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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

Hespeler Memorial Arena - Hespeler Shamrocks

Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Hespeler Memorial Arena

640 Ellis Road

Cambridge, ON N3C 4N1

Year Opened: 1990

Capacity: 720

Shammies are Buzzin

In Ontario, Junior C hockey is usually the domain of small towns, but for every rule there are exceptions.  The City of Cambridge has a population of over 138,000 but was amalgamated in 1972 from the towns of Preston, Galt and Hespeler.  Over fifty years later, those divisions are still felt in Cambridge.  Loosely considered the part of Cambridge that is north of Highway 401, Hespeler has a long history with hockey including being the former home of hockey sticks manufactured of the same name.

The original Hespeler Shamrocks were founded in 1960 and began in the Central Junior C Hockey League.  The team moved up to Junior B in 1979 and were renamed the Cambridge Shamrocks in 1979.  Success did find the Shamrocks as they won their league in 1963, 1964 and 1970.  They also won the provincial championship, Schmalz Cup, in 1964.  The Shamrocks would move to Guelph in 1982 and return to Cambridge, in an ironic circular turn of events, in 2018 and continue in the GOJHL as the Cambridge Redhawks. 

The current iteration of the Shammies began in Simcoe in 1959 as a Junior B team, dropping to Junior C two years later.  In 1965 Simcoe would bring home the Schmalz Cup.  Beginning as the Juniors and going through a host of different names, 2017 would mark the christening of the Simcoe Shamrocks and the following year would see the team move to Cambridge to begin again as the Hespeler Shamrocks in the Provincial Junior Hockey League.

The original Shamrocks played in the original Hespeler Memorial Arena, built in 1947 and named to honour the veterans of World Wars I and II.  In 1990 the current arena was built and the name traveled from the old arena to the new one.  Eventually a second ice surface was built and added on to the Hespeler Arena.  The Shamrocks play in Rink 1, which boasts a seating capacity of 720.  The Shammies provide a solid hockey experience that fans will enjoy.

Food & Beverage 3

Concession options in Junior C hockey rinks are really hit or miss.  The concessions at the Hespeler Memorial Arena are better than to be expected.  The main concession area is found between the two rinks.  Hot dogs, chicken strips, fries, onion rings and poutine are featured on the menu.  Pepsi products and bottled water along with coffee, tea and hot chocolate are the soft drinks available.  In the Blueline Club, essentially on the level immediately above the concession stand, fans are able to purchase alcoholic beverages and consume them within the club, which features windows that look out to the ice surfaces.  The Blueline Club is run by Duke’s Dugout and is in the upper southwest end of the rink.

Atmosphere 3

The Hespeler Memorial Arena is a solid venue for Junior C hockey.  The exterior features light brick with green siding and is fairly low profile.   The second ice pad was built to the south of the original building and perpendicular as opposed to parallel.  Upon entering the lobby it is clear to fans that Hespeler Arena is a community hub and the home of the Shamrocks.  There are youth hockey pictures all over the lobby. 

The Shamrocks do a good job of advertising their presence within the lobby with trophy cases dedicated to the team.  A framed collage dedicated to the arena from former NHL player and Cambridge native Kirk Maltby can be found in the lobby also.  A temporary ticket table welcomes fans and once a ticket is purchased it is up to the second level.  Nods to the Shamrocks continue on the upper floor with a trophy case featuring player profile photos.  Also of note is a framed print of the original Hespeler Memorial Arena.

Inside the seating area, the ice surface runs from northeast to southwest and the elevated seating area is on the northwest side.  The seating area consists of nine rows of plastic stadium seats.  The southeast side of the arena features a ton of youth hockey banners.  In the west corner a selection of NHL jerseys from Cambridge locals is proudly displayed. 

Honourees included Paul Woods, Ken Ellacott, Red Laurence, Tim Brent, Kirk Maltby and referee Bob Hodges.  The Shammies banner in the north corner announces the home of the team and a simple scoreclock is on the northeast wall.  A couple of other items of note for the arena itself include the need of a paint job and the significant temperature drop when entering the seating area.  Gloves are a good idea and selecting a seat under the gas heaters is also a good plan.  Championship banners or other recognition of either the original Shamrocks or current franchise would be good.

The gameday production for the Shamrocks is fairly simple.  Music is played during breaks in the action.  Junior hockey staple promotions including the 50/50 draw and program raffle are also available.  Unfortunately the PA system in the seating area is not terrific and announcements are difficult to understand at times.  They are, however, crystal clear from the Blueline Club.  The one piece that is easy to hear is the encouragement of “Go Shammies” after nearly every announcement.

Neighbourhood 4

Hespeler Memorial Arena is located in the Hespeler Village neighbourhood of Cambridge.  There are a number of places to stop for pre or post game food or drink that are within a very short drive.  Some spots include Ernie’s, Four Fathers Brewing, Freida’s, The New York and The Angry Oak.

For fans looking for another sporting option in Cambridge, the Junior B Cambridge Redhawks of the GOJHL play in the Galt area of town.  Other tourist options in Cambridge include Hespeler Village, the Hamilton Family Theatre, the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory and the McDougall Cottage Historic Site.  For fans who wish to stay close to the arena, the Comfort Inn and Homewood Suites are options.

Fans 2

Hespeler Shamrocks games average between 150 and 220 fans per game.  While it is true that the Shamrocks play in a larger centre than many other PJHL teams, they do have plenty of sports competition in the Tri-City area.  It appears that Hespeler is in the bottom third in attendance in the PJHL, so there is plenty of room for improvement.  Fans in attendance are typical Southern Ontario fans, as in fairly quiet who get loud when something big happens


Access 5

The Hespeler Memorial Arena is located in the Hespeler Village neighbourhood of Cambridge.  The arena is on the south side of Ellis Road.  It is just north of Highway 401.  There will be a bit of traversing through residential areas to get to the arena, but that will not be a problem and traffic won’t be an issue.  There is plenty of free parking on site.  For fans who wish to take public transit to the game, there are bus stops on Ellis Road and nearby Cooper Street.  Fans should check the Grand River Transit website for fares, schedules and maps.  Getting around the arena is not a problem, however, if there are two games going on at the same time, the concession area can get a little crowded.  Washroom facilities are adequate for the arena.

Return on Investment 5

The investment in a Junior C hockey game is pretty low.  Adult tickets can be had for $10 and children and seniors can get in for $5.  Parking is free and concession prices are what one would expect.  The premier time for Shammies hockey is Sunday afternoon, leaving plenty of time in the evening for other options.  The product on the ice is good and the investment is such that bringing the family won’t dent the pocket book.  Overall, a very affordable and solid experience.

Extras 3

An extra mark of the community focus and embracing of history in Hespeler. 

An extra mark for the bee motif that travels through Hespler.  A marketing strategy in the early 1900s, the image of the bee and beehive came with the slogans that Hespeler was a “honey of a place to live” and a “beehive of industry.”  The Shamrocks have embraced the bee with hive icons on their logo and the hashtag “boysbebuzzin”.

An extra mark for the volunteers who help make the Hespeler Shamrocks run.

Final Thoughts

A unique Junior C experience, the Hespeler Shamrocks offer the small town vibe of Junior C hockey in a moderately sized city.  Taking in a Shamrocks game at the Hespeler Memorial Arena is affordable and an overall “honey” of an experience.

Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on YouTube, Twitter, Threads and Instagram @profan9.

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