Hockey wasn't always played in a nice cozy warm arena. No, in the community of O'Leary it used to be played back behind the old Station House on what most people started out skating on way back when...a pond. Yes, in 1912, O'Leary Hockey was all of the outdoor variety. The first rink was founded that year, and it saw many a tooth... err, games of hockey played. Some will argue that Alberton created the first ice surface in West Prince, and the fact is...thats true. But O'Leary residents were out braving the cold to catch some ice time on that pond.
In 1928 the ground was broken for a warmer venue, an indoor rink. People must have gotten too cold out behind the Station House. Construction was completed in 1933, and after that people could stand behind the glassless ice surface and watch the games get played. Many people were injured over the years from flying pucks or high sticks. A few hockey players were even badgered by the spectators. One was even hit with a frying pan. I'm sure a few community members would love to share that story. The new indoor rink did not just house hockey. Numerous ice related hobbies were explored such as skating, figure skating, free skating, themed skating.
The original arena under construction
Unfortunately in 1940 a fire struck the arena. A fire erupted in the changing room. Bayfield Ellis was the lead for the repairs. The arena also started supplying hockey sticks to players in the 1950's. However, more despair was in store. In 1956 the Island was hit hard by a sleet storm. This would cause a catastrophic collapse of the roof of the arena and would set things back by three years. Reconstruction would not be completed until 1959. Otis McNeil was the lead foreman on that project. There was a grand re-opening with such festivities as a Fancy Dress Carnival held on January 29th, 1960. Also during the 1960's, Louis Bernard was named Ice/Facilites Manager of the Arena. His new job would coincided with the institution of the arena's first artificial ice surface. During his tenure, he would also oversee the change from squared corners on the rink to more modern, rounded corners.
During the 1970's, Alton Rayner decided to sell the old tractor pulled ice augor and make the switch to the more modern zamboni. In 1979, more changes were in store. The arena would undergo renovations that would see a more modern entrance, the addition of a canteen, and the addition of a second floor. Allan Shaw was the mastermind behind the project.
As the 1980's hit O'Leary, Richard Livingstone came to the arena and started announcing the games. He is still there today. In 1989, the ice surface was due for an update. The athletics association decided it was time for a new ice surface, and shortly after passing in the community, in 1990, the new ice surface was installed.
The Philadelphia Flyers came to the community in 1992, and Eric Lindros gave the ice his approval. It is rumoured in the community that it was the best ice he had ever played on. However, the year following, the rink had to declare bankruptcy. Things got back up and running eventually. Not much happened in the later 1990s.
In 2010, Allan MacBain marked his 25th year with the arena. Sandie Smallman is the current Rink Manager. Also in 2010, a Canada vs. Russia game took place. Even though it was exhibition, you can bet the seats were filled!
Even today, the Maroons still draw a large crowd. The arena is thriving, and its safe to say nothing will change any time soon!