Belleville, Ontario’s historic Memorial Arena opened in 1929. Given its central downtown location on Market Square, it has always been an important member of this picturesque community, hosting a wide range of activities in addition to skating and hockey. The great Bobby Hull and countless other NHL players began their careers at the Memorial. It is one of a very limited number of surviving ice arenas in North America that were built prior to 1930, and its original interior is remarkably unchanged, making it a time capsule of hockey history.
Always noted for the quality of its ice, Memorial Arena has distinctive characteristics which make it unique among the remaining vintage arenas. It is fabled for the challenge to hockey players presented by the angles of its “square” corners, which are not rounded as is typical. Instead, the corners of the ice surface are turned by flat panels standing at angles to each other, so that a puck shot into a corner in Memorial Arena does not bounce off the boards in exactly the same way as would be expected in an ordinary rink. It also still has its original scoreboard and clock, as well as old-fashioned double wooden seats.
Memorial Arena also has a unique place in hockey history as the home ice of the Belleville McFarlands, the tough local team that won the Canadian national championship in 1958 and went on to defeat the Soviet Union in the 1959 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships. This remarkable achievement by a single small town team will never be repeated, since starting in 1964 Canada has been represented in this tournament by a national team instead of one that is locally sponsored.
Friday night games in the Memorial were memorable Old Time Hockey at its finest and most exciting. Its single penalty box is the source of many colourful stories, as was the well-known intensity of Belleville fans and their close proximity to (and occasional involvement in) the action of the game. Belleville McFarlands captain Floyd Crawford said his team's hometown fans "were like a seventh man on the ice."
Despite its history and significance, and although structurally sound, Memorial Arena has been closed since December 2010 due to the failure of its rink floor. Fortunately, with a new slab and refrigeration system the arena could easily reopen and resume operation as an ice-in facility and needed anchor attraction in Belleville's downtown core.
We are a community group dedicated to the preservation of Memorial Arena so that it can continue to serve and be enjoyed by our City and the surrounding area and tell its story to future generations.
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