> History - Rinks

UNB Hockey's Home Rinks

At the turn of the 20th century, UNB was playing hockey outside - as were all teams in the Fredericton area. There were several outdoor rinks in Fredericton and most of UNB's games were either at the George Street rink or Officer's Square. Later, they played outdoors at College Field. UNB would play indoors at the Arctic Rink, when scheduling would allow.

The Arctic Rink

The Arctic Rink was a private venture organized as the Fredericton Skating Rink Ltd. in the summer of 1902. By the fall they had raised $10,000 to build the rink and it officially opened two months later on December 25th, 1902 at a cost of $7,000 (equivalent to $200K in 2020). As Fredericton's only indoor rink, ice time was at a premium between the City League, York League, Southern New Brunswick Senior League (SNBSL), YMCA Boys and public skating.

The rink was the third largest venue in the Maritimes behind the Halifax and Saint John exhibition halls. The Arctic Rink was located along the St. John River, where the City of Fredericton Library is today, at the ramp to the original Carleton Street bridge and landing for the D.J. Purdy Steamer.

(left) Carleton Street door of the Arctic Rink with D.J. Purdy Steamer in the background
(middle) Indoor view of the Arctic Rink
(right) Approximate location in Fredericton today, on top of the Fredericton Library

Photo Credit - (left & middle) New Brunswick Archives

When UNB was unable to schedule games for the Arctic Rink, they would use their own outdoor rink at College Field (which remains UNB property today) along with the original Field House at the corner of Church and Aberdeen streets.

The Arctic Rink, built entirely of wood, burned down on April 30th, 1939 in 30 minutes. In addition to the rink, a main electrical line that crossed the bridge, and in front of the rink, was damaged and arced, resulting in a six hour power outage (11pm to 5am) for Fredericton, Devon, Lincoln, Oromocto, Burton, Fredericton Junction, Hoyt and Tracey.

The rink was only insured for $15,000, just $8,000 more than what is was built for 37 years prior. This amount was nowhere near the estimated $100,000 (equivalent to $1.8M in 2020) needed for a replacement, plus the added expense of fireproofing if they were to use the same downtown location. Neither the City, nor any local investor group, was able to get a new rink off the ground by the fall and soon plans for a new rink took a backseat to the Second World War.

College Field

Outdoor games were a fact of life in Fredericton even when the Arctic Rink was available as there was more demand than the rink could support.

At the outset of the 20th century, UNB played hockey at the established venues in the city - George Street and Officer's Square. Soon other outdoor rinks appeared, including the Exhibition grounds and Marysville. UNB, like many local teams, would look to arrange ice-times at the Arctic Rink. This wasn't always successful and even some of the local outdoor rinks were becoming a challenge to access. As a result, UNB built their own outdoor rink to alleviate the problemon College Field.

UNB's Rugby and Football teams played their home games at College Field, at the corner of Church and Aberdeen streets. In the winter months, an open-air hockey rink was established for inter-class competition. The Varsity team would use the outdoor rink for practices and games when the Arctic Rink was not available. At the mercy of the weather, scheduling was always a challenge with out-of-town teams. Some teams refused to play UNB as a result.

York (County) Athletic Association Rink (aka York Arena)

(left) Undated picture of the original York Arena without the front extension
(right) Current York Arena with the front extension which gave the rink additional dressing rooms, public bathrooms, and a canteen.

Photo Credit - (left) York Arean Archives, front lobby display | (right) Eric Drummie

In the fall of 1947, the York Athletic Association Rink was completed. The rink was funded by York County and would start to host games in January 1948. This would be the Fredericton community's only working indoor rink and the first indoor rink since 1939 (the season the Arctic Rink burned down). An interesting challenge for patrons was the rink's location on the North side of the St. John River in the community of Devon (not part of the City of Fredericton at the time). This meant either crossing the river by car or foot on the Carleton Street Bridge or walking over the CNR Train Bridge (always a tricky venture since it was an active train route to Moncton and points east).

The official opening of the York Arena was Tuesday, January 20th, 1948 with a hockey game between UNB's Senior Varsity team and the local Fredericton Capitals. UNB would win 8-3.

Story titles and text from The Daly Gleaner, January 21st, 1948)

If ice-time was unavailable at the rink for UNB, they would play outside at College Field.

The York Arena remains in use today and is the oldest indoor rink in the province. The second oldest rink was Mount Allison Gardens (Dec. 1948) - home to the Mt. A Mounties. Sackville built a new municipal rink in 2003, the Tantramar Veterans Memorial Civic Centre, which became a de facto replacement for the Gardens. As a result, the university chose to raze the old Gardens for additional on-campus parking.

With the provincial re-alignment of municipal government in the mid 1960s, the York Rink was transferred from the County to the City of Fredericton. The City continues to manage the arena today.

The current hockey programs using the York Arena are the EDZA Bantam AAA Major & Minor teams and …cole Sainte-Anne Men's AA High School team.

Lady Beaverbrook Rink (aka LBR)

Wanting a rink of their own, UNB Students began a pledge campaign to raise the funds after WWII. Sir Max Aitken, First Baron of Beaverbrook (aka Lord Beaverbrook), provided a sizable grant which pushed the fund over-the-top in 1954. The Lady Beaverbrook Rink was completed in the fall of 1955 under his direction. The rink was located on University Avenue, just below UNB's main North gates and beside College Field. It opened on Saturday, November 25th, 1955 and remains in operation today. The rink was originally designed to hold 1,650 spectators.

Exterior images of the Lady Beaverbrook Rink (LBR)
Photo Credit - UNB HIL Arhcives & Special Collections

The Red Devils didn't play their first home game until January that season (January 28th) versus St. Dunstanís (now UPEI). SDU won the game 7-0

The LBR has some unique characteristics. First off, it is not a standard NHL size (200' x 85') - instead it is 190' x 83'. The corners are tight, with smaller arcs compared to an NHL rink and the south end has a large wall instead of glass (Plexiglass was a relatively new addition, and was only installed along the side boards 1989). Also, benches are on either side of the rink with the timerís bench and penalty boxes are on the home side. The home team bench has recently moved to the opposite side of the timer/penalty box because it is wider. Support pillars can block the view of spectators who do not arrive in time to get the best seats.

An interior view of the LBR looking south towards the infamous "Wall".

Fredericton's LBR is a memorial to Sir Max Aitken's first wife, Gladys Henderson Drury. The LBR in Saint John, also built by Aitken, is also a name-sake building. For locals in Saint John, the Lord Beaverbrook Rink is often referred to as the 'LB Rink'. A third rink in New Brunswick also carries Sir Max Aitken's title - the Lord Beaverbrook Arena (LBA) in Newcastle (now Miramichi).

UNB would continue to play at the LBR until 1976 when they would move into another Lord Beaverbrook arena, this one would be titled after his surname - Aitken, the Aitken University Centre (AUC) on UNB's campus by the South Gate. Soon after moving into the AUC, UNB sold the LBR to the City of Fredericton, not needing to own, operate and maintain two rinks.

With St. Thomas University moving to Fredericton in 1964, both university teams, the Tommies and Red Devils, played out of the LBR until 1976 when UNB move to the AUC. St. Thomas would remain at the LBR until 2012 (48 years) before moving to the Grant-Harvey Centre. The hockey programs that continue to using the LBR, as their home rink, are the FHS Men's & Women's AAA hockey and FYHA Midget 'A's.

Aitken University Centre (aka AUC)

The $3.2 million (equivalent to $14.5M in 2020) Aitken University Centre opened in May 1976, just in time for Spring Convocation. It was designed to seat 5,000 in the stands and another 2000 on the floor. The current seating plan is now approx. 3,800 due to wider seats in the top three rows and the addition of VIP boxes in three top corners of th AUC, plus an expanded press area.

(left) Exterior view of the front door | (middle) Interior view from ice-level | (right) Original marketing logo and colours of the AUC

Originally the AUC had a unique and distinctive colour schema - orange and brown. All seats were a drab orange with brown metal supports. The building's accents were dark brown with orange. This was an odd choice given that UNB's school colours are red and black. Most of the original scheme has been replaced or painted over - today's seats are now red and most of the concourse is painted red and black.

UNB's first competitive AUAA (now AUS) game was versus Saint Mary's on Saturday, November 13th, 1976. SMU won 10-2.

The centre-ice clock was added for the 2003 University Cup. Prior to the center ice clock, the rink had two clocks, one at either end. The west end (offices and Colter Room windows) had a smaller clock for time and score while a larger clock with penalty time keeping was above the top row of seats at the east end. The center ice clock is only used for UNB Hockey and other high-calibre games. The old 'west end' clock is used for all other events.

The rink underwent an entire new ice pad restoration for the 2011 University Cup. The rink's boards, concrete floor, sand underlayment and coolant pipes were all removed and replaced. The new concrete slab pour took the entire month of August to cure. Banners for both men's and women's hockey adorn the rafters along with original hanging ceiling cylinders (used to reduce condensation).

The AUC remains in operation today and continues to be the home of UNB Hockey. It has hosted six(6) University Cup tournaments (3rd most behind 7 for Alberta and 14 for Toronto). It is the second largest university hockey rink in USPORTS - second only to UBC's Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Arena (built for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with a seating capacity of 5,000 and has two adjoining rinks Father David Bauer Arena & Protrans Arena).

Return Engagements & Willie O'Ree Place

UNB played a return engagement at the York Rink versus St. Thomas in 2006 when the LBR had ice-problems. STU played their first three home games out of the York that season, the third of which was against UNB. STU won the game 3-1, the second last time STU defeated UNB. They didn't win again until November 20th, 2013 (a drought of 36 straight loses) followed by thirteen more loses before the program shuttered in April 2016.

In the Fall of 2009 UNB played an exhibition game versus St. Thomas at Willie O'Ree Place, a dual-ice pad on Fredericton's North side (home of the Fredericton Midget AAA Caps) as neither the LBR or AUC ice was ready. UNB won 8-1.

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