Red Wing

Hamilton Red Wings

Arena Name: Hamilton Forum
Capacity: 3,800
Built: 1913
Torn Down: 1976
Address: 500 Barton St. East, Hamilton, Ont., L8L 2Y8
Ice Surface Size:
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OHL
Hamilton Forum
Hamilton Forum
What was the Arena Like?
The Hamilton Forum was the old home of hockey in Hamilton. Correspondent Chris Mayberry tells me that at the old Forum "probably should have been condemned" at some point in the 1950's but never was. The ice surface was pathetically tiny, and there were support columns everywhere inside the building. The columns came down from the roof to just behind the boards, so as a result, every single seat in the building was obstructed-view. The atmosphere is said to have been incredible.

The building played host to several games during the 1962 Memorial Cup tournament, in which Edmonton Oil Kings GM Leo LeClerc famously said of it, "This place looks like a converted factory chimney. You don't play the Grey Cup in a cow pasture." The Hamilton Spectator also repeatedly referred to the building as an embarrassment in the 1970's, by which time it had become run down beyond recognition of its former glory. The Forum was ultimately demolished in the fall of 1977.

I have two interior shots from the Forum taken in March of 1969 by Dave Mason. You can see the old wooden bench seats and the support columns.

Click here for a shot of Rejean Houle.
Click here for a shot of Ted Tucker.

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Arena History
The Hamilton Forum opened in the first week of January, 1913 under the name "Alerts' Rink" and also was known as "Britannia Arena" and the "Barton Street Arena" for much of its history. In the 1920's the building hosted the Hamilton's one-time NHL team, the Hamilton Tigers. In the early 1950's the building was bought by Ken Soble, who also owned the OHA's Tiger-Cubs. Soble renamed the building to "Hamilton Forum". Over time the Tiger-Cubs would become the Red Wings.

In 1974, team and building were purchased by Ron and Mario Cupido and Joe Finochio. Soble had been planning to sell and move his team, but the Finochio-Cupido ownership swore to keep the team in Hamilton for at least two years while attempting to arrange for the city to build a new building. The Red Wings were renamed Fincups, for the owners. Two years later, in 1976, the Fincups defeated Quebec and New Westminster in Montreal to capture the Memorial Cup, but while the team was winning Canada's national junior title on the ice, the Hamilton Spectator was filled with speculation that the Fincups would move to nearby Brantford. A last-minute deal was ultimately reached to keep the Fincups in Hamilton for the 1976-77 season, but in August of 1976 the ice-making plant in the ancient, battered Forum broke down.

Ownership attempted to arrange for the team to play at Mountain Arena for the season, but opposition from local residents prevented it. Hamilton City Council continued to dither about whether to build a 7-8,000 seat building for the Fincups or an 18,000 seat building in an attempt to secure a WHA team, and with no options left in Steeltown, the Fincups moved to St. Catharines for the 1976-77 season, uprooting literally weeks before the opening of training camp. Ron Cupido also announced that the privately-owned Forum would be demolished as soon as the local groups who had booked into the building had finished with it. True to his word, demolition started August 27, 1976, less than two weeks after the Fincups announced their move. Cupido noted at the time that he was expecting some opposition to the demolition from heritage groups, but none came.

The Fincups arranged a deal to play at the Mountain Arena for the 1977-78 season, but with still no resolution to the arena issue by the end of 1978, the team left Hamilton for Brantford. They would be back in 1984 as the Steelhawks, but under new management and with little obvious connection to the glory days.
Hamilton Forum
Hamilton Forum

How To Get There

You can't get there unless you have a time machine. However, if you want to visit the site of the Forum, follow these directions:
The Forum site is bounded by Barton St, Wentworth St., and Sanford Ave.
From the 403: Exit at Main Street and follow Main Street east into town. Turn left at John Street and follow it north to Barton Street. Turn right and follow Barton street to the Forum site on the right.
From the QEW: Exit at Exit 89 (Burlington Street Expwy.) and follow the expressway into town. Turn left on Birch Street. Turn right on Barton Street and follow it to the Forum site on the left.
The Site of Hamilton Forum
Site of Hamilton Forum
What's It Used for Today?
Hamilton had an OHL team in consecutive years from 1952-76, known as the Tiger-Cubs until 1963 and then the Red Wings until 1974. The team was renamed to the "Hamilton Fincups" in 1974 and played a few more years out of the Forum, but the old rink was in its last days. In 1976 the Fincups were forced to leave for St Catharines when the ice-making equipment at the ancient Forum broke down. The Fincups played a year in St Catharines, returned to Hamilton for one more year playing out of the Mountain Arena and finally packed up for good in 1978, moving down Hwy. 2 to Brantford. They were back in Hamilton in the mid-80's and Niagara Falls in the early 90's, and today the team is the Erie Otters.

Today the site once occupied by the Forum sits in the middle of "Barton Village". It's a very run-down area filled with vacant storefronts, and across the street from the Forum is the old Westinghouse factory. The grounds of the former Forum are the only buildings that are not at least 50 years old - the houses on the site are all late 1970's and indistinguishable from any other. There is no plaque or other historic marker to indicate that there was once an arena on the grounds.

Many thanks to Brian Barton, Chris Mayberry, and the Hamilton Public Library for providing the image and information.

Feedback

If anything is incorrect or you have something to add, please e-mail me at Email and I'll update the guide.


 

 


Copyright Kevin Jordan 2002-10.
All rights reserved.
Last Revised: January 8, 2010