Moose Jaw ready to empty Crushed Can
Blades make final regular- season visit to Warriors arena
MOOSE JAW — When architect Joseph Pettick designed the Moose Jaw Civic Centre’s sunken roof, he didn’t intend it to be retractable.
Lorne Molleken swears, however, that he’s seen daylight through the corrugated-metal ceiling.
“ It’s held up by cables and when they would move, you could see outside sometimes,” said Molleken, whose first WHL coaching job was with the Moose Jaw Warriors from 1988-91. “ I remember being up at the top ( of the stands) and when the wind was blowing, you could see daylight.”
Molleken, who now guides the Saskatoon Blades, made his final regular-season visit to the Civic Centre on Saturday. The Warriors will abandon the 52-year-old arena after this season and move into a new downtown arena. City workers plan to transplant the Civic Centre’s ice plant into the new facility following the Warriors’ playoff run. The old rink’s pipes will be drained and civic officials have no intention of turning on the heat next September.
Although the city has invited private-sector proposals for the Civic Centre, demolition seems more likely. All in all, it’s a rather inglorious ending for one of junior hockey’s most recognizable buildings.
“ It’s been a special place over the years, but it’s time for a change,” conceded Molleken, whose Blades beat the Warriors 2-1 in a shootout Saturday.
Nicknamed the Crushed Can for obvious reasons, the Civic Centre earned a reputation as one of the WHL’s most intimidating arenas. It seats only 2,705, but few rinks — regardless of size — can match the Civic Centre for noise and atmosphere.
“ It’s a great old barn,” said Conrad Vautour, one of the building’s longtime security guards.
Even supporters of the new facility concede that the Civic Centre’s raucous atmosphere will be tough to replicate.
“ It can be intimidating for some of the younger players, especially kids from B. C. or Alberta,” said Molleken. “ They walk into this rink and say, ‘ Holy smokes. What have I gotten myself into?’ It’s intimidating because everything happens quickly here and the fans are right on top of you. It’s a loud, loud building and it’s deep in tradition.”
Jazz great Louis Armstrong headlined the gala opening of the Civic Centre on Sept. 19, 1959. Hockey has been the building’s lifeblood, though, and the concourse walls are plastered with photos of colourfully named characters such as Strap Wells and Beans Clarke, as well as more contemporary stars such as Theoren Fleury.
A young Molleken — wearing a black blazer embroidered with the Warriors’ logo — also shows up in several team photos. Mike Babcock coached there, too, 15 years before guiding the Detroit Red Wings to the 2008 Stanley Cup.
The walls don’t advertise, however, that convicted sex offender Graham James was the Warriors’ first head coach when they moved to Moose Jaw from Winnipeg in 1984. During his one season at the helm, James was convicted of common assault after reaching over the Civic Centre glass and hitting a fan with a hockey stick.
That wasn’t the only time that violence has spilled into the stands at the Crushed Can. During one particularly heated battle between the Warriors and the Regina Pats a decade ago, Regina fans attacked the Moose Jaw mascot, Puckhead. Warrior fans vowed vengeance, but Regina mascot K-9 was a healthy scratch the following night because the Pats’ office received phone threats against their canine cheerleader.
Passion has certainly never been a problem at the Civic Centre. Through the 1980s and ’ 90s, Warriors playbyplay man Rob Carnie hosted a Hot Stove League after each home game. Fans weren’t shy about calling out referees and opponents, as well as their own coaches and players.
“ The place was packed and you couldn’t see out because of all the ( cigarette) smoke,” recalled Molleken. “ When people got a few Molson Canadians under their belts, it got pretty interesting in there some nights after games.”
Engineers probably weren’t counting on hot air from fired-up fans to help heat the seating area. There was a sensible theory behind the building’s U-shaped design, however. Because warm air rises, they believed it would disperse to the upper seating levels while keeping ice level cool.
It’s a plausible theory because the end walls have been known to get mighty frigid.
“ I thought they painted the wall,” one scout said during a mid-winter visit in the late 1990s. “ Then I realized it was just frost.”
Indeed, the Civic Centre will always remembered for greeting visitors with a chilly reception.
The quirky Moose Jaw Civic Centre is closing after 52 years