Karen Bachmann is the curator/director of the Timmins Museum and a writer of local history.
TIMMINS – In honour of Hometown Hockey Weekend here in Timmins, I feel that I have to go back and look at an article I wrote a while ago on the McIntyre Arena (home to Hometown Hockey, as it were, this weekend!).
While there is a lot of discussion out there about the arena itself, you cannot deny that it is our very own temple to the game.
Talk about history – it’s the rink that was home to many legendary local hockey teams (and quite a few NHLers to boot, including the Mahovlich brothers, Bill Barilko, Paul Harrison, Allan Stanley, Dean Prentice, Murray Costello and his brother Les, Steve Sullivan and so many others), as well as the headquarters for the world-famous Schumacher Skating School.
It’s also hosted umpteen concerts, circuses, conferences, trade shows, banquets and horticultural shows. It has been used to say goodbye to prominent citizens (Father Les Costello), and to ordain our local Catholic bishops. I would go even so far as to say that “The Mac” is a building that helps define who we are as residents in this city. Without it, we would be very much poorer.
Let’s step back a bit and have a look at sports in the ’30s in the Porcupine.
Already the communities of Timmins, Schumacher, Porcupine and South Porcupine could boast about skating rinks, ball diamonds, football fields, soccer pitches, rugby grounds and athletics facilities.
Golf, tennis, cricket and lacrosse were popular; it goes without saying that healthy rivalries developed between the hockey, baseball, softball and soccer teams from the Porcupine communities (and sometimes those rivalries were not so healthy, if you know what I mean).
The main catalyst behind this great push towards sports was of course the mining companies. Competition between the mines in sporting events was taken almost as seriously as the business competition that existed between them; in some instances, men were hired more for their ability to shoot a puck than to work a stope.
Management believed that the push for organized sports at work would discourage the workers from meeting and unionizing. Others felt that it was a way to keep men busy and out of the taverns and the less respectable establishments in town.
With this as a backdrop, it becomes easy to see why mines got into the sports business.
J.P. Bickell, president of the McIntyre Mine in 1938 and a great believer in sports thought the construction of an arena comparable to Maple Leaf Gardens was a necessity in Schumacher.
He had come into the hockey business when the Toronto Arenas went bankrupt and Charlie Querrie needed financial help to get a team in Toronto. The Toronto St. Patricks were formed and the team won a Stanley Cup in 1922.
When Querrie sold his share of the team in February 1927 to a group headed by Conn Smythe, Bickell kept his stake in the team, which was renamed the Toronto Maple Leafs. The partners would go on to build Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931; Bickell would serve as the first president of Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. and also as chairman.
This guy obviously knew hockey and arenas!
Inspired by the success of MLG, Bickell saw no reason why the Porcupine could not also benefit from a state-of-the-art rink and community centre. The McIntyre Arena was built in Schumacher in November, 1937, and opened to the public with natural ice in January 1938.
The ice plant was later added with the community centre addition in 1938. The total cost was just over a half million dollars.
McIntyre miners received $13 worth of coupons per month that allowed them and their families to use the facility which included not only the rink (seating 2,000 people), but a gymnasium, a six-lane bowling alley, six sheets of ice for curling, a private mirrored skating room, a lounge, a coffee shop, a 500-seat auditorium and a beautiful park.
During the opening ceremonies, Bickell addressed the capacity crowd at centre ice with these words: “The pick-and-shovel man must know that he is every bit as welcome as the highest mine executive. This structure has been erected to so that all classes of the McIntyre family may have the facilities for increased sport and amusement. Soon after the main building was completed we saw that added facilities for such sports as basketball, curling and bowling would be necessary. Accordingly, we began immediately to plan for an addition. Let us have here all the facilities for a happy, contented community. I think that I might say that you men and your families have more facilities under one roof than any other community in Canada.”
The McIntyre continues to serve the community well – and I think J.P. Bickell would be happy to see that Maple Leafs Garden’s little sister is still going strong!
For the original source of this article: http://www.timminspress.com/2016/11/26/history-the-mac-serves-as-timmins-hockey-temple