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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Victoriaville Tigres are one of those stalwart franchises of the QMJHL. They have been a part of the league since 1987, when they moved from the Montreal suburb of Longueuil, to the city known for producing the famous Victoriaville hockey sticks. The Tigres have gone on to see some success in the QMJHL, winning the President’s Cup in 2002 and making an appearance in the Memorial Cup. The Tigres have also produced a number of solid NHL hockey players including Mathieu Garon, Stephane Fiset, and Matthew Barnaby. Perhaps the most famous Tigre is also one of the biggest busts in NHL history, Alexandre Daigle, who was drafted first overall by the Ottawa Senators.
The Tigres play in the city owned Coliseé Desjardins, an older arena which has had a few upgrades over the years. The inner arena is named the Amphithéâtre Gilbert-Perreault, after the legendary, Victoriaville native, captain of the Buffalo Sabres. The Quebec bank, Desjardins, purchased the naming rights to the entire building.
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There are a few main concession stands in the upper walkway. They serve pretty much what you would expect at a snack bar in Quebec. The added French staples of poutine and Montreal smoked meat are available here, which may be common for Quebec arenas, but not others.
Budweiser and Molson Canadian are available for $4.50 for a regular sized can. Coca-Cola products are the soda of choice in Victoriaville. The concession prices are not too bad, and are what you would expect from a junior hockey venue.
The Coliseé Desjardins is an older arena, built in the early 1980's. It lacks the natural light and large concourses that seem to be staples in newer buildings. Upon approaching the Coliseé, you will notice that it is a pretty nondescript building, featuring siding on the exterior. There is not much of an atrium inside, but there is a bit of a waiting area you may choose to wait in before going into the Amphitheatre, either upstairs or downstairs.
Inside the Amphitheatre, you will notice that there have been some upgrades to the arena over time. The seating area is a single bowl, with walkways above the seats. Three-quarters of the walkways have luxury boxes hanging above them. The seats have been updated in the entire arena, and no longer are the wooden seats featured in the Amphitheatre. They have been replaced by plastic seats. The seats are more comfortable than the wooden ones, but are narrower than you would expect. Chairs are black, with some select yellow seats in certain sections that spell Tigres.
Above the walkways on the north and south there are very small videoboards. It is a bit challenging to use the videoboard when it is in a non-traditional spot. The low ceilings of the Coliseé make this probably the best option though. There is a simple scoreboard above the ice surface.
The east end of the arena features a small team store to buy Tigres merchandise. Just left of that you will find the Tigres' honoured players and the championship banners. These are posted on the wall of the walkway, instead of hanging over the arena. Featured players include P.J. Stock, Mathieu Garon, Stephane Fiset, Reggie Savage, Carl Mallette, Matthew Lombardi, and Yves Racine. It is a little surprising that Alexandre Daigle is not among this group. There are also banners for the 2002 President's Cup and a couple of division banners as well as a montage of team pictures.
The in-game presentation is simple yet effective. There is a mix of music including modern, modern-French, and traditional organ. They make a big deal every time the Tigres head to the ice, even for warm-ups. The emcee does a decent job and the mascot shows great enthusiasm and gets the kids involved.
Located on Boul Jutras E, the Coliseé Desjardins is pretty easy to get to. There is plenty of parking, especially with the mall across the street. There are a couple of options for before and after the game. You could give Valentine a try, which is a French fast food chain, or if you are looking for something more original, you could try Restaurant Plus.
Attendance for the Tigres ends up averaging between 2,500 and 3,200 per game. This average puts the Tigres smack dab in the middle of the QMJHL. The fans in Victoriaville are a bit more subdued and quiet for Quebecois fans, but they are hearty and follow their team with more than a passing interest. It was extremely disappointing, however, to hear and see hundreds of fans engaging in conversations during the national anthems. Definitely a lack of respect.
Getting to the Coliseé is not too difficult as it is located on Boul. Jutras E. As mentioned above, there is some free parking in the complex, and there is a mall across the street. Getting in and out of the area is not the problem.
The problem is getting around once you are inside the Coliseé. The walkways are very small and crowded. Many people enjoy the standing room behind the seating area, which further complicates manoeuvring around the arena.
Outside of the Amphitheatre, there is little in the way of space as well. The washroom facilities inside the Amphitheatre are less than adequate, with washrooms so small that you can see inside from the walkway. Add to this that the team store and concessions are in that same general area, and you will find it more than just a minor challenge to get around during intermission.
In general, QMJHL hockey offers the best value for your dollar anywhere, and Victoriaville is no different. Adult tickets go for $15 each, and children are a mere $8. It appears to be a common theme in the QMJHL that the children are key, and they should be targeted. A great family environment is provided. Concession prices are reasonable, and parking should be free, so you are in for a great day of great hockey for a price that will not break the bank.
An extra mark for the display of local favourite Gilbert Perreault outside of the Amphitheatre.
An extra mark for the original idea of naming the sections after other local heroes. Section 4 is named after Jean Beliveau and Section 2 is named after Gilles Marotte.
An extra mark for the old school quarter vending machines, which were once found in every minor hockey rink in every town, and are still prevalent in Victoriaville.
Travelling through Quebec can be a bit intimidating for any Anglophone, especially in the smaller cities, away from the tourist areas of Montreal and Quebec City. However, stadium travellers should attempt to see real grassroots hockey the way it was meant to be seen in Quebec. The passion is there, and the price is right. This is as applicable in Victoriaville as anywhere else in La belle province. In Victoriaville, they have the tiger by the tail, and the Tigres will put on a show for you!
Follow Dave's sporting journeys on Twitter @profan9.
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