Hershey Centre – Mississauga Steelheads
Don’t Doubt the Trout
The Ontario Hockey League history in Mississauga has been complete with the ups and downs of ownership changes, relocations, and money losses, but also tremendous success on the ice and a slowly growing stability off it. The story began in 1998 when the IceDogs franchise began in Mississauga. After a decade, though, the franchise moved to St. Catharines, where they became the Niagara IceDogs. Immediately after, the storied Toronto St. Michael’s Majors hockey club moved to Mississauga. Things were looking up as the club began to ice competitive teams year after year, leading up to their winning bid to host the 2011 Memorial Cup. After the excitement of this experience, when the country focused its hockey eyes on the city, things went back downhill for the club. The Majors went up for sale and fears they would move out of Mississauga abounded. However, former part-owner Elliott Kerr bought the team and promised not to move them. He ushered in a rebranding, returning the Majors’ name to St. Michael’s College School in Toronto, where it originated, and aligned the team with Mississauga by embracing the Steelheads moniker, reflecting the steelhead trout that live in the city’s Credit River.
The clouds have not entirely gone away for the team, as Mississauga is a stone’s-throw from the sporting draws and media coverage of Toronto, making it difficult for the club to find footing in the crowded sporting landscape. However, Mississauga the suburb is quickly becoming Mississauga the city, with a strong identity of its own, and the attendance numbers for the Steelheads are starting to rise. Hershey Centre is a great place to watch a hockey game and fans are cautiously optimistic as the club continues to gain stability, buoyed by strong ownership and a good rink. Year after year, the Steelheads ice strong squads and are a great, affordable hockey experience when in the Toronto area. The Hershey Centre is also home to Raptors 905, the developmental basketball side of the Toronto Raptors. It is also a growing hub of arena soccer, with a forthcoming side in the MASL league, and facilities for Ontario’s Arena Premier League.
In February 2018, the City of Mississauga struck a naming rights deal with locally-based restaurant chain Paramount and will be changing its name – and food offerings – for the 2018-2019 season.
Food & Beverage 3
Note that new food menus, catered by the Paramount Middle Eastern restaurant chain, will be arriving in time for next season’s puck drop. For now, the concessions are as follows:
Concessions at Hershey Centre are nothing special but there are certainly enough options to enjoy food and drink during an evening of hockey. Appropriately-named Hershey Snack Bars are located in the four corners of the concourse selling standard arena fare like pizza (CAD$4.25/slice), chicken nuggets ($4.25/$6), and French fries ($4, add gravy for 75 cents), as well as the popular and quite tasty sausage ($4.75), which is a great choice. Hockey staple poutine is available here for $6. And this being the Hershey Centre, these concessions also sell Hershey chocolate bars with family-size bars for $4 and regular bars for $2, which make for a nice snack.
There are a couple unique items on sale too; the popular beer nuts stand is available next to section 7, while in section 20 there is ice cream. For more gourmet options, a Premium ticket will get you access to the comfortable Premium Lounge overlooking the ice, where Jamaican patties ($3), wings ($13/one pound), sandwiches (chicken or veal ($6.25), and pulled pork ($5.75) are served.
Beer options are decent, with good availability throughout the arena. Tallboy cans cost $8.75. There is Molson Canadian, Rickard’s, Alexander Keith’s, Stella Artois, Budweiser, and Bud Light for sale at stands around the arena, while for a relaxed pint before the game or between periods, head to the Bud Light lounge off the concourse. This lounge has comfortable seats and overlooks an attached community rink. There are lots of drinks on offer here as well as snacks and hot food items like pizza and hot dogs.
Other drinks include Smirnoff Ice and caesars for $9.50, while Pepsi-brand pop or juices are $3.50. Gatorade is $4, while coffee, tea, or hot chocolate are $1.75.
Approaching the facility from the exterior, the roofline is attractive and screams ‘hockey rink’ as it curves above the modern facade. The front doors are set atop a welcoming promenade from the bus stop, with flags and landscaping. Entering through the main doors, there is a small atrium with the cosy team shop and sweaters from local hockey teams hanging proudly. Tickets are scanned, then the simple concourses wrap around the rink. These are uncluttered, and travelling around the facility is quick and easy. A couple community stands sell charity contests like ‘chuck-a-puck’ while the corner-located concession booths are angled so as not to impede progress with lineups. The concourses are boosted by the addition of murals commemorating local youth hockey clubs and the captain’s wall, but most of the old history from the previous teams in Mississauga is removed. The concourses also have memorabilia on display from the Raptors 905 basketball club, who also play here. Their two championship trophies are on display as well as framed jerseys and murals.
Entering the seating bowl, the feel is different. The mostly symmetrical bowl is decked out in purple and is highlighted by what is possibly the best video board in the league. The four screens are crystal clear and are pro-quality. Replays are frequent and helpful while there are no tacky advertising or promotions to distract from the match. The presentation is straightforward and resists the loud music, gimmickry, and general distractions that can exist in some arenas. It is a commendable hockey-focused environment from start to finish.
Along one wall are banners with the logos of all OHL teams, however, there are three banners commemorating the Ontario success of the Steelheads, though they came just a gasp away from being able to hoist a national Memorial Cup banner as well.
The most distinctive feature of Hershey Centre is the hanging portrait of the Queen, a tradition which used to be found at almost every arena in Ontario, but now exists at only a small handful of OHL barns. Hershey Centre deserves credit for maintaining this classy tradition, even though it is a modern arena.
Hershey Centre is located in an industrial area near the airport and though that does mean there are lots of hotels nearby, there isn’t really anywhere remarkable a fan would go for a meal or pint within walking distance. Everything you could need is only ten minutes away, though, in the exploding Mississauga City Centre. Either by bus or car, head toward the sea of towers that can be seen from the arena – this is the new hub for Mississauga as it sheds the roll of mere suburb.
In this neighbourhood there is plenty to do. Celebration Square has programming throughout the year, and there is music and theatre at Living Arts Centre. Square One Mall has hundreds of shops and restaurants, including all the national chains. For an upscale dinner try Canyon Creek Chophouse or Scaddabush Italian. Back in the City Centre precinct, stroll up Living Arts Drive and try Live Cuisine Restaurant, Union Burger, Earl’s, or Basil Box, or just gaze at the new condominium towers commonly called the ‘Marilyn Monroe’ buildings for their curvaceous design. Alternately, head further south to the charming Port Credit village and visit The Harp for a good pub experience and a view of the Port Credit Lighthouse which is featured on the Steelheads’ uniforms. Finally, the nearby village of Streetsville has lovely restaurants along Queen Street.
Attendance has been an understandable struggle in Mississauga for years; the city lacks its own mainstream media outlets. Moreover, the city has a very large ethnic and immigrant population who have not collectively embraced hockey to the same extent.
Still, attendance is slowly growing to just around 3 000 per game, which approaches the realm of respectability, even if the arena is almost half-empty some nights. Year-on-year improvement has been the norm recently, which bodes well.
The fans that do show up are very knowledgeable of their team and louder than many of their counterparts in the OHL, wearing scarves and starting a couple good chants during the game. When the arena does fill up, the atmosphere is among the best in the league, as evidenced when over 7,000 fans practically blew the roof off in the 2011 Ontario final against Owen Sound. However on the average night, the arena is less than two-thirds full so there is plenty of room to grow and fill seats.
Hershey Centre is great to get to by car; located near Highways 401 and 403 and with plenty of free parking. By bus, it is very easy to use MiWay to get from the Mississauga Transitway rapid transit corridor. Route 39 – Brittania starts at the Renforth terminal bordering Toronto, whilst Route 53 – Kennedy connects to the Central Parkway station. Both buses stop in front of the Gate A promenade. Coming by public transit from downtown Toronto, nearby GO Train stations are Streetsville, Meadowvale, and Cooksville.
Within the arena, concourses are wide and washrooms are adequate, especially considering the arena is rarely sold out.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets are a good deal in Mississauga, even by OHL standards, with adult tickets starting at just under $19, and kids for $15.50. The most expensive Premium tickets are only $27.80. Coupled with good food prices, decent beer, and free parking, a night at the hockey in Mississauga is affordable, and sure to be exciting as the Steelheads ice competitive teams yearly. The experience will be improved if attendance continues to rise.
The Bait Shop often has sales on and scarves, hats, or shirts will generally be in the $20-$30 range.
An extra point for the Queen’s portrait, maintaining an increasingly-rare hockey tradition in a newer arena.
An extra point for the concourse murals featuring local youth hockey clubs, which enhances the connection to local hockey in the city.
An extra point for the hockey-forward focus of the arena, where (as is unfortunately not always the case) the presentation only adds to the game and atmosphere rather than being a sideshow.
A final extra point for the up-and-coming feel around Mississauga as the suburban city quickly becomes a real metropolis in its own right.
Hockey fans in Mississauga are finding increasing stability, but there is lots of room to grow until the seats are always filled. Hershey Centre is a great place to catch a well-run hockey team and is an excellent introduction to the OHL for hockey fans in Toronto. Although it is not yet the case, it seems only a matter of time before the massive population of Mississauga will realise the high-quality, terrific-value hockey being played in their city and support the Steelheads in the numbers they should be seeing.
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Latest Crowd Reviews
Hockey fans in Mississauga look to finally have found some stability, but there is lots of room to grow until the seats are always filled. Hershey Centre is a great place to catch a well-run hockey team and is an excellent introduction to the OHL for hockey fans in Toronto. Although the road to permanency continues to be rocky, Mississauga is settling in more every year as a great place to catch a game and support the local club, and fans continue to say “don’t doubt the trout.”