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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

Sudbury Community Arena - Sudbury Wolves

Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Sudbury Community Arena 240 Elgin St. Sudbury, ON P3E 3N6

Year Opened: 1951

Capacity: 4,640

Old. School. Hockey. Barn.

The Sudbury Community Arena is in the twilight of its Ontario Hockey League life, and fans need to take advantage of the opportunity to see this facility host the Sudbury Wolves while they still can. The expected opening of the Kingsway Entertainment District, which will provide a new event centre home for the Wolves, is not far off, in 2025. There is understandable excitement for the new arena by the locals, but it will be sad to see the Sudbury Arena close its doors to junior hockey for the last time. Simply put, the Sudbury Arena is an old-school hockey barn.

Built in 1951, the Sudbury Community Arena, with emphasis on community, has been the host venue for the various iterations of the Sudbury Wolves for almost three-quarters of a century. The venue is owned by the City of Greater Sudbury and is truly a throwback arena to a previous era that is increasingly becoming lost in the OHL. Three distinct iterations of the Wolves have been around the mining town of Sudbury since World War I. The 1932 version brought the Memorial Cup home to Sudbury and the 1935 Wolves were runners-up.

The current version of the Wolves have been members of the OHL since 1972 and is one of the mainstays of the league. The team was purchased by entrepreneur Dario Zulich from the Burgess Family in 2016. Although on-ice success has not been a consistent feature for the Wolves, it is one of the most unique hockey experiences that a fan could find and a must-see for all who love hockey.

Food & Beverage 3

The culinary experience at the Sudbury Arena is pretty pedestrian. Regular arena options including hot dogs, popcorn, pizza, chicken fingers, fries, onion rings, and nachos dominate the menu and are joined by other, smaller snack items. There are a few concession stands both in the upper and lower concourses. Coca-Cola products are the soft drink of choice in the arena and coffee and other hot drinks are also available. Molson Canadian and Coors Light are among the beer options available at most concession stands. In the upper concourse on the north side, fans may want to check out The Bar, which has an expanded menu of alcoholic beverages.

Atmosphere 5

The Sudbury Community Arena, simply put, is an old-school hockey barn. Built in 1951, it is understandable that the people of Greater Sudbury are pining for a new arena. Concerts, other events, and revenue streams are not able to be maximized at the Sudbury Arena, however, it remains a shrine to hockey and a venue that will, soon enough, be lost to time. The exterior of the Sudbury Arena has a classic red brick entrance that is true to its age. The arena is guarded by a bronze statue of singer Stompin’ Tom Connors, author, and performer of the famous “Hockey Song.” One of Connors’ big hits was “Sudbury Saturday Night” which is the reason for the commissioning of the statue.

Inside the doors, fans will enter the lobby where the box office is found with some glassed-in trophy cases housing various Sudbury hockey artifacts. Other Sudbury Wolves hockey artifacts can be found in trophy cases on the lower concourse. Up the stairs is the entrance to the arena that brings fans to the upper concourse, behind the seating bowl. Once the seating bowl is visible, fans are whisked away to a previous era. The structure of the building is old and majestic, with iron i-beams holding up the majestic hardwood roof. It is structured in a way that surprisingly does not impede the view from any of the seats or the TV cameras, as has been the case with venues of this era.

The ice surface is oriented in an east-west direction with the north side offering that picture-perfect view of the centre-ice logo. The video board above centre-ice is outdated, with what looks like rear-projection video screens, and will most likely not be upgraded with a new venue on the horizon. The majority of banners hang on the east side, including the few division and conference titles earned by the Wolves over the years. Also, the 5 retired numbers of Rod Schutt, Randy Carlyle, Ron Duguay, Mike Foligno, and Dale Hunter.

Nearly all of these players were local products who played for the Wolves and went on to play in the NHL. The north side of the arena, against the wall, shows a few banners that are very special for the Wolves. The 1932 Memorial Cup banner hangs proudly. Also, the Sudbury Wolves Ambassadors banner hangs proudly featuring Maple Leafs broadcaster Joe Bowen and Sportsnet broadcaster Rob Faulds. Both plied their craft doing play-by-play for the Wolves. Bowen also hails from the Greater Sudbury area.

The southeast corner of the arena is where the most unique item in all hockey resides. In the rafters hangs a real taxidermy wolf. When Sudbury scores a goal, the wolf travels out over the ice towards the visiting team bench on a pulley system. It stops over the bench, shakes around a bit, and heads back to the southeast corner. There is nothing like this anywhere. It may be kitschy, but it is amazing.

The rest of the gameday production is fairly straightforward. Pregame music takes a bit more of a country than most other spots. Once warmups proceed, it heads toward more modern rock and hip-hop. The Wolves mascot, Howler, is found around the arena interacting with the crowd and takes part in the pre-game, promotions, and the Timbits Mini-Game during the intermission. Also, currently, the Wolves are featuring a PA announcer who brings a little more energy than in most spots, almost to the point where a fan would confuse him with a monster truck announcer.

Neighbourhood 3

The Sudbury Community Arena is located in Downtown Sudbury, directly north of the train station. There are a couple of spots around the arena that fans may want to stop to get a pre or post-game meal. Towne House Tavern, Wacky’s, and The Dog House are all within a few steps of Sudbury Arena.

Fans who are looking for other sports may want to check out the Sudbury Five basketball team that also plays at the Sudbury Arena. Heading to Laurentian University for some Laurentian Voyageurs basketball at Ben Avery Gymnasium may also be a plan. The Sudbury Theatre Centre is a couple of blocks from the arena and may have something happening of interest. Otherwise, Science North or Dynamic Earth and the Big Nickel are the biggest tourist attractions of Greater Sudbury. The surrounding Northern Ontario areas are known for outdoor activities so finding a spot for some ice fishing or snowmobiling during the winter may be the best option for fans.

For fans needing to stay in the area, the Best Western Downtown Sudbury and Radisson Hotel Sudbury are not far from the arena.

Fans 3

At just over 4,600 spots for fans in the Sudbury Arena, it represents one of the smaller capacities in the OHL. The Wolves are consistently in the bottom third of the league in attendance. The reasons usually include apathy from the fans for numerous teams that were not very successful on the ice. The Wolves have not played in a modern Memorial Cup and have never won the OHL. They have only played in the OHL Finals once. There are also feelings among locals that it is time for a new arena. In the Covid-shortened 2021-22 season, the Wolves averaged under 2,000 fans per game. In a normal season, the Wolves usually average around 3,000 fans per game. It is fair to say a new arena will bring out the curious in the beginning, but it will be interesting if the move to a shiny new arena will provide the dividends that the old-school hockey barn does not.

Access 4

Getting to the Sudbury Community Arena is not difficult, especially considering the relatively low attendance at games. Downtown Sudbury is pretty significantly north of the Trans-Canada Highway, the main artery to the south, east, and west. A fairly significant trek will need to be made through town. That being said, the traffic in Greater Sudbury flows at a decent clip and the city is not as congested as its bigger cousins to the south. Parking can be found immediately south by the train station or at a couple of other surfaces lots in the area. Fans wishing to get to the game via public transportation are in luck. The train station is right across the street from Sudbury Community Arena and the Via Rail can be caught there for out-of-town fans. There are also bus stops right on Elgin Street. Fans should check the GOVA website for fares, maps, and schedules. Traffic getting out of the Sudbury Arena can be a little congested for a very short period, but it is not terrible.

Getting around the Sudbury Arena can be a bit of a challenge at times. The plethora of stairs, especially at the entrance, could prove to be a bit of a challenge for those who have mobility challenges. Washrooms are also found on the ground floor and can be a bit of a maze to get to. Both these issues would easily be solved in a new facility.

Return on Investment 5

Tickets for the Sudbury Wolves run from $21 to $26 based on the area of the arena selected. There are discounts available for children and seniors also. Parking can be found for free on the weekends near the train station and concession prices are what is to be expected. The product on the ice and the environment that it is presented in is top-notch and well worth the dollars paid. With the lack of proximity and greater expense of the professional sport, the Sudbury Wolves and OHL offer great value and a great time.

Extras 3

An extra mark for the history of the Wolves franchise and their classic home.

An extra mark for the very unique taxidermy wolf in the rafters.

An extra mark for the rabid Northern Ontario rivalries with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and North Bay Battalion.

Final Thoughts

It behooves hockey fans everywhere to roll into Greater Sudbury, Ontario, pass by Stompin’ Tom, and head into the Sudbury Community Arena to watch some excellent hockey in a classic venue. They don’t make them like this anymore and the opportunity to experience Wolves hockey at the Sudbury Arena is finite. Take a trip to the Old-School Hockey Barn and it won’t be regretted.

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

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