Home of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
Sault Ste. Marie is a small city up in Northern Ontario on the St.Marie’s river.
Sault Ste. Marie is definitely a city that appears to have seen better days. At the same time, the downtown area seemed to be in better shape than many similarly sized cities. There are speakers on many of the lamp posts downtown with piped in music. This is an interesting feature that I’ve never seen in any other small-mid sized city.
Traditionally, the Soo has been a gritty industrial city. The city’s biggest industries traditionally have been the Algoma Steel plant and the St. Mary’s Paper plant. After several bankruptcies, Algoma Steel was eventually purchased the Essar Group to become Essar Steel Algoma. The massive steel plant remains in business to this day. Unfortunately, St. Mary’s Paper was not so fortunate and the plant has been closed for several years. Due to the difficult economic situation, there are a few areas of the city that look very run down. Overall, the Soo is a very safe and welcoming city.
The area surrounding the Soo is absolutely beautiful. One thing anybody visiting the Soo MUST do is ride the Agawa Canyon Tour Train. The scenery is spectacular and well worth the price and time.
One other thing worth mentioning is the excellent Wacky Wings restaurant in the Soo. Wacky Wings is a very small chain of restaurants that only seems to exist in a few cities in Northern Ontario such as Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury. Anybody who enjoys chicken wings will love this place. There had to have been close to 100 types of sauce. Some of which border on very strange (ie chocolate flavored chicken wings), but if you stick to the traditional types of sauce, you’ll love it.
The Essar Centre is a very moden looking building on the exterior with a lot of glass. There is limited parking on site, but there is a huge parking lot across the street at the Station Mall almost everybody who attends seems to use. On the property of the Essar Centre is the Memorial Tower with its red beacon. The Memorial Tower is World War II monument and is the last remaining part of the old Sault Memorial Gardens that didn’t demolished.
The inside lobby and box office is very small and utilitarian. It does seem to do it’s job though.
Greyhounds merchandise is sold out of a concession stand style kiosk in the concourse as opposed to a full team store. It was surprising to see an arena as new as the Essar Centre without a full team store inside the arena. Just the same, the ”Hound Pound” has a decent variety of merchandise.
The layout of the Essar Centre is almost identical to that which is found in Sarnia, Guelph and Oshawa with a nice wide concourse at the top of the seating bowl and concessions in 4 corners. I found that the Essar Centre was darker and dingier than it’s twins and really seemed much older than it really is. The arena opened in 2006 but feels like it was built in the 80′s, but that is okay because there a lot of character here for such a new rink.
The seating is fairly standard for a newer arena. It’s as comfortable as it needs to be, but nothing special. The Essar Centre has a large scoreboard with an LCD JumboTron. The screens are bright and vivid and as good as any in the OHL. Prior to the game, a NASCAR race was being shown. I imagine that they normally just show a feed from TSN before the game starts and NASCAR happened to be what was on. It was just a real strange feeling watching NASCAR inside of a hockey rink.
The Greyhounds still attract a decent crowd despite how poorly the team has performed in recent years. The atmosphere is loud but the fans are extremely friendly. I fully recommend a weekend trip to the Soo as there is a lot of fun stuff to do there in addition to attending the hockey game.