

Under the redesign, the auditorium will be preserved, complete with its steel roof support trusses and wooden chairs that date back to the venue’s construction 75 years ago.

But the dark brown aluminum cladding covering its front walls will be removed to expose its original Art Deco brick and glass facade. And the Denis Savard Arena that adjoins it will be demolished and rebuilt slightly farther to the east, allowing space for a glassy atrium between the two arenas that will provide a public gathering spot, better locker rooms, and a view over the St. Lawrence River that runs behind it.

The renovations are expected to be completed in 2018.

One of those Classic Arenas: Verdun Auditorium One of those Classic Arenas: Verdun Auditorium One of those Classic Arenas: Verdun Auditorium

Credit: Montreal Gazette