NHL players and team owners may be involved in a labour action, but the league had a presence in Botwood Oct. 21.
Hockey fans were delighted to see veterans like Ray Bourque, Terry O’Rielly, Bob Sweeney and other members of the Boston Bruins alumni team playing at the Harry Ivany Arena, which officially reopened, after the building received a major facelift.
The exhibition game saw the Bruins alumni versus the Botwood Legends, which featured local players. The Bruins won the game 11-7, but a bonus for local fans was to see Botwood Mayor Jerry Dean and Deputy Mayor Scott Sceviour play for the Bruins team. Sceviour even scored a goal, with Dean assisting.
“I thought everything went well,” said Dean. “It was good to have Jessie Ivany there, Harry Ivany’s widow there, and all of their sons and daughters. It was the grand reopening of the arena, and the hockey game with the Boston Bruins Alumni was the centerpiece.”
He added he was pleased with how the game went, and how cordial and fun it was, as opposed to what hockey games can become sometimes.
“I was told by people with the Bruins Alumni that they’ve been to a lot of places, and there are no places they’ve been yet doing these games that could take a front seat to us,” he said. “We were really pleased with how well they were received by the town.”
The mayor also said he had the pleasure of sitting next to Bourque in the dressing room.
“We had a chat about hockey, and when we came in after the second period, he perked me up a bit when he said ‘Mayor, it’s obvious you played a bit of hockey,’” Dean said. “(Mike) Krushelnyski was there, and he said ‘I think we’ll put him on speed dial in case we need to pick someone up for future games.’”
The renovations to the stadium resulted after the town council went after funding in 2009. They landed approximately $3.5 million for changes to the arena, which included items such as lighting, improved change rooms, and viewing windows which allow fans to get as close as possible to the hockey action without fear of getting hit by fast-moving players or flying pucks.
According to Ev Elliott, volunteer archivist with the Botwood Heritage Society, the Harry Ivany Arena dates to the 1930s – though that wasn’t the name of the structure – when the A.N.D. Company cleared a rink near their wharf, put up lights and provided music for skaters.
The Amateur Athletic Association got permission in 1948 from the A.N.D Company to turn the drill hall – the present stadium – into a skating arena. In 1963, it became the property of the Town of Botwood.
In 1967, the Botwood Recreation Commission decided an improved stadium was a priority. Together with the town council, the Lions Club and the Lioness, all parties found funds to extend the length of the building, get artificial ice, build new dressing rooms and washroom facilities, and provide a new sound system, the Royal Canadian Legion donated to the stadium and to Minor Hockey, and Price Pulp and Paper agreed to supply power in lieu of taxes.
The stadium officially opened on March 6, 1970.
In 1993, council moved to rename the building the Harry Ivany Arena, to honour one of the town’s most well-known citizens, noted for his volunteer work with sports, youth, the fire department and the stadium.