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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
How can a team that has been around for so long have had such little success? That is the question we find we are asking ourselves about the Sudbury Wolves. A stalwart franchise in the OHL, the Wolves have had very little success in the post-season. Appearing in the J.Ross Robertson Cup Finals to crown the OHL champions only 2 times in the last forty plus years, and no trips to the Memorial Cup tournament to crown the top team in Junior Hockey, the Wolves are a perplexing entity. The Wolves hold the dubious distinction of having the longest Memorial Cup drought in the OHL and the third longest in the Canadian Hockey League.
The Wolves have been in the OHL since its reorganization in 1972, and were part of the junior circuit before that. They have been owned by the Burgess family for the last 25 years, and play in what is really one of the true gems in all of junior hockey.
The Sudbury Community Arena, owned by the city, is absolutely unique, and a joy to see for any traveler or hockey aficionado. Perhaps it is the Wolves’ Northern Ontario location that is a challenge for them, or perhaps it’s just bad luck, but either way, true success is due to come the Wolves way any minute. Their fans are deserving, and they are waiting.
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".
You will find pretty basic concessions available for you at the Sudbury Arena. Popcorn, hot dogs, fries, and chicken nuggets are common and available at all stands. Some stands feature a little more interesting fare, including poutine and brownies.
The soda you will find includes Coca-Cola products, and the beer available is Molson Canadian.
One of the more unique features about the Sudbury Arena is that it is a peanut-free zone. This is advertised on signs around the arena, and unique among sporting facilities. With the number of anaphylactic life-threatening allergies to nuts on the increase, this may be a trend that we will see in the future.
You can actually order concessions to be delivered to your seats using your smartphone. This feature is fairly new for sports in general, and very unique for junior hockey.
The Sudbury Arena is an absolute gem. It is not bright and shiny and new like its cousin to the west in Sault Ste Marie. It is most definitely a classic arena from an era gone past. There have been some key improvements over the years, but its charm has not been lost.
The outer concourse is nothing special. It is on the upper level that you enter the seating bowl. It is really just a spot to wait for the doors to be opened, but the large windows at the front of the building allow natural light in.
Once you enter the seating bowl, the first thing that catches your attention is the absolutely gorgeous hardwood ceiling. The iron pillars and support just go to highlight the beauty of the wood. It may seem trivial, but it adds to the ambiance and helps with that classic look.
The seating bowl is a single bowl with a concourse above ... and underneath the stands. The majority of concessions are in the halls beneath the stands, but there are also a few options above as well. Team merchandise is above the seating bowl as well.
With a distinct lack of success in the current incarnation of the OHL, the Sudbury Wolves have not littered the rafters with banners, however there are a few interesting ones. Former Wolves Mike Foglino, Ron Duguay and Randy Carlyle are all honoured with retired numbers. The 2007 and 1976 Conference Championship banners hang above the rafters (the conference was named the Leyden Division back in the seventies and eighties). The interesting banners that you will notice include the 1932 Memorial Cup Championship and 1938 World Championship banners and will, at the very least, force you to check your Wikipedia for details. At one end of the arena, you will find the traditional portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. This one is illuminated, to bring greater attention to the portrait.
What puts Sudbury over the top in an atmosphere sense is one of the most unique items in all of sport. High above the concourse, in the far corner of the arena hangs an actual wolf. In borrowing from a Norman Bates movie, the Wolves have an actual Eastern Wolf that has been given the taxidermist treatment. Upon the home team scoring a goal, the wolf is wheeled out above the visitors' bench to glare menacingly at the opponents. Admittedly, this feature is totally kitschy, but it is absolutely unique, and has a strong connection to the region and the team.
The neighbourhood surrounding the Sudbury Arena is far better than I expected. The arena is located right across the road from the Sudbury Train Station. There is a Best Western just up the road on Minto Street, which is perfect for those who want to stay over and not have to worry about driving to the game. There are a few solid options for pre and postgame meals downtown as well. Some spots you may want to try would include the Doghouse, The Old Rock Roastery and Wacky Wings. The Sudbury Theatre Centre is right up the street as well. You would also want to consider hitting Sudbury tourist attractions including Science North (where you can pet a porcupine) and The Big Nickel, which is exactly what it sounds like.
The number of fans in attendance was a bit of a disappointment. The Wolves average between 3,500 and 4,000 fans per game. However, with the lack of success on the ice in Sudbury, it is not a huge surprise that the fans are not over the top for the Wolves. There are plenty of seats available. The community feel in Sudbury is strong, but a stronger show of support by the fans would help the overall experience. Some more success on the ice would definitely help in this department.
Getting to the arena in Sudbury is not too much of a problem. Traffic is not bad, even though the arena is not really all that close to Highway 17 or Highway 69. Elgin Street is a fairly significant street and moves well. There is a large parking lot across the street from the arena, and parking is not a problem at all. Inside the arena, the age shows when it comes to moving around the concourses. They are very cramped and small. The washroom facilities are not the greatest and at the most would be considered adequate.
Tickets for the Wolves are between $18 and $20 for adults. The value seats offer a great view of the ice, and are just as good as the preferred seats for the same price. Seniors, students and children receive discounts, with children seats being as low as $12. Parking was okay at $5 a car and concessions are pretty good on the pocketbook as well. In the end, the opportunity to take in a hockey game in such a special environment is well worth the price that you would pay in Sudbury.
An extra mark for the taxidermy wolf, and how unique it is in all of sport.
An extra mark for that community feel that you get in Sudbury.
Two extra marks for the great rivalry the Wolves have with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and the rivalry they had with the North Bay Centennials. The North Bay rivalry will surely be renewed when the Brampton Battalion move north. They have been selling bus trips in North Bay to see the Wolves take on the Brampton Battalion.
The Sudbury Community Arena is one of those special places in the OHL that true fans of sports travel should hit in their lifetime. If the Wolves brought the on ice success that the Wolves fans deserve, the Sudbury Arena could be legendary. Until then, the Sudbury faithful will remain at the Wolves' Den ... waiting for their team to make it to the big one!
Follow Dave's sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9
Member Review by staples1311 on Mar 17, 2013
I have been to the Sudbury Arena many times and it has gotten a little worse each time. While the newer renovations are nice, you need the overpriced club seats to even access that portion of the arena. The concessions are about normal for the OHL and have improved.(Popcorn used to only be available at one kiosk)
Parking will cost $3 to $5 unless you show up early and get a street spot, but you may want to pay for the lots because the arena is in a unsafe area. Fans are generally good except a group that bother other fans from out of town, Especially if the Hometown Wolves are losing. The concourses below are difficult to navigate and the upper concourse has much less traffic and are easier to get around. Washrooms always have long lineups, and look like they have been there since it opened without being renovated(Newer ones are really good)
Extras would be the wolf that comes out when they score and passionate fans. It would be good for the city to renovate it or build Wolves fans a new Den.
212 Romanet Ln
Sudbury, ON P3E 3N8
212 Minto St
Sudbury, ON P3E 3G9
187 Shaughnessy St
Sudbury, ON P3E 3E6
170 Shaughnessy St
Sudbury, ON P3E 3E6
100 Ramsey Lake Rd
Sudbury, ON P3E 5S9
151 Larch St
Sudbury, ON P3E 1C3