‘Something to be proud of’: Memorial Arena in Penticton a part of city’s history

Penticton Minor Hockey U11 team go for gold at the Memorial Arena. (PMH Facebook page)
Memorial Arena in Penticton went through a major transformation in the mid-1990s (bottom) after a 30-year run without any renovations.Memorial Arena in Penticton went through a major transformation in the mid-1990s (bottom) after a 30-year run without any renovations.
The 1955 Penticton Vees were crowned World Champions after defeating Russia 5-0 at an arena in West Germany. The same group of players would shortly call Memorial Arena their home.
National Hockey League all-stars made their way to Penticton after the conclusion of the 1979-1980 season for a showcase game at Memorial Arena.
Memorial Arena was home to the Czechoslovakia U18 team in the 1980s for a game against the local Penticton squad.
Memorial Arena's upper level is home to both hockey and the city's history.
Memorial Arena has often been referred to as "the barn", due to the building's character and personality. (Logan Lockhart, Western News)
Memorial Arena was home to a capacity crowd in 2004 when it hosted the rodeo, as evident with this old edition of the Penticton Western News.

Penticton resident Darla Roy was 12 years old when she went to her first Penticton Vees game.

But back then, it wasn’t at the South Okanagan Events Centre (SOEC) – it was at the original home of the Vees, Memorial Arena.

It’s an arena covered with not only hockey memorabilia and trophies but also a little piece of Penticton history. Some of the city’s most influential and well-known people are pictured around the building.

And many of the city’s most popular events have also taken place at the rink. Moments like having the Czechoslovakia U18 hockey all-stars play the home team in the late 1980s is something Roy, Penticton Minor Hockey Association’s administrator, knows people in the city’s hockey community will never forget.

“For minor hockey, this is our home,” she told the Western News inside of Memorial Arena. “This is our community.”

Roy has been the association’s administrator for five years. Before that, she volunteered at the arena out of her love for the game and the rink itself.

The arena was also home to local events like the circus and the rodeo. Along with hockey, figure skating and lacrosse, some of the city’s most anticipated events made Memorial Arena on 399 Power St. a place Roy recalls as one that was “packed every night.”

Things have changed, of course. A global pandemic has affected what Memorial Arena can and can’t do when organizing events, as well as forcing the city’s various lacrosse teams to take their talents outdoors.

The construction of the SOEC in 2009 also pushed the historic building down to the bottom of any local events list.

But there was a time when Memorial Arena was the place to go multiple times a week.

According to Roy, the arena represents everything a community should be about.

“People hang out here and want to come,” she explained. “They want to be here, it’s homey and comfortable.”

Roy compared the Penticton arena to other local rinks around the province. The more local arenas she goes to, the more her love for Memorial Arena grows.

“You can go to a tournament (somewhere else) and it’s a tin can with two sheets of ice, metal bleachers, no personality at all and it’s cold,” she said. “Not here.”

Memorial Arena was built in 1951, acting as the home of Penticton’s Junior ‘A’ hockey team.

It was four years later, however, when Penticton was put on the map by a group of local hockey players. To this day, the 1955 World Champion Penticton Vees are still the cream of the crop in terms of the city’s sports history.

The Vees represented Canada in 1955, defeating the heavily-favoured Russians 5-0 at Krefeld Arena in West Germany to become the world champions.

Early in its history, Memorial Arena was home to a world champion. But along with that, the rink was home to a number of international hockey events all the way into the 1990s.

Junior teams from Europe, like the aforementioned Czechoslovakia team, travelled to Penticton, making Memorial Arena a place people in the community can be proud of.

And as long as Memorial Arena remains a fixture in the community and continues to showcase the city’s history, Roy knows that pride will never die.

“It’s so welcoming and all the history here is something to be proud of as a community.”

READ MORE: Memorial Arena opens doors to the past


@lgllockhart
logan.lockhart@pentictonwesternnews.com

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