Sports

The Value in Creating (Kraft) Hockeyville

By Larry Pattison
Published March 02, 2012

Scott Park Arena
Scott Park Arena

Certainly there are thousands of communities across this great country that deserve this Mac and Cheese crown. Just as there are likely countless players in hockey towns nationwide who are equally deserving of, but may never realize, their childhood national league aspirations.

What makes Scott Park Arena in Hamilton, Ontario deserving of the Hockeyville title over the numerous other hockey centres that will likely capture our hearts over the course of this competition?

It's nothing to look at from the outside. I hadn't stepped foot through the front doors in years until recently. You might drive by and think it should be torn down, never mind $100,000 in upgrades. Maybe so, but whatever should happen to the old arena, the fact remains that it is the only arena in Ward 3 in Hamilton, Ontario.

Scott Park Arena sits right across the street from Ivor Wynne Stadium - home of the CFL's Tiger-Cats. Hundreds tailgate next to the arena on game days. It probably looks like an eye-sore to them but for many youth in our community, dreams don't care about aesthetics. Hockey is hockey to a child.

Definition of Deserving

Is the Scott Park Arena community the best in Canada? Are they 'worthy' of this prize over other communities? That's a hard thing to judge. I am not all that familiar with the Scott Park community outside of the brief amount of time I have spent within its walls these past couple of months. All I know is that hockey is an important fabric of Canadian culture and this area of our city is one of the hardest hit by the cruel realities of having to live without to survive.

What is currently labeled the Scott Park District is already a mix of a sports, arts, and education district before its development even begins. The future of some of the structures is still unknown but as it stands now, there is a brand new school across from Scott Park Arena (Prince of Whales), a forward thinking vocational school in Parkview Secondary, a historic municipal pool, and a professional football stadium also heavily used by the community including home field for a high school football team.

The people of Ward 3 and it's visitor's that appreciate its beauty and its significant attractions are not just selling this community on Facebook pages, via Twitter, on forums and through real live in-person conversations, they are taking it upon themselves to bring out the best in an area they know deep in their hearts, can be so much more - that is so much more.

Although there are concerns that are brought up and discussed by community members, the good vibes that exist on the Ward 3 Residents' Association page demonstrate a deep love for the area we call home.

So maybe Scott Park Arena isn't the model 'best hockey community' in Canada based on numbers - teams or fans - but hockey is alive and well and is loved by many local area kids. The arena does, however, have every potential of a being a 'build it and they will come' type of project. Show these kids that we care for them and help these families make their child's dreams of playing Canada's game a reality, and watch hockey in this north-end community come alive again.

We already have some great local programs like the Hamilton Bulldogs Foundation and Skate the Dream.

I think of what being crowned Kraft Hockeyville champions could do to bring all of these positive community programs together to make hockey a big deal in Ward 3 again - and substantially more affordable as well.

I am not sure a price can be placed on what a renovation of this stature could do for an area where there are many families who simply cannot afford to put their kids in hockey. This community - these children, deserve a fresh start. A new CFL stadium proves to be a huge catalyst to kick start the turnaround of this community.

Scott Park Arena for Kraft Hockeyville 2012 could bring full circle, the rebirth of two great Canadian pastimes in this sports and education district - the CFL, and minor hockey.

An Important Role in Something Bigger

Showdown in Steeltown
Showdown in Steeltown

After everyone had some time to reflect on the very successful Showdown in Steeltown festivities at Ivor Wynne in January, for the first time since we started talking about ideas for our planned new stadium district, hockey had taken a front and centre position in the 'multi-use' discussion.

Brian Burke, General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club, expressed interest in a yearly bout between the Toronto Marlies and Hamilton Bulldogs, ideally alternating between the new Hamilton stadium and BMO Field in Toronto; a feature event that would have every potential of rivaling the competitive passion of another cross-highway rivalry between the same two cities as part of a different Canadian pastime, in what has long been our Labour Day Classic.

In Cleveland, Progressive Field - home to Major League Baseballs' Cleveland Indians, has become a winter wonderland the past couple of years from Thanksgiving through the duration of the season.

The success of Cleveland's winter use of their baseball stadium inspires me to think of how opening the gates of our new stadium all year round, could brighten an otherwise dark, silent facility, and breathe new life into a community so alive during the summer months.

Screencap
Screencap

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how alive Ivor Wynne was during the month of January. I organized an outdoor hockey game on that ice surface between some co-workers and friends, enjoyed a free public skate put on by the Bulldogs with my two girls, attended both outdoor games, and smiled as I watched kids wandering our neighborhood streets, bearing toques and mittens with skates strapped over their shoulders, knowing they were heading over to Ivor Wynne.

So if the Scott Park district has the potential of being just as much about hockey - sports and education in general, as it is about Canadian football, we should be recognizing the potential that exists in creating Hockeyville across from where this game we call 'ours',may be alive and well in the open air of the hallowed grounds of 75 Balsam Avenue North during the winter months.

Living in Quiet Existence

Trophies
Trophies

This community has quietly been going about its business for however many years despite numbers drastically dropping, yet they continue to plug away at what they are passionate about - providing a positive and rewarding experience for local kids.

The registration at Scott Park is very low with two pre-novice teams and a beginner's hockey school; that's it. Hockey registration in Ontario and Canada in general has been dropping, but Hamilton is certainly lagging behind other cities. Perhaps nowhere is it more evident than at Scott Park.

It's likely one of the smallest arena's in Canada. I am guessing that maximum and with some obstructed views, this venue might be able to accommodate 100 spectators? It's also quite possibly the smallest community in Canada - especially given that it's located within a city with a population of over 500,000 people.

I wasn't even sure when I thought about nominating Scott Park - although it doesn't state as such in the rules, if it would even be eligible because it falls within a community that already took home all the marbles a couple of years ago. How fair would it be to have one community our size, win this competition twice within a short time frame? The more I thought about this competition however and what it truly stands for, the more I realized that there was so much more to gain from entering into this Canada-wide 'tournament' then simply going home champions.

Mural
Mural

The fun is on the road traveled in search for our dreams - not necessarily in what awaits your arrival. Winning a championship is bittersweet, but having the opportunity to compete is a luxury not everyone can afford.

I read a letter on a northern Ontario's Hockeyville page a month or so ago, and that is where I first realized that there was so much more to this competition than winning.

This community talked about how, even in losing, the contest brought their town together like perhaps nothing else had in a long time. If even a fraction of that pride, spirit, and thrill of the chase could be brought out within the Scott Park community and the City of Hamilton as a whole in its support of this nomination, what truly could be the harm in that?

Every Community is Hockeyville

Perhaps Scott Park isn't Hockeyville as it stands now with regards to enrollment, but what it lacks in physical size and numbers, it makes up for in heart. They are a close little community that deserves the chance to know without the borders and boundaries of physical location and wealth, what it's like to be Hockeyville.

Every neighborhood should know what it's like for their surrounding streets to come alive every Saturday and Sunday morning starting at 6am with kids carrying hockey bags and sticks, a hot chocolate and a donut - parents half awake with an extra large coffee in hand making countless time and financial sacrifices so their children can be kids and know what it's like to be a part of a team and for them to have an opportunity to make many more and often lasting friendships.

Every neighborhood should be alive with this sense of community. Scott Park is the only arena in this downtown Ward. It may be the smallest, but it's certainly one of the cleanest.

If it can be expanded in a way that can make it a great place for parents to enjoy watching their children be kids, and if can receive a substantial boost in community support and even - even, by chance the title of Kraft Hockeyville champions, how would that change this struggling hockey community?

What would it be like for these kids and those who have donated their time to make this a positive experience for the children of this neighborhood, to know that they are loved and supported - that they are important? How does that change the lives of the children of our communities that may have up until this point in their lives, never felt worthy of someone doing something extraordinary for them?


One time my grandfather, in donating some circus tickets to a group of down-on-their luck kids, had a child turn to him and ask 'you mean you would do this for us?' Maybe that is all it takes. For the children of our communities to know that yes, we would do 'that' for them.

Maybe it's recognizing them with the honor of being known nationallyas Hockeyville. Maybe even more so, it's being known within your community as something - someone, that truly matters. That you are important, loved, and just as much a part of what makes us who we are as a neighborhood, a town, or a million plus person city, as the mayor himself.

The nation will choose their Hockeyville, but our communities can choose their own. Everyone should win this competition like every Timbit tyke is deemed a champion. Every kid should know what it's like to be a Hockey Child.

Like that group of passionate musicians from Burlington, Ontario who were mostly unknown only a couple of months ago, this competition will come down to that one thing that makes their community stand above the country-wide crowd.

Tomorrow the top 15 arena's competing for the Kraft Hockeyville title, will be announced. Maybe Scott Park will find its way into that list by some dusting of magic but the most important thing is that all of you know, about these special little spaces within this city that we all love and care a great deal about.

Details

The top 15 arenas will be announced during the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast tomorrow night (Saturday March 3rd). The announcement will be made during the first intermission of the late night game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Vancouver Canucks. Game time is 10pm ET which means the announcement will come around 10:45pm or so. Then the voting begins.

Larry Pattison is a local blogger, life-long resident of Hamilton, and father to two amazing girls. Larry is also an elected member of the HWDSB Board of Trustees for Ward 3.

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted March 03, 2012 at 08:08:27

We used to go public skating at Scott Park all the time. It is as deserving as any arena, for all the reasons you mention, Larry. Good luck. We're cheering for you.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 03, 2012 at 23:51:55 in reply to Comment 74968

Free public skating on Saturday's and Sunday's. They are very helpful as well. The one volunteer pushed my youngest around on a chair last time I was there while I guided my oldest around the rink.

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By Five Hole (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2012 at 08:09:53

True passion, but the pragmatist in me suspects that the Hockeyville jurors will be disinclined to award Hamilton's Ward 3 the title in 2012 after awarding Hamilton's Ward 13 the title in 2010.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2012 at 09:41:21 in reply to Comment 74969

It's not about being a pragmatist. There is a fine line between optimism and reality.

Getting a message from CBC and then a PR firm and then an interview with CHML made me think something might be up with this submission but the realist in me thought 'no way'.

Not because Scott Park couldn't win with the right amount of devotion and someone not as stand-back-ish as me because it could - I know it could.

I actually think now after making it through my first live on-air interview and having a couple of days to think about 'holy #$#%', what if Scott Park makes the top 15 out of some crazy miracle', that I could run with something like this if the timing was different.

I didn't put a whole lot into this and more thought of it as a learning process to see how this competition works. My online story was rushed and all over the place, I didn't realize the deadline to submit new arena entries also meant the ability to upload new material would also be closed so much of what is truly needed to make the cut was missing.

I also hadn't shared this with a lot of people except posts on my FB wall from time to time as I added new material. I think I had also only loosely mentioned the idea of this to the president of Scott Park hockey himself during my phone interview with him.

I never even thought about contacting the Dundas Hockeyville campaign leader to learn more from them until Scott Thompson mentioned it in the interview. I will work on that this week just as another learning experience and because it would either way be nice to here the full 'what it's like/what's involved' story first hand.

If the interest was there from the community I'd gladly be a part of giving this a proper run next year.

I learned a lot either way. Just in calling to interview Bob Lively, getting to know a facility within the stadium district more closely, learning about the Hockeyville process, and my first live interview now under my belt, has helped me grow that little bit more as a person.

That request for a phone interview also gave me a kick in the pants to finally write this story because this is what I wanted most from all of this. To share a bit of the Scott Park Arena story with the Hamilton community. It saddens me to see these arenas struggling. Eastwood especially. I spent a lot of time there as a kid.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted March 03, 2012 at 09:04:25

The arena should stay, the Jimmy Thompson Pool should stay. The monolithic, windowless, brown box that is Scott Park School is what needs to come down and in it's place a smaller, athletics facility linking the Pool and the arena.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2012 at 09:12:45 in reply to Comment 74970

Not sure I agree about Scott Park High. I'd like to know what more people think. I imagine a creative re-use but who could argue an athletics facility that ties everything together.

I wont' beat to death my re-use ideas but I think someone with a vision could do something with what's there instead of tossing all that in a landfill.

I think it's just that nothing in that entire block comes together. They are all disconnected and I am not referring to lack of physical attachment.

Could windows be added to Scott Park? Would an art piece/mural on the west-facing wall of the building brighten it up?

I do not think it's worth what it's for sale for. I'd love for the community to be allowed a tour so we can all see what's inside so we can better judge it's true worth and not just how it seems to stick out on the outside as 'one of these things doesn't belong here'.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 02:17:43 in reply to Comment 74986

Well the biggest problem with re-use here is that you need someone in the private sector to do it and there doesn't seem to be an appetite for it, as you are likely to break the bank to re-develop it.

The property requires addressing the extensive asbestos problems within the school plus you have to deal with the water and mold damage that has been caused to the location from the vandals who broke into the place last year, although I'm not sure if that was cleaned up. Then you are going to have to somehow heat/cool the place down with a brand new system as the existing one has almost certainly given up the ghost by now. Then extensive renovations to make the place liveable or into a place of business. I just don't see that kind of cash flowing into this place from anywhere but the city, looking to make the area into a athletic precinct.

You might have a case if you took off the concrete box on top of the fairly nice brickwork, and adapted the building from there, but cost is the problem here and frankly, this building has even less of a case for preservation then the BoE building. Start from scratch on this one, Hamilton Place and the Convention center are frankly more then enough Brutalist architecture in our city.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-03-05 02:22:03

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted March 03, 2012 at 20:03:16

I think Scott Park would stun people if they got a look inside. It's an amazing building, from its soaring lobby with futuristic 25ish' climbing escalators, to the quality of workmanship and materials. It is a beautiful building. Remember most comments around this style of architecture were the same comments hurled at Victorian architecture in the 60s and 70s... "tear it all down" . We'd truly lose an architectural landmark if this was torn down, simply because "It doesn't have enough windows", or "it's too brown".

Brutalism was more about the interior experience, and Scott Park's interior is full of ambient light and a calming effect is created. This is all based on my memory from experiencing the inside so many years ago, and it never left me. Compared to the schlock we build now, this architectural style is one of the last that can truly say so many things that is more than a mere comment here can hope to justify.

Save Scott Park.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2012 at 09:15:37 in reply to Comment 74974

I agree about Scott Park re-use Trey as stated in response to -Hammer-. You're an artist. Remember what was said with regards to photographing/drawing things we want to save to help others see it's value - perhaps not a bad idea with Scott Park. I haven't drawn much in recent years but I'd love to tinker with you. I can finally come see The Cossart Exchange and meet some other's I have yet had the pleasure to meet face to face.

Maybe we can talk to the owner about a day or two visit to take photos/draw some pics. I am sure he wouldn't mind us helping raise it's value or maybe our re-use community design will inspire a change of 'what's this worth $$$' heart.

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By Jeff_Stock (registered) | Posted March 03, 2012 at 23:36:03

I learned how to swim like a dolphin at Jimmy Thompson Pool. So long as a giant KRAFT logo doesn't dominate over the building let's reach for the stars!

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By RB (registered) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 12:53:54 in reply to Comment 74978

I'm not a huge fan of that either, but I'd be happy to have jobs/investment/interest if all it cost was a few tacky signs.

Seems like a small payoff to me.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 04, 2012 at 09:16:33 in reply to Comment 74978

I hear you Jeff. Not a big fan of corporate naming rights. Also hoping the new stadium isn't called Kraft place either. ;)

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By kattie ransom (anonymous) | Posted March 21, 2014 at 23:56:06

Hey Larry, I came across your blog while looking for pictures for a celebration we are doing to honour the great years of memories Scott Park has provided for us! I would like to extend an invitation to you to the celebration if you haven't already received one. The celebration will take place on APRIL 12th 2014 11-4pm. Please come! and bring any pictures or memorabilia you have.

Hope this message finds you in time!
Kattie.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 24, 2014 at 11:58:13 in reply to Comment 98902

Hi Kattie. Thanks for reaching out. The girls and I will be there. I wouldn't miss it!

Scott Park Celebration - Let's say goodbye.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2014-03-24 11:58:33

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By I.M. (anonymous) | Posted March 25, 2014 at 12:44:21

I have worked in this area for over 15 years! The people that have walked through the doors of Scott Park Arena, School, and Jimmy Thompsan Pool are a good example of what a Hamiltonian is. They are hard working, down to earth, sometime gritty but always respectfull. Many people who are apprehensive of this part of the city need not be afraid. With all the improvements planed for this area it can do nothing but benefit this Ward and also this City. Lets be Positive not Negative!

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