When no less an authority than the National Hockey League’s best goal scorer says your arena is better than his training facility in Tampa, you know you’ve got something special.
The brand new La Brier Family Arena in Aurora, home of the St. Andrew's College Saints, got a test run late last month from Unionville native and NHL superstar Steven Stamkos and other National Hockey Leaguers and they were all suitably impressed.
That’s the word from St. Andrew's co-captain Griffin James, 17, who has hockey dreams of his own.
“Stamkos and a few other players, like James Neal, who train with Gary Roberts use this facility during the summer and Stamkos said this is better than what he has in Tampa and better than what they have with the New York Islanders or Philadelphia Flyers,” said James.
The spectacular, freshly painted and glittering facility, which cost about $13 million, has five dressing rooms, including a specially funded $250,000 booster club-donated room for the home team Saints.
There is a fully equipped, state-of-the-art weight room, 800 seats in a balcony for spectators and gorgeous murals designed by 30-year visual arts and graphic design teacher Stephen Kimmerer.
“What’s great about it, is the headmaster let me do what I wanted to do. The backgrounds are all old pictures from the 1900s and someone new coming out. Even though it’s a hockey rink, wanted to show it’s diverse,” said Kimmerer in explaining how the murals display lacrosse, football, soccer, rugby, cricket and other sports in addition to hockey.
The arena also features several beautiful oil paintings of athletes done by now retired art teacher and painter Tino Pollini who taught at SAC for 34 years.
The colours are naturally the St. Andrew's red, white and grey and make it absolutely clear where a visitor is.
None of it would be possible without the generosity of the La Brier family and the $5 million lead gift donated by Michael La Brier, father of hockey-playing sons Lucas and Jacob, both of whom attend SAC.
La Brier, 64 and an Aurora resident who is now retired, was delighted to be on hand to perform the ribbon-cutting ceremonies at Saturday’s homecoming ceremonies.
He spoke passionately about the arena project that saw the building constructed in just 17 months. Ground was broken in March 2013 and players took to the ice last month.
For La Brier, the motivation was easy for getting a new rink built at St. Andrews.
“We love what the school does for our boys and they’re both hockey players. One piece of infrastructure not at the school was an on-site rink. UCC had one, Ridley College had one and the best hockey school didn’t have one. And we wanted to help that out and when you look at the quality of the football field and other facilities on campus, a hockey rink was definitely needed,” La Brier said.
“I am very proud of it, a lot of thought went into it, there were a few things I wanted to ensure as part of the gifting agreement. The architect and the builder were part of that and you can it in the results,” he said.
As for co-captain James and Adam Sinclair, 17, of Kettleby, both have hockey dreams that will shine a little bit brighter now in the new facility. Both want to play junior hockey out west before moving on in their careers.
Both agree they don’t have any excuses now.
“There are no excuses now, in other words. They took care of every detail. They took care of every detail, just got to play hockey now,” said James.
The York-Simcoe Express, the area AAA hockey organization, has signed a one-year deal to use the facility. When it is not being used by St. Andrew's it will be available for rent for community users.