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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
In 1964, the University of Guelph was reborn. Previously known as the Ontario Agricultural College, Guelph is now a world renowned, comprehensive university with an enrollment of over 27,000 students. Guelph traces its roots back to 1874. With regards to athletics, Guelph has been playing ice hockey specifically all the way back to 1899. In recent years, Guelph has turned heads with its investment in their athletic programs and facilities.
The Gryphons are in the conversation as an elite level program in football at both the conference and league level and their new football pavilion is threatening to redraw the landscape with regards to football recruiting. Guelph has also opened up a brand new athletics facility complete with a new spectator area for varsity basketball. Not to be forgotten in all of this athletic excitement is the Guelph Gryphons hockey program and their home at the Gryphon Centre Arena. Recently the recipient of a decent facelift, the Gryphon Centre is in contention with any other on campus facility in the OUA.
Built in 1989, the Gryphon Centre is home to the Guelph Gryphons men’s and women’s hockey teams and Gryphons figure skating team as well as other recreation programs. The centre features two ice rinks, the Gold Rink and Red Rink. The Gold Rink is home to Gryphons hockey and is Olympic-sized with a capacity of 1,400 spectators. The Gryphons have seen some success at the Gryphon Centre Arena and are hoping that in the excitement of all of the new athletic projects on campus, the Gryphons’ igloo is not lost in the shuffle.
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".
Guelph Gryphons hockey does not offer a spectacular culinary experience. Upon entering the arena, past the ticketing desk, a vendor is right by the door selling soda and popcorn. Unfortunately that is all that is available at this level. Another option may be to hit the Tim Hortons which is on the ground floor of the Gryphon Centre. Keep an eye on the hours for Tims as it may not be open for the duration of the hockey game.
The Gryphon Centre Arena is more than comparable to the other arenas in the OUA and is also the perfect size for OUA hockey. The exterior of the Gryphon Centre is nice enough with a grey brick exterior at the front of the arena, across from the Mitchell Athletic Centre. Large windows allow natural light into the arena, and at night the Gryphon logos in the top windows shine through like a beacon to hockey. Entry into the Gryphon Centre leads to the main foyer which is where the location of the Tim Hortons is, as well as a small team shop. Entry to the Red Rink is also at this level. Fans should take a couple of minutes and peruse the trophy case on this level. Among the artifacts, team pictures and trophies are five plaques for Gryphon All-Canadians in hockey. Among those honoured are Ken Lockett, Brad Pirie, Matt Mullin, Todd Wetzel and J.P. Davis.
Fans will be required to ascend the staircase to the upper landing and the entry to the Gold Rink. The upper landing also has plaques attached to the wall for honoured Gryphons hockey team members. Joining the All-Canadians are Rob Arabski and Steve Petrovic. The Gryph's Sports Lounge is also located on this level, opposite the Gold Rink. Unfortunately, Gryph's looks out over the Red Rink and not the Gold Rink. Entry to the Gold Rink will welcome fans with the brightness of the new LED lighting, which makes a huge difference on the initial impression of the interior of the rink. Fans enter behind the horseshoe seating at the northwest end of the arena. The ice surface runs from northwest to southeast.
The seating in the Gryphon Centre features the centre ice section with full plastic arena chairs and high-top counters, perfect for standing room behind the grandstands. The remainder of the seating has been upgraded with more comfortable contoured plastic bleachers which have been fastened over the original, hard, wooden benches. Surprisingly, the centre ice area may not be the best spot to watch the game from as the chair seating offers little in the way of legroom. New paint and markings and sticking to the red, gold, black and white colour scheme make the Gryphon Centre visually appealing.
At the southeast end of the arena hangs the scoreboard, which is fairly simple but does the job. The southwest side of the arena, which is the side lacking spectator seating, has the Gryphons championship banners hanging above the penalty boxes. Hanging for the Gryphons are a bit of a hodge-podge of hockey banners, which is a little different than other schools. The Gryphons have won the Queen's Cup as OUA champions on six occasions, specifically in 1976, 1979, 1980, 1994, 1997 and most recently in 2015. The highlight of the championship banners is the 1997 University Cup in which the Gryphons were declared National Champions. Other banners present include banners for women's hockey achievements, figure skating achievements and a banner men's hockey earned before they became the University of Guelph in 1958. A handy feature of this arena is the Gryphons hockey roster is posted on a large billboard on the southwest side of the arena which is great for a quick glance at who is on the ice. Fans may expect that the arena would be exceedingly cold, however, the climate is quie comfortable for fans and the heaters above the seating area work well.
The game day production is about what you would expect from an OUA program. Many of the jobs throughout the arena are performed by students, including the play-by-play and online broadcast on OUA.tv. The Gryphons have a bit of an entrance, which is fairly unique for OUA hockey, and the lights go down and the Gryphons enter through the fog machine before the national anthem. One of the upgrades at the Gryphon Centre was the PA system, which is now clear and allows fans to hear what the announcements are, rather than feeling like they are in Charlie Brown's class.
The Gryphon Centre Arena is located right on campus of the University of Guelph on Reynolds Walk. There are a few options that are within walking distance of the arena, but not a ton. A quick venture in the car will take you to Gordon Street where you will find Fifty West, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Manhattans. A quick turn onto Stone Road will bring patrons to Stone Road Mall and a variety of chain restaurants including Montana's, Milestones and Fionn MacCool's. If you are wanting to stay on campus, then try P.J.'s Restaurant in the Atrium or even Gryph's in the Gryphon Centre itself.
Other entertainment options in Guelph would include heading north to downtown Guelph. The River Run Centre has a number of shows that may interest fans on the right day. The Sleeman Centre, home of the OHL's Guelph Storm is also nearby. Other sporting options in Guelph include the Gryphons football team, which plays at Alumni Stadium and the Gryphons basketball team at the brand new Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre.
For fans that need to stay over in Guelph, the Delta is very close to campus as is the Days Inn.
Guelph Gryphons hockey has a decent following. Sometimes, OUA hockey is difficult to assess with regards to attendance as reporting can be sporadic. As of this writing, Guelph ranked third in the OUA in average attendance in the 2016-2017 season. However, the Gryphons drew over 4,500 fans to a game against Wilfrid Laurier held at the Sleeman Centre known as the Frosty Mug. The attendance at this game definitely skews the results. That being said, the Gryphons usually bring in between 200 and 500 fans for a regular game, which is pretty good for OUA hockey. Gryphon fans are a good mix of faculty, students, family and community fans. They are intelligent fans and support the home side. They are not over the top loud, but do bring something to the game day experience.
Getting to the Gryphon Centre is not terribly difficult. The University of Guelph campus is located east of highway 6 and south of highway 7 for those fans that are coming from out of town. There will be a bit of a drive through Guelph to get to campus, but traffic moves well along the major roads.
Public transit is available in Guelph, right onto the university campus and along Stone Rd and College Avenue. Fans interested in public transit should see the Guelph Transit website for maps, schedules and fares.
Parking is available to the east and south of the Gryphon Centre. There is no charge for parking during game times, especially on weekends, however a quick check of the facility page just to be safe might be in order.
The ticketing desk is at the top of the stairs just outside the Gold Rink. It is basically a temporary table and tickets are available on a cash only basis. Getting around the arena is not a problem at all and there is not usually a capacity crowd. Washroom facilities are on the small side, but should not be an issue.
Going to see a Guelph Gryphons hockey game is a sound investment for your sporting dollar. Cheaper than a trip to the movies, a Gryphons hockey ticket is $10 for adults and $5 for students. Although the concession options are not fantastic, free parking and a nice venue to watch hockey definitely help the situation. The Gryphons have put a strong product on the ice for many years and continue to do so. OUA hockey is vastly underrated as it is exciting and fast-paced and offers a more pure form of hockey without the fighting shenanigans.
An extra mark for the solid investment that the University of Guelph has made in athletics.
An extra mark for a history that dates all the way back to 1899.
An extra mark for the student run broadcast team.
The Guelph Gryphons are very excited about their new football and basketball facilities. However, not to be lost in all of this are the subtle, but effective upgrades that the university has put into the Gryphon Centre Arena. A solid OUA hockey venue, the Gryphon's igloo looks to see more success on its ice well into the future.
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149 Reynolds Walk
Guelph, ON N1G 1P4
50 Stone Rd. E
Guelph, ON N1G 1P4
50 Stone Rd. W
Guelph, ON N1G 1P4