The J. Benson Cartage Centre. Never heard of it? How about the Rona Centre? No? What about the Urbandale Centre? No luck there either? All three arenas are one and the same and lead to the most unique naming rights situation in all of sports.
Currently the J. Benson Cartage Centre refers to what is commonly known as the Ottawa Civic Centre. This arena sits in controversial Lansdowne Park in the Canadian Capital City of Ottawa. It is the former home of the Ottawa Senators and current home of the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League.
The Ottawa Civic Centre is owned by the City of Ottawa, but for a minimal cost, your company can enter a draw to have the Ottawa Civic Centre renamed for your company for the next Ottawa 67's season. The owner of the 67's, Jeff Hunt, has created this unique naming situation and used it more as a reward for long-time sponsors and suppliers rather than a giant money-making scheme. Entry in the draw last year was merely the price of 2 season tickets, and a suite for one-night. J. Benson Cartage was the winner this past year, while other winners have included Rona Home Centres and Urbandale Construction.
The 67's are one of the staple franchises of the current OHL. Named after the year of Canadian independence (1867), and founded in Canada's 100th birthday year, the 67's have appeared in 4 Memorial Cups, winning 2, and winning 3 J. Ross Robertson Cups as OHL Champions. The 67's are known throughout the OHL and Canadian Hockey League for their "barber shop pole" uniforms, featuring a jersey full of wide horizontal striping, and their association with recently retired Hockey Hall of Fame Coach, and junior hockey legend, Brian Kilrea. Kilrea had been with the 67's as either a coach or executive for 35 years, and has been a favourite of Canadian hockey analyst, and lightning rod, Don Cherry.
The 67's have had their share of NHL stars come out of Ottawa including, Adam Creighton, Darren Pang, Kevin Weekes, Doug Wilson, Gary Roberts, Kris Draper, Bill Clement, Bobby Smith, and NHL Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin.
Since taking over the team, owner Jeff Hunt has provided fans with one of the more unique OHL experiences, and has pushed the 67's back to the forefront of OHL relevance.
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".
There are some great food selections at the 67's game. All of the usual suspects are present including various sizes of popcorn, hot dogs, soda and fries. Pizza Pizza has a large stand where you can get a slice for $4.25.
If you are interested in refreshment, Molson Canadian, Heinekin and Corona are all available for $8.25, and Pepsi products are the soda of choice.
What makes the 67's experience stand out are a few more unique items. There is a Jimmy Dean's Ice Cream stand, a Starbucks, and a Mini Donuts stand. If you are looking for something heartier, you might try the Dr. Pepper grill. This is also the place to go if you are tired of your regular colas and are looking to be a Pepper.
However, if you are looking for an experience that is truly unique, and truly Canadian, then you had better stop at the Beaver Tails stand. Available in a variety of flavours you can get a flat, deep fried dough for only $5. They come in cinnamon and sugar; chocolate-hazelnut; garlic butter and cheese. The best, and most original, however, is definitley the maple butter flavour. It's to die for!
The Ottawa Civic Centre is located at Lansdowne Park, which has been the centre of local controversy. Jeff Hunt has been awarded a conditional Canadian Football League franchise to return to Ottawa. Lansdowne Park is also the home of Frank Clair Stadium. The stadium is in need of a renovation, which is necessary for the new CFL team. What makes the situation in Ottawa really unique is that the Civic Centre is built under the stands of Frank Clair Stadium. This provides a great opportunity to share parking and facilities, but also creates a very unique arena.
The 67's play in the largest arena in the OHL. The seating is very light on the stadium side, with only 10 rows of seating while the other side offers 2 decks of seating. Most of the seats offer great sightlines, however you may want to avoid the first few rows in the second deck which can have the view obstructed by the railings. The seats seem to be very new, and are spacious and very comfortable.
In the rafters you will find banners honouring the OHL championship winning teams of 1977, 1984, 2001 and the Memorial Cup Champion teams of 1984 and 1999. Also, you can find a banner honouring longtime coaching legend Brian Kilrea. Finally, the retired numbers of Peter Lee, Bobby Smith, and Denis Potvin are also hung prominently. The one negative that you will find in the aesthetics, is that the ceiling is covered with black, spray-on insulation. Also the back walls are also black and blocked off with chain-link fencing. Both these attributes give the arena an old and dirty look.
In the concourses, the 67's prominently show banners for division and conference winning teams, as well as all-time great 67's. There is also a shooting accuracy booth that you could try.
During the game, the 67's continue their strong efforts. One of the highlights of the package is The Grand Band stand. This section is tarped off and features a live band. Not totally unique, but what makes this great is that the band plays "Chelsea Dagger" live after 67 goals. A really unique feature that makes the 67's just a little more special.
Lansdowne Park is located in an Ottawa neighbourhood known as The Glebe. It is just south of downtown Ottawa, and is an eclectic neighbourhood which has lots to offer. If you just stick to Bank Street, there are numerous options for pre and post game meals. With this many options, there is also lots of room for you, and being shut out should not be a worry.
We went with the Royal Oak Restaurant on Bank Street, which is one of 14 locations around Ottawa. It is an Irish style pub with fantastic food and a decent atmosphere.
Other options that you might consider are the Georgetown Sports Pub, Corner Bar & Grill, Von's Bistro, The Barley Mow, Feleena's Mexican and Bridgehead. With so many good choices you can't go wrong! This does not even take into account the fabulous city of Ottawa, which has thousands of things to do, and even more places to eat. If you are looking for the true Ottawa experience, then make sure to bring your own blades, and go for a skate on the Rideau Canal.
The 67's play in the largest building in the league. At nearly 10,000 capacity, it is difficult to get a full building consistently. However, the 67's have put up attendance numbers that are consistently in the top 2 in the Ontario Hockey League.
On the review night, the 67's brought in almost 6,000 fans. There were a huge number of young fans at the game, which raised the noise level. Ottawa fans also love their noisemakers and horns, which can be heard throughtout the game. What might be the most unique part of the 67's fan experience is the presence of the "super-fans" which you might equate more with NFL football. There's the guy dressed in black with the white gloves, who has earned some serious dance points, and the old guy all decked out in 67's gear, a helmet and face paint, who runs laps and spins his noisemakers.
Lansdowne Park is located on Bank Street, which is a very large street, and can get busy very easily. That being said, getting there is not too bad, but if you want to ensure that you get some parking, you won't want to wait until the last minute. Getting out of the park wasn't too bad, but it was definitely not quick.
The councourses are very large and spacious, and more than adequate for an OHL sized crowd. However, the washroom facilities are fairly small and not the greatest.
Tickets for the Ottawa 67's go from $21.50 down to $15. The differences between the seats are so minimal, that the consumer should go with the low price and take a seat in the upper deck. Discounts are also available for students and children. With parking coming in at $5, and decent concession prices, a trip to the 67's is a great evening of family entertainment, especially since you consider the cross-town Ottawa Senators not only feature a major league product, but major league prices.
An extra point for a very unique promotion. In honour of Valentine's Day being around the corner, all of the women in attendance were given a cubic zirconia. One of those zirconia, however, was an actual diamond. The only way to see if you were a winner was to go to the sponsor, Jubilee Fine Jewellers. The 67's also had a special introduction of all of the Ottawa 67's moms that were in attendance.
An extra point for the classic "barbershop pole" uniforms that the 67's continue to wear. What may look gaudy at first, grows on the fan as a traditional look that the 67's and their fans have embraced.
An extra point is awarded for the excellent relationship that Jeff Hunt and the 67's have with Eugene Melnyk (who also owns the Mississauga Majors) and the Ottawa Senators. They have joined together on numerous occasions and seem to genuinely support each other.
An extra point for "The Big Red Guy." After a 67's goal, a giant inflateable sock man is blown up to dance for the crowd. Although it is something that you would find outside a used car lot, it was something that caught the attention of my daughter, and helped her become that much more enamoured with hockey.
No matter what you call it, the Ottawa Civic Centre or the J. Benson Cartage Centre, it provides fans with a very unique vantage point to watch some great hockey. The Ottawa 67's have been one of the cornerstone franchises of the OHL and continue to provide exciting, family-oriented entertainment. With numerous opportunities for sight-seeing in the Nation's Capital, ensure that you add the 67's as part of your vacation plans. It is well worth it!
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