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The Jack

When the Mississauga Ice Dogs relocated to St. Catharines in 2007, the number one question on every one’s mind was how were Bill and Denise Burke going to make the old barn of an arena work for a financially successfully OHL team?

Now in the fifth season, the answer is just fine, thank you very much.

When the first Niagara Ice Dog team stepped on the ice for their very first home opener, all doubts were erased. With an opening sell out game against their new rival, Mississauga Majors, the relocated Dogs of that first season (think Cuputi, Legein, Swift, DeSousa) realized it was a great place to play after years of yawning fans in the cavernous Hershey Centre. The first season averaged 2,722 cheering, loud raucous fans (yes, I’m thinking of you Section M) and they led the league in 15 sell out games.

The old barn of an arena was not a detriment after all and in fact those early Dogs affectionately dubbed the arena as “the Jack.”

The Jack is short for the Jack Gatecliff Arena otherwise known as The Gatorade Garden City Centre. (or Double G, Double C as boss man Brandon Sudeyko refers to it) Built in 1938, it is by far the oldest venue in the OHL and is in dire need of repair or as most agrees - replacement. With mice literally eating away at concession profits, the need for additional space for box seats and the limited parking, no one can disagree the arena is in need of replacement.

But as the Ice Dogs enter their fifth year of exciting OHL play in the old barn, city council is finally seriously planning a new spectator center for St. Catharines. At last week’s council meeting it was unanimously voted to hire a consultant to help design and cost-out a new spectator facility for downtown St. Catharines. This will provide the Ice Dogs a new and improved facility, but at a huge cost. Currently the Burkes are paying a nominal $2.00 a year rent but if a new arena is built, Bill Burke has agreed in principle to a 20-year lease paying market value rent of $10,000 a game or $400,000 a year.

I am sure this will be a long process but well worth the wait for the citizens of St. Catharines and the players and fans of the Niagara Ice Dogs. But no matter what wondrous facility is built, will it ever be as loud and crazy as the Jack during a play-off run?

Dog Bytes:

  • Bruins have sent back Dougie Hamilton to Niagara
  • Blues have sent back Brock Beukeboom to the Soo (I’m sure they meant to say Niagara)
  • Vancouver sent unsigned Friesen to AHL Chicago but he could still come back to Ice Dogs as over-ager.
  • Former Ice Dog and Team Canada member Stefan Legein was released by Philadelphia Flyers

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