steelheads


Mississauga Steelheads

Arena Name: Hershey Centre
Capacity: 6,000 (5,420 seated)
Built: 1998
Address: 5500 Rose Cherry Place, Mississauga, ON, L4Z 4B6
Telephone No: (905) 502-7788
Ice Surface Size: Regulation
Franchise Date: 2007-08
OHL Championships: None
Memorial Cup Championships: None
Colours: Blue, Silver & White
Official Web Site: http://www.mississaugasteelheads.com/
Venue Web Site: HersheyCentre.com
Unofficial Site: Hockey Toronto
Google Satellite: Click Here
Former Homes: Maple Leaf Gardens
St. Michael's College Arena
Occasional Second Home: Air Canada Centre

OHL
Hershey Centre
Hershey Centre
What's the Arena Like?
Pity the Mississauga junior hockey fan. There aren't many of them, but they do exist, and their passion for the game is unchanged from any others across this country. So imagine what it was like to buy season tickets for one of the worst franchises in junior hockey history; to show up and watch their team get blown out nearly every single game; to support them unconditionally through a horrible stretch of growing pains including four and three win seasons. Then, finally, midway through the 2000's, they finally became a respectable team, only to be bought out by the billionaire owner of a rival team and hustled out of town so that he could abduct their beautiful arena. The few Mississauga diehards out there have been through a lot, is what I'm trying to say here. Finally, though, for the majority of them who've accepted that they are now expected to be Steelheads fans, after the third identity change in five years, they at least have stable and rich ownership willing to invest in the team, and the new team, by whatever name, finally seems poised to potentially break out and conquer the hearts and minds of the residents of Canada's biggest suburban wasteland.

The Hershey Centre today is mostly unchanged from the last years of the IceDogs. It is a yellow-brick sports complex in the sprawling heart of Mississauga. The neighbourhood is filled with one and two-storey office complexes and there quite literally is no retail or restaurants in the area whatsoever; it's all office parks and acres of parking lots. The arena itself sits within spitting distance of Highway 403, but there is as of yet no direct entrance from that road serving the arena, which means that you have to drive a bit to get there once off the expressway. While the neighbourhood is all concrete and asphalt and landscaped corporate bacchanalia, the Hershey Centre itself is actually quite nice - a sprawling yellow brick building with several community pads accentuating the main bowl, and a huge red sign announcing the arena's presence to the neighbourhood. There is a new sportsplex next door as well. Being Mississauga, everyone drives to the game, which dictates massive parking lots which are, fortunately enough, free.

The arena sits on a slight hill, with the main entrance to the building slightly elevated. The ticket office lies in one end of the building, with an immediate opening to a wide concourse. Much like every other new OHL building constructed in the past dozen years, the Hershey Centre features wide concourses with concessions, souvenir stands and a small lounge area dotting them. True to the building's namesake, the concessions feature Hershey products in great number, with the chocolately flavour that Milton Hershey whipped up in his barn between attending church and dreaming up unworkable utopian schemes for the betterment of mankind being widely available in addition to the usual arena fare. The decor is mostly exposed concrete, with little ornamentation to dress up the place. If you watch TV commercials in Canada, you've probably seen the Hershey Centre before on the small screen, as it's commonly filmed for ads ranging from Reebok to Mastercard.

The concourses offer no view of the arena bowl, so once you make your way through one of the gates you find yourself in one of the OHL's finest new arenas. The place is big and feels like it, with a solid 6,000 maroon seats in addition to a full compliment of luxury suites. There is a restaurant located at the top of the seating area running down the one side, and standing-room located in both ends. The bowl is pretty uniform, with a standard angle of seating. The four "open" areas for wheelchair seating in the four corners of the rink are the only things that make the bowl itself stand out. Above suite level on the one side sits the American and Canadian flags along with something often seen in older Canadian rinks like Kingston and Peterborough but almost never in new ones - a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. It's a great and classy touch; one I'm told was mandated by former IceDogs owner and staunch monarchist Don Cherry.

As you might expect from a new building, facilities are great. Washrooms are clean and plentiful, seats are wide, and the sound system is clear enough. There is no video board, but the scoreboard that exists handles its duties well enough. Of all the identikit new arenas that have sprung up in the past decade, Mississauga's stands atop the heap in most categories. The Steelheads have added a few touches to make the place theirs, including wrapping all the support poles in the concourse with scenes from Major history, but unfortunately, none of the old Memorial Cup banners have yet made the trip. Hopefully they will be raised eventually.

Unfortunately, attendance has always been something of a problem in Mississauga, and as of 2006-07, with the IceDogs a lame-duck franchise waiting to be sold and moved, what was left of the team's fanbase mostly dried up. Announced attendances were usually around the 1,000 mark, with the actual number of people in the seats much less than that. I attended the Knights-IceDogs game in 2006 for my third visit to the Hershey Centre and was dumbfounded at how empty the building was - it was quite literally the most sparsely attended hockey game I have ever been to, and that includes the three-win season in London in 1995-96. It may have been a Wednesday night, but it was still a game between two teams at the top of the league with a number of top prospects on the ice, and yet goals were scored to near silence and apathy from the few hardy souls that braved unseasonable warmth and clear roads and actually turned up. I can't really say I blamed the IceDog faithful for staying away given what was going to happen to them, but still, less than 1,000 fans in a 6,000 seat building is an embarrassment. I would say that it was like watching hockey in a vacuum... except most vacuums make noise when they're running. Fortunately, the attendance appears to be rebounding slightly now with the Steelheads' residency, and you'll find a surprising number of blue jerseys in the stands.

The Hershey Centre will still host the league long into the future. But man, does Eugene Melnyk have his work cut out for him! Selling any hockey independently of Maple Leaf Sports and World Domination in Toronto is a fool's game, and moreso when you consider that Mississauga fans have been jerked around with a decade of lousy hockey preceding the uprooting of their team to St. Catharines. It's a shame that such a palace as the Hershey Centre has been wasted on Mississauga, where, apart from the small collection of diehards that still attend the games and are as passionate as any fans in the league, the people simply commute to Toronto every day, live their lives, and completely ignore the world's best and most affordable hockey in a great arena right on their doorstep.
Future Developments
The Hershey Centre finally got on board with the video scoreboard trend prior to the 2011 Memorial Cup. Otherwise, there are no plans to renovate or replace the Hershey Centre.
What Is It Like For Away Fans?
Whether they're calling themselves IceDog or Major fans, you're not likely to encounter any trouble. The Hershey Centre is rarely filled above 50% capacity, and the fans that show up are mostly young families. I've been to the Hershey Centre four times and have never encountered even the slightest problem.
Inside the Hershey Centre
Hershey Centre

How To Get There

The Hershey Centre is right off the 403 near where it meets up with the 401.

From 401: Exit at Hurontario St. Turn right on to Hurontario from the exit and then turn left at the next set of lights (Britannia). Go down Britannia a couple of kms to Kennedy (the next lights, IIRC) and turn right on to Kennedy. Take Kennedy to Cooper/Traders (same road named differently on the two sides of Kennedy) and turn left. (Once again, I believe it's the first set of lights.) The Hershey Centre will be on the right side as Cooper curves to the right. Depending on traffic, it's about 5-10 minutes from the 401 exit.

From 403: Exit at Eglinton Ave. Go west on Eglinton Avenue, then make a right turn (north) on Kennedy Road. Travelling north, turn right heading east on Matheson Boulevard. The Hershey Center is located on the north side of Matheson Boulevard across the street from Iceland Mississauga.

Parking is on-site and free.
Franchise History
The St. Michael's Majors were originally founded in 1906, but the school dropped out of the OHL in 1961. From the Majors' history website: "In 1961, hockey at St. Mike's was riding high. The Majors had just won their fourth Memorial Cup; more than any other team at the time. The Buzzers had followed up with another O.H.A. Junior "B" crown. The new St. Michael's Arena promised to fulfill the vision of 'hockey for every boy at St. Michael's'.

"However, education always has been and always will be the focus at St. Michael's College School. It had become painfully apparent to Father Bauer that the goals of Major Junior hockey at the time were no longer compatible with the educational needs of his students. Within weeks of St. Michael's Memorial Cup win, Father Bauer decided that the Majors should withdraw from the league. Major Junior hockey would be absent from St. Michael's for the next 36 years."

The current Majors were added to the OHL as an expansion team in 1997-98, and moved to Missisauga in the summer of 2007. The new Majors played out of Maple Leaf Gardens originally, but moved into the St. Michael's College School Arena when MLG closed. The move to the tiny College rink was supposed to be temporary, but lasted for much longer than it should have as Eugene Melnyk tried in vain to build a new arena complex in Toronto independently of Maple Leaf Sports and Global Domination. In 2006 Melnyk bought the Mississauga IceDogs from then-owner Mario Forgione, and ran that team as a lame-duck for one season before selling them to printing executive Bill Burke, who moved them to St. Catharines. The move was made in essence to take over the IceDogs' lease at the Hershey Centre, and so in the end, the Majors got their arena and the Niagara region got a team back for the first time in a decade. In 2012, new ownership renamed the team from Majors to Steelheads.
Retired Numbers
None
Local Rivals
Mississauga's archrival was always Brampton, but with the Battalion now moved to North Bay, the Oshawa Generals, Niagara IceDogs and Barrie Colts would likely be the main rivals.
Another Look Inside the Hershey Centre
Hershey Centre

About the City

By Mississaugan Day of the Dog:

Mississauga, with a population of 624,000, is located 20 minutes west of Toronto and is Canada's sixth largest city. Mississauga was settled back in 1805 but is a relatively young city as it was only incorporated in 1974. As you would guess, the name Mississauga comes from a First Nations group that originally inhabited the Credit River Valley. In 1805 the local government bought 84,000 acres of the Mississauga Tract. A second purchase was made in 1820 and settlements of Barbertown, Britannia, Burnhamthorpe, Derry West, Elmbank, Malton, Meadowvale Village, Mount Charles, and Streetsville joined the settlements of Clarkson, Cooksville, Dixie, Erindale, Port Credit, Sheridan, and Summerville from the 1805 purchase. In 1968, all of the settlements (with exception of Streetsville and Port Credit) joined to form the Town of Mississauga. In 1974, Streetsville and Port Credit would join to form the City of Mississauga.

Because of the way the city was formed, there isn't really a true downtown core that you would expect from a city of Mississauga's size. As a result, Mississauga doesn't have a true identity and seems to get lost in the urban sprawl of Toronto. There is no real downtown life to speak of as anybody who is looking for something to do heads to the bright lights of Toronto. Some of the settlements (namely Port Credit and Streetsville) have kept some of their small town charm and have the feeling of a rural downtown.

Mississauga has its nice areas and its eyesores. The small one-storey generic corporate head offices and industrial branch operations in the northern part of the city leave something to be desired. Shopping malls, parking lots and big box stores are also easily found. The areas of Port Credit and Streetsville are a stark contrast and have a small town feeling.

"Hurricane" Hazel McCallion has been the mayor of Mississauga since 1978 and is one of the most recognizable and respected mayors in Canada.

Some of the major employers in Mississauga include Xerox Corporation, Federal Express Canada Ltd., TD Bank Financial Group, Petro-Canada, Bell Mobility, and Air Canada.

For more information about visiting Mississauga, please visit Mississauga Tourism.

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 2002-12.
All rights reserved.
Last Revised: September 30, 2012