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.
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".
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.
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.
In sports, there are a few teams that are undeniably intertwined with their communities. The Green Bay Packers are community owned. The Kitchener Rangers are owned by their season ticket holders. Many colleges comprise almost the entire city in which they reside. This shows that not all of professional and amateur sports are owned and controlled by multi-millionaires and multi-billionaires. The Owen Sound Attack are a similar situation.
Amidst a power play for a new arena, the Holody Family moved the Platers from Guelph to Owen Sound in 1989. Located on picturesque Georgian Bay, Owen Sound has a population of only 22,000, which is small even by OHL standards. The writing was on the wall for the short-lived future for the Owen Sound Platers.
In 2000, the Holody Family put the Platers up for sale. The Platers seemed destined to move and make an OHL return to the eastern Ontario city of Cornwall. Enter the community. A group of local businesspeople banded together and saved the Platers from another owner, and hockey in Owen Sound lived to fight another day. Their current ownership group remains true to that band of community patriots that saved the Platers and renamed them the Attack. Amongst the ownership group are local entrepreneurs, and a doctor. It is this grass-roots focus, and ownership that have kept the Attack alive, against all odds.
The Owen Sound Attack call the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre home. Named after Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender, and Owen Sound Native, Harry Lumley, the Community Centre features the J.D. McArthur Arena. McArthur was a local sportsman with strong ties to Owen Sound sports teams in Owen Sound until his 2002 death. The arena is unique in its marriage of classic Canadian arena architecture and modern arena architecture. The arena is locally referred to as Bayshore Arena, and offers a good night out to see some local hockey action.
Located in what is the smallest market in all of the Ontario Hockey League, the Owen Sound Attack are a team that have more than their share of challenges. Besides the small population of the city of Owen Sound, the Attack lack deep-pocketed ownership, and are a bit isolated in the OHL, lacking a true rival. What have been challenges for the Attack, have been met with a strong sense of community and a "Little Engine That Could" attitude. Playing in the aging and smallish J.D. McArthur Arena in the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre, the Attack have not been what could be considered a hot destination in the OHL for players, yet they have enjoyed modest success which culminated in their 2011 OHL J.Ross Robertson Cup and only trip to the Memorial Cup Championships.
The Attack were formerly known as the Owen Sound Platers. The Platers made the move from Guelph when they were purchased by the Holody family. When the Holody family decided to sell in the late 1990's, the future of OHL hockey in Owen Sound was definitely in doubt. The possibility of moving to a larger market was a significant one. Fortunately the team was saved by a group of local business owners that banded together to keep the team in Owen Sound, and renamed the Attack.
Many feel that the Owen Sound Attack are in above their heads. The Ontario Hockey League squad resides in the smallest OHL market in the league and plays in one of the oldest buildings in the league. The prospects for arena expansion seem pretty slim, however, this team was built on a solid foundation of community. Owen Sound is located on Georgian Bay and is right in the middle of Ontario's cottage country. This doesn't help the team when the winter months roll around, but the Attack offer the perfect release for beach communities when beaches are unavailable. The Owen Sound Platers moved from Guelph to Owen Sound in 1989 and enjoyed 10 years of play in the OHL. When Holody family, who moved the team, were ready to sell the team, all sorts of rumors persisted that the team was on its last leg in Owen Sound. Cornwall, Ontario seemed the most likely destination for the team. However, before the Platers could make tracks for Eastern Ontario, a group of local business owners stepped up to keep the team on the bay. In 2000, with their new ownership secured, the Platers were rebranded as the Attack and Owen Sound residents have enjoyed another 15 years of OHL hockey.
The Attack make their home at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. Built in 1983 and named after Hall of Fame goaltender and Owen Sound native Harry Lumley, the Bayshore as it is locally known is a classic old-school arena, with a newer atrium built on the front. The Bayshore is owned by the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority and leased back to the city of Owen Sound. Within the Bayshore is the J.D. McArthur Arena which is home to the Attack. The arena is named after local sportsman J.D. McArthur who influenced Owen Sound sports on numerous levels and features one of the smallest capacities in the entire Canadian Hockey League. The Platers / Attack have produced some great NHL players including Brad Richardson, Andrew Brunette, Kirk Maltby and Bobby Ryan; however it is their "little engine that could" attitude and community spirit that have driven this team to beat the odds and remain alive among some difficult circumstances.
1135 2nd Avenue East
Owen Sound, ON N4K 2J1
1800 2nd Av E
Owen Sound, ON N4K 2J7
967 3rd Ave E
Owen Sound, ON N4K 2K7
941 2nd Avenue East
Owen Sound, ON N4K 2H5
1155 1st Ave. W
Owen Sound, ON N4K 4K8
1800 2nd Ave E
Owen Sound, ON N4K 5R1