The Sarnia Sting have been members of the OHL for just over 10 years. The Sting were purchased by former NHL star and Sarnia native Dino Ciccarelli and his brothers and moved from Newmarket to the border city of Sarnia in 1994. The newly minted Sting played in the tiny Sarnia Arena for 3 years while the team waited for the City of Sarnia to build the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre, an arena more adept to host Major junior hockey. The arena was renamed Progressive Auto Sales Arena in 2016. The Sting have enjoyed moderate success on the ice and recently have provided the NHL with 3 top 3 picks in the amateur draft. Nail Yakupov and Steven Stamkos were both selected first overall and Alex Galchenyuk was selected third overall and all three are now making significant contributions to their NHL clubs. Their success in developing prospects and on the ice during the regular season has not translated into playoff success as the Sting are still looking for their first J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL Champions and their first birth in the Memorial Cup Tournament.
In 1998 the City of Sarnia opened Progressive Auto Sales Arena. From 2009 to 2015 the naming rights to the building were owned by RBC and the Sting called the RBC Centre home. The 2015 season saw RBC not renew their naming rights deal and the name of the Sting’s Hive reverted back to the SSEC. The SSEC is on the campus of Lambton College and a bit of a trek from downtown Sarnia. The Ciccarelli brothers have also sold the Sting to former NHL star Derian Hatcher and current NHL player David Legwand. The Sting are now following a model seen all over junior hockey with Hatcher taking an active role in the day to day operations as head coach, while also acting as owner and governor. The SSEC remains a pretty decent place to see some OHL hockey and the team is consistently making the playoffs.
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".
The food selection at the SSEC is a pleasant surprise, making significant improvements over the years.
There are four concession stands around the arena concourse and each stand offers different culinary options. Smoke's Poutinerie, The Hot Dog Hut, Pizza Pizza and the Creemore Market Carvery are the four main stands. Smoke's offers a variety of the Canadian staple, poutine, and is creating a growing footprint for itself around Canada, especially in arenas and stadiums. Pizza Pizza is the Canadian authority on pizza and slices can be found for $8 with a soda. The Hot Dog Hut offers a variety of gourmet hot dogs including the Southwestern Dog, Poutine Dog and Club Dog. Finally, the Market Carvery offers a variety of sandwiches as well as alcohol options. Traditional arena fare, including nachos, popcorn, chips and chocolate bars can be found at the Pizza Pizza stand.
As far as beverages go, Pepsi products can be found throughout the arena in the 500 mL plastic bottle. There are also some alcoholic beverages available. At mobile stands around the concourse and most concession stands, Molson Canadian, Coors, Coors Light and Rickard's Red are available in tallboys for $8.25/$8.50. Draught is also available at the Market Carvery and Pizza Pizza stand for $6.25/$9.75. Mike's Hard Lemonade and Palm Bay Coolers are available at the Carvery as well if you are interested in a non-beer alcoholic beverage. Bottle water and Tim Horton's coffee and cappuccino are also available.
It is difficult to go wrong with the wide variety of culinary options at the SSEC. However, if you are looking for something distinctly Canadian, especially if you are from across the border, then head for Smoke's Poutinerie and try some poutine. The Double Pork is a great option featuring pulled pork and double-smoked bacon.
The SSEC is a pretty good spot to catch some great Major Junior hockey action.
The exterior of the SSEC is not overly beautiful, however it is far from an eye-sore. The combination of red and grey brick with blue siding around the arena proper are fine for this type of arena. There is a distinct lack of entryway at this arena. There is no large meeting spot, and although the arena is part of a larger hockey complex, patrons will definitely be forced to meet up with friends outside before finding shelter from the cold.
Upon entry, fans are immediately thrust into the main concourse. The SSEC has a similar design to many other junior hockey facilities like the Sleeman Centre in Guelph, with an open concept arena with the concourse behind the seating bowl. Fans are able to see the action, for the most part, when travelling around the concourse or visiting the concession stands. The ice surface is in a north-south configuration. Even though RBC declined to renew their naming rights for the arena, there remain numerous markings from the previous seasons including exterior signage on the arena and sign below the press box on the east side of the arena welcoming you to the RBC Centre. On the southwest side of the arena you will find two banners that may confuse you a bit. One is for former NHL referee Kerry Fraser and former NHL player Shawn Burr. Neither have a specific connection to the Sting, however both are Sarnia natives. There are similar banners in Guelph.
Just south of the scoreclock you will also find four banners that are connected with the Sting. These include banners for Sting members who scored 50 goals in a season and 100 points in a season. Also there is a banner honouring members of the Sting who won gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships. On these banners you will find the names of great Sting players like Stamkos, Yakupov, Galchenyuk and others like Trevor Letowski. In between these banners is the lone banner for team accomplishment; the 2004 West Division Championship. The SSEC features an octogonal scoreclock with video board. By today's standards, the video board is lagging behind, however it does the trick. The Sting would benefit from doing more to honour and bring attention to some of those standout players that have graced their arena in the past.
The in-game promotions are about what you would expect from junior hockey. The Sting feature a local school or choir singing the national anthems. The 50/50 is a staple as well as the expected on ice and off ice promotions. There is definitely a community feel at the Sting game and they are heavy on sponsorships. Chuck-a-puck is a staple at the Sting game also, which is not normally found at larger arenas. The music at the SSEC is a mix of modern and classic pop/rock with traditional hockey organ mixed in. The mascots Buzz and Honey also make their presence felt on and off the ice.
The seating bowl at the SSEC features 13 rows of traditional plastic stadium seats in maroon. There are cupholders throughout the arena also. If you are interested in that perfect picture of the ice with the logo facing your direction, then the west side of the arena is where you want to be. As with most junior hockey facilities, standing room is something of a tradition, and there is plenty behind the seating bowl along specified rails. There are luxury boxes above the concourses in a horseshoe around the west, north, and east sides of the arena. For an alternative experience, Legends, the in arena restaurant and bar, is available on the east side of the arena. As far as which seats you should choose, a capacity of 5,500 means that almost all the seats provide a great view of the ice. Selecting one of the top few rows will give you the opportunity to see the majority of the ice without having to look through the glass.
The surrounding neighbourhood of the SSEC is continuing to grow and the number of pre and postgame opportunities is increasing.
The SSEC is located on the campus of Lambton College. Just to the north of the college is London Road which offers a huge selection of recognizable chain restaurants that you may wish to select. From fast food, to roadhouse chains there is a decent variety for you to choose from. There are also a few options that are a little more unique and may interest you. Some of these may include Norm's Pub and Grill, Canton Restaurant, John's Restaurant, BrownStones Sports Lounge, Nick's Family Restaurant and Sicily Restaurant and Pizzeria. However, Bains BBQ might be the best selection of them all.
As far as other entertainment options go, Sarnia does not offer too many other things to capture your imagination. In the months with nicer weather, the waterfront is nice, but the most popular attraction may be the Blue Water Bridge, which leads to Michigan. If you have kids with you, the Stones 'n Bones Museum may be worth a look. There is not much in the immediate vicinity as far as other sporting options.
There are a couple of places that you may consider staying in Sarnia. The Ramada is on Modeland Road and is the closest to the college campus. The Howard Johnson is just on London Line also.
Sarnia Sting fans are are fairly average in their attendance, but do offer a little something extra.
The Sarnia Sting usually average around 3,000 fans per game. In the 2015-2016 season, attendance has dropped just below 3,000 fans per game, which is not great for the OHL. They consistently rank in the bottom third of the league and as of this writing, rank 17th of 20 in the OHL for the 2015-2016 season. Considering that the team is well established, and as of this writing, are holding down first place in their division, the attendance numbers are a bit of a disappointment.
The fans in the stands do bring a little something extra to the table. The majority of fans in Sarnia are typical Ontario fans and are fairly quiet throughout the game. However, if you sit on the west side of the arena, you may be in with the die-hard fans who bring drums and cowbells to show their support. After each goal the "Yuuuup Yuuuup" chant comes over the sound system, to which the Sting fans all chime in and show their excitement.
Getting around the SSEC can be the biggest impediment to enjoying a Sting game.
The SSEC is located on the campus of Lambton College and practically at the junction of highways 20 and 402. It is just west of the Bluewater Bridge, which leads to Port Huron, Michigan and the northern suburbs of Detroit.
The Sarnia Transit does have a bus that runs right into the college for those of you who are interested in public transit. Check out the City of Sarnia website for maps, schedules and fares.
There is plenty of free parking on the campus immediately surrounding the arena. On a game where there is a sellout, you may want to consider getting there early to ensure that you have a good spot.
Ticketing and gate entry are areas that the SSEC falls flat. Ticket windows are outside the arena and will-call is split at different entrances with temporary desks. The SSEC would definitely benefit from some sort of atrium that could act as meeting place, ticketing and entry out of the elements.
Getting around the SSEC can be a real challenge. The concourses are far too narrow especially with a variety of temporary tables set up. Intermissions are best spent in your seat, which is never a great formula. Washroom facilities are pretty small also. Add lines for concessions and washrooms with narrow concourses, and getting around is more hassle than it's worth.
As with most Major Junior hockey, the Sarnia Sting offer a great experience for not a ton of money. Tickets for the Sting go for around $20 with discounts for seniors, students and children. Although concessions may not be cheap, you can't argue with the quality and selection. Parking is free also. Combine all of these with the opportunity to see top notch hockey in a pretty decent atmosphere, and you have a great combination for an excellent evening or afternoon's entertainment.
An extra mark for the Skate with the Sting event, which was held on the Family Day holiday in February. After the game, fans were given the opportunity to skate on the ice with the players. A great opportunity for all.
An extra mark for the unique "Yuuup Yuuup" call after Sting goals.
An extra mark for honouring local Sarnia hockey products.
Getting to see the Sarnia Sting is a pretty good way to catch some hockey. The future stars of the NHL are here, and in Sarnia, fans have had the opportunity to see some of the best. If the Sting and the City of Sarnia were able to iron out a few of the kinks in their building, the Sting would be a fantastic experience. Until then, the Sting's Hive is pretty good, but still has some improvements to make. Hopefully, the Sting will also be able to translate their regular season success into more success in the playoffs and make their first Memorial Cup appearance soon.
In 1994, future NHL Hall of Famer Dino Ciccarelli and his brothers bought the struggling Newmarket Royals with the intention of moving the team to their hometown of Sarnia, Ontario. Part of the deal for the Ciccarellis was an agreement with the City of Sarnia to build a new 5,000 seat arena that would seal the deal for the transfer of the franchise. Four years later, the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre opened its doors and the newly minted Sarnia Sting found their permanent home. With naming rights being sold to the Royal Bank of Canada, the RBC Centre was christened. RBC Centre North, that is! (notice the R-E in Centre).
Located on the campus of Lambton College, the RBC Centre has been home to the moderate success of the Sting. The biggest star to don a Sting jersey remains current Tampa Bay Lightning phenom, and 1st overall draft pick, Steven Stamkos. However, not even Stamkos and his brilliant junior career could bring the Sting that elusive first OHL title, or trip to the Memorial Cup. All that could change however, as the Sting are once again housing an expected first overall draft pick with Nail Yakupov.
The free parking is excellent and the enclosed team store in one corner of the arena was great. I like that the concourse is a ring above the seating bowl and that you could always look down onto the ice to see the action. At the same time, the concourse was so crowded that it took several minutes to get from one side of the arena to the other; it's just not wide enough to accommodate people visiting the concessions/restrooms and people standing to view the game from the railing.
1450 London Rd
Sarnia, ON N7S 1P7
1407 London Rd
Sarnia, ON N7V 2N5
1754 London Line
Sarnia, ON N7W 1A1
1643 London Line
Sarnia, ON N7W 1A9
1716 London Line
Sarnia, ON N7T 7H2