Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre – Owen Sound Attack
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The Community’s Club
Over the last decade, the Ontario Hockey League has grown from a collection of family-style clubs playing in ramshackle old barns to a glossy, professional league playing almost universally in flashy new homes. One team, though, has bucked the trend and that isn’t a bad thing at all.
In the smallest market in the league, almost two hours away from their nearest rivals, the Owen Sound Attack have somehow managed not only to cling to their place in the OHL, but to thrive.
The story of Owen Sound’s hockey club begins in 1989, when the Guelph Platers arrived in town. After ten years, though, ownership issues left relocation rumours swirling. As the team was about to be purchased and moved to Eastern Ontario, a group of local businessmen stepped in and saved the club, rebranding them the Attack and promising stability into the future. Almost two decades later, the Owen Sound Attack have experienced success on the ice (including a provincial championship in 2011) and stability off it.
The Attack play out of the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre, and specifically the J.D. McArthur Arena within the complex. The Bayshore, aptly located right along the beautiful shoreline of Owen Sound, is an ’80s-vintage arena with a newer atrium attached to the front. The arena is one of the smallest in the country and lacks many of the modern amenities found throughout the league, but manages to be an incredible atmosphere for OHL hockey. The Platers/Attack have produced many great alumni including NHLers Brad Richardson, Andrew Brunette, Kirk Maltby, and Bobby Ryan, and today the team remains competitive and has spent much of the year in the national Top 10.
Food & Beverage 3
One of the ways the Bayshore shows its age is through its catering. It offers more than enough to satisfy most fans, however, it lacks the gourmet and unique items found at most rinks these days. Burgers, sausages, poutine, onion rings, pizza, chips, and chocolate round out the standard concession items, with slightly more interesting options like candy floss, caramel corn, soft pretzels, and a fairly large selection of fudge also on offer. One more unique and popular concession item is battered mushrooms ($4.50), available downstairs but not in the upper concourse concession areas.
With these old-school menus, though, there is a significant and truly unique advantage; pricing that is just as old-school. The Bayshore must be one of the last sporting venues in the world where no menu item runs more than pocket change, with the cheeseburger the most expensive at just $5.25! Bottled pop from Pepsi will run you just $3.25, with large cups of hot drinks like tea, coffee, or hot chocolate for just $2 and cappucino for $2.45 and small for even less. Note, though, that these concession stands are cash only.
There is a good selection of alcohol throughout as well, including tall boys from Molson, Heineken, Coors, and craft favourite Creemore. Cider is from Molson, and mixed drinks are also on offer.
Compared to the modern rinks of the OHL, there is no doubt the Bayshore is not quite in the same realm as most other cities, however, that does not in any way mean the experience in Owen Sound is any less enjoyable.
The arena is a low-ceilinged, compact house with the seating bowl on the second floor, up some stairs from the modern atrium. Along the walls of the upper concourses are plenty of murals commemorating club history, team captains, and sporting achievements of Owen Sound-area teams. Iconic alumni share wall space with a large mural commemorating the 2011 Provincial championship and Memorial Cup run. The arena has been equipped with the requisite suites and a small party deck, but these are the bare minimum compared to the full rings of boxes at most rinks these days. The top of the seating bowl is crowded with standing room spots, which are popular, though those above centre ice may have their view of a net restricted by pillars.
Four banners hang from the ceiling at the north end including three players with detailed drawings including Maltby, Brunette, and Dan Snyder, who was tragically killed in an auto accident early into his NHL career. Alongside these is the 2011 J. Ross Robertson Cup banner.
The scoreboard has been recently updated to feature crystal-clear screens and an LED ribbon underneath. Due to the low height of the roof, the board is wide and squat. It is well-used for replays and following the action.
Under the seating bowl is the lower concourse, featuring the extensive Owen Sound Sport Hall of Fame, which is very well worth a look and an early arrival. Fans are welcome to descend from the rink into the lower concourse, but keep your ticket on hand to re-enter. Also on the lower level is the atrium, where the ticket office, will call, and small but well-stocked team shop are located.
The in-game production is gimmick-free and smoothly done. The announcer is clear and warm and cheekily informs the crowd of the “last minute of Attack” in each period.
When picking seats, the best bet is to avoid the top rows around centre ice for the best view and take a low corner or end seat. In sections E-J, there is a family seating section, and alcohol cannot be taken to the seats so keep that in mind. As well, sections W-U are considered a VIP section and have padded seats, though the plastic seats elsewhere are not uncomfortable. Also note that, unlike with most teams, buying the ‘best’ seats does not mean closest to the ice, but slightly higher up with a better view.
Also of note, the city offers free and fast wifi in the arena, as well as downtown. Finally, in the warmer months at the start or end of the season, a children’s playground sits next to the arena and water’s edge, providing a nice pre-game spot for families or a quick break during intermissions.
Owen Sound is a tremendously picturesque and charming little town and the Bayshore is located a short distance north of the town centre. Adjacent to the arena is the Best Western hotel, which is a great spot for visiting fans and includes Bishop’s Landing restaurant.
Otherwise, head downtown (along the waterfront in the warmer months) for the busy Shorty’s Grill. The restaurant is popular with fans before puck drop but often fills up on a weekend evening. Nearby, Casero Kitchen Table seems to have been transported from trendy Toronto and serves Latin cuisine with a wide variety of cocktails. The Curry House is a good option to warm up during winter, as is the local favourite, The Pub at the Coach Inn. This is a great spot to try a pint of the very popular Kolsch from area craft brewery Kilannan.
Owen Sound itself is a key cottaging destination during the summer, full of activities and festivals. During the winter, the Attack are the top billing in the area and the talk of the town, but the icebound harbour and meandering Pottawatomi and Sydenham Rivers make for great hiking routes year round. Also check out the museums and beautiful country drives in town and the surrounding area.
The friendliness and welcoming nature of Owen Sounders cannot be overstated. Walking around town or in the rink, everyone is smiling and friendly to the last. As well, the small size of the town leaves the impression that everyone at the game knows one another. At the very least, expect to see tonnes of fans joining each other for pints at the intermissions. The community feel is very prevalent, but this does not mean fans are quiet and demure during play.
Flags and horns are popular and fans at the Bayshore are there to make noise and support their team, leaving the arena a very loud place. In spite of the small size of the arena, its 3500-capacity mean that over a tenth of the city (population ~30 000) fill the barn on a sold-out weekend evening, a truly impressive feat! As with most of the province, fans may congregate around TVs in the concourse to watch the Leafs game on a Saturday night, but they are very keenly engaged in the Attack, who are crucially important part of life in Owen Sound.
The most dedicated fans are members of the Attack Pack, who travel with the team and provide the most vocal and visual support.
Getting to the rink is not too difficult at all. Owen Sound does have a small public transportation network and the East Bayshore route runs from the downtown transit terminal to the rink quickly and easily.
Coming by car, there is lots of free parking, though locals try to park on-street to avoid the crush at the end of the game. If you are driving in from the west side of town, there can be backups on the bridges coming into downtown, so a little extra time may be required, but traffic in Owen Sound is never too bad. When parking, be sure you are not inadvertently in the neighbouring Best Western lot to avoid a ticket.
Within the arena, the tight concourses can make movement a little slow during intermissions, but it is not as bad as at many rinks, including the newer ones. Washrooms also can get busy during intermissions but waits will never exceed a minute or two.
Return on Investment 5
An Owen Sound Attack game is worth every penny, and it won’t take too many dollars either.
Tickets are priced from $21-$23 for adults and there are discounts for students and seniors. Free parking or cheap transit, as well as the incredibly affordable concessions means a full evening of hockey with food and drink will never run you more than $30. At the time of writing, the Attack are ranked 7th Canada-wide, which makes for some great hockey at bargain prices.
The friendly community feel of the fan base is truly impressive and worth an extra point, sure to leave visiting fans with a smile on their faces too.
On top of this, many of the team staff have been a part of local hockey for a long time and are a key part of the experience. For example, our media room attendant had been with area hockey teams for over fifty years!
Two extra points for the difficulties overcome in keeping the team in Owen Sound and in making it thrive against the odds.
A final extra point for the attendance itself, as the team outdraw other clubs in much larger markets and manage to get a significant chunk of the population out every game night.
Owen Sound is by far the smallest market in the OHL and is also geographically remote. Throughout their history in Owen Sound, they have flirted with relocation and instability but, today, have managed to find great success on and off the ice.
For fans, a visit to the Bayshore is sure to leave you with a smile on your face and your fill of excellent hockey in a town where it means the world. Make the trip to Owen Sound and experience true community hockey on the bay, you will be glad you did.
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