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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
There is something just a bit more special when watching a college sporting event that involves a military service academy. In the United States, the Army, Navy and Air Force have a special bond with the fans. In Canada, the military service academy is at a significantly smaller scale. Royal Military College of Canada is located in Kingston, Ontario and competes in the newly rebranded University Sports Canada in the Ontario conference or OUA. The enrollment at RMC is extremely small at just under 1,000 students and the school was established in 1876. Although the sporting options and enrollment at the school has decreased significantly over the years, the premiere team for the RMC Paladins is the ice hockey team. Having iced a team since 1884, the Paladins maintain significant rivalries with the cross-town Queen’s Gaels and Army West Point, who they have played annually since 1923.
The hockey team makes their home at Constantine Arena, just across the road from the campus of RMC. Although Constantine may seem pretty ordinary there is something that jumps out at the casual fan right away. In front of the area is a fighter jet. A decommissioned Avro CF-100 Canuck stands guard in front of the arena and Kingston Military Recreation Centre. Other than that, Constantine Arena is sure to bring Canadians back to their own childhood playing minor hockey in one of those simple and cold areas.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
A culinary experience at Constantine Arena you will not find. The prevailing strategy at Constantine is BYOTH, or bring your own Tim Hortons. The Tims on the nearby Canadian Forces Base Kingston is a good spot to stop before getting to the game. If you insist on purchasing food at the arena, then you better have some change as vending machines are the only option in the arena. Keep in mind that the arena temperature is quite cold and of the vending machines that you will find in Constantine, none of them sell hot beverages.
Constantine Arena is a bit of a throwback, but not in a classic arena sort of way. What Constantine will do, is bring Canadians back to their own days playing minor hockey as kids.
Constantine Arena is located across the street from the beautiful campus of RMC. It is a fairly non-descript building that is in the same area as the Kingston Military Community Sports Complex. Immediately, patrons will notice the retired Avro CF-100 Canuck outside of the arena. At the very least, the Canuck brings attention to a building that otherwise requires none. The main entry to Constantine is around what seems like the back of the building. There is also a retired tank behind the building. The exterior is fairly bland with some red brick and siding.
Upon entry, fans will notice two things immediately. First, patrons can't help but notice just how small the arena is. There is not a ton of space in Constantine outside of the main ice surface. Second, fans can't help but notice how cold the arena is. It is these two items that will bring fans back to their own childhood. It is actually so cold in Constantine that the glass along the boards is often foggy. This is not a big deal as the seating area, five rows of bleacher benches, are all above the glass level. There is netting all around the arena so there is no worry of being hit by a puck. The height of the grandstand combined with the small nature of the arena means that fans are right on top of the action in a pretty unique perspective.
The ice surface is west to east orientation with the seating on the south side. The west side of the arena has the simple scoreboard and to the left of it, the first of a number of military flags. The lone flag on the west side is the Canadian Army Flag. On the north side there are also a number of other military flags for various branches of the military including the Intelligence Branch, Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and Canadian Military Engineers. Finally, on the west side is the lone player banner for Steve Molaski who played for the Paladins from 1983-1988 and scored 205 career points. He is the career scoring leader for RMC.
The game day production is extremely simple with nothing much outside of the regular PA announcements that are made during the game. The PA system in Constantine is pretty terrible and at the game being reviewed, one of the two speakers in the arena stopped working. The Paladins need to do more to really make Constantine Arena a true home. RMC has played hockey since 1884 and have a rich history. The Paladins need to do more to show off their vast history in Constantine, especially their special rivalry games with Army West Point.
RMC and Constantine Arena are located just on the other side of the bay, a minute or two from downtown Kingston. On the south side of LaSalle Causeway is the campus of the Royal Military College of Canada. It is a beautiful campus right on the bay. If you are looking for an even better view of downtown and the campus, head up the hill to Fort Henry. At the very least this vantage point offers a wonderful view of RMC and downtown Kingston. Fort Henry also runs tours and a number of events in the summertime.
Across the bridge of the LaSalle Causeway is downtown Kingston. There you will find a number of things to do and places to eat. The Rogers K-Rock Centre, home of the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL is right there. If you travel west of downtown, you will hit the campus of Queen's University. Queen's fields competitive programs in football at Richardson Stadium, basketball at the Athletics and Recreation Centre and hockey at the Kingston Memorial Centre. You may also want to check out Bellevue House, the home of the first Canadian Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. On campus, you may also find the RMC Museum interesting.
There are a ton of places to get a pre or post game meal in downtown Kingston. Just before heading to the game, hit the Tim Hortons on CFB Kingston to get your coffee or hot chocolate before entering the arena. The Toucan, Chez Piggy, Sir John's Public House, the Merchant Tap House and a number of national and international chain restaurants are all right downtown for you to choose from.
There are a few hotels right downtown to choose from also. The Delta Waterfront, Holiday Inn and Confederation Place are good choices and are right by the waterfront.
Having an enrollment of just over 1,000 students gives RMC a distinct handicap. The last few years have seen the Paladins struggle to get in the win column. Combine that with competition from cross-town rival Queen's and the Kingston Frontenacs and you will realize that RMC also struggles at the gate. Keeping in mind that Canadian college hockey generally struggles to draw a strong following and you will see that in reality RMC is not that far off other programs. Typically drawing between 100 and 200 fans, the Paladins are not making waves in the conference, but there are also a number of programs that draw similar fan support. The fans in attendance are tried and true and define die-hard. Considering that the capacity for Constantine Arena is greater than the enrollment at RMC, it would be interesting to see if the Paladins could draw all of the cadets out to see the home side play. That would be a pretty fantastic fan atmosphere.
Getting in and around Constantine is not too difficult. RMC is located at the crossing of the LaSalle Causeway to downtown Kingston. It is at the southern point of the city and a fair distance from highway 401, the main highway in Southern Ontario. That being said, travelers coming in from out of town will have to travel through a significant part of the city to get to campus. Usually this isn't terrible, but numerous lights and cross streets can make for slow going.
If you are interested in public transit, there are bus stops along LaSalle Causeway and Navy Way. Also, the red Kingston Trolley makes a specific stop at RMC, so getting to the arena should not be a problem.
There is no real box office at Constantine. Upon entry to the arena on game day, fans will be met by a student working the door at a temporary table to sell tickets. Cash is the way to go and you will be granted admission, but no physical ticket exists.
Getting in and around Constantine can be fun. The grandstand is higher than ice level, requiring patrons to take a flight of stairs up. Handicapped patrons will be required to remain at ice level. Washrooms can be a bit precarious to find, but considering the low number of fans in attendance, getting in and out of the washroom is not too difficult.
Some of the above categories may make it seem like Paladins hockey is not the way to go. However, Paladins hockey does offer the cheapest ticket around. Adult admission is a mere $5 and there are discounts for military and kids. Although some areas of the return may not be the greatest, the investment is so small that it makes it really difficult to complain about RMC Paladins hockey. You can't even rent a movie from your cable company for the cost of a Paladins ticket.
An extra mark just for being a Military Service Academy.
An extra mark for the staying power of RMC hockey, having remained around since 1884.
It's true that Constantine Arena is not the nicest arena in University Sports Canada. It's true that the Royal Military College Paladins are often hamstrung with regards to putting a competitive team on the ice. However, it's also true that there is something about going to see a game where the national anthem means a little bit more and the knowledge that the players in red and white are making a bit more of a commitment. There's something about watching a game under the regal military flags and under the watchful eye of a Canuck. RMC Paladins hockey will bring you back to your minor hockey playing days at a price that is ridiculously low. Paladins hockey, although not a destination item, is definitely worth a look if you are in Kingston.
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