Moose Jaw ready to empty Crushed Can

Blades make fi­nal reg­u­lar- sea­son visit to War­riors arena

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Cory Wolfe cwolfe@ thes­tarphoenix. com

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.

— SP Pho­tos by Cory Wolfe

The quirky Moose Jaw Civic Cen­tre is clos­ing after 52 years

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