The ramblings of a drunken fool. Fair first warning, it's not too late to back out. Go now, before boredom sets in.
Still here? Huh, amazing.
Alright then, second warning. It's post-midnight here and I just came home from a concert and a bout of drinking. Stay if you like, but be warned, I'll likely regret posting this in the morning or at the very least be embarassed. Carry on if you are brave.
1. The old barn is the old Winnipeg Arena, former home to the Winnipeg Jets of WHA/NHL fame.
2. The concert was the Van Halen concert, the last major concert at the venue listed in #1.
So, here I sit, about to type this post/thread, rusty nail (Johnny Walker black and drambuie) and Granville Island Lager at my side. I'll sleep soundly when this is done, the refreshments will only assist the earlier imbibations in achieving that goal. I won't wake up nearly so happy, but my hearing certainly will not be intact. This is your last warning, go away now, if you so choose.
If not, carry on.
I have lived in Winnipeg my whole life. Born, raised and still living here. As such, the Winnipeg Arena has seemingly played a role in my life. Not dissimilar to any arena in any other city in North America, it has been host to WHA and NHL hockey; host to concerts of all colour and stripe; WWE (F) wrestling; world curling championships
; world cup of hockey; world junior hockey. It is, quite simply put, a storied old building; not as famous as Boston Garden or the Montreal Forum, or any building of similar age and ilk, but still, it remains a trusted old friend.
It closes its doors in about a week from now.
We still have AHL hockey in the form of the Winnipeg Moose. It's not at all the same as the glory days of the WHA or the fun days of the NHL and the drawing power of the league simply isn't there: they draw maybe 8000 fans a game, pretty pitiful really. In the NHL days, they drew 12,000+ fans, even in years in which we won only 9 games total in a season. Pathetic in the scheme of the NHL, but truly a hockey town. Bitterness towards the departure of the NHL (and Bettman, general peckerhead) remain and impact the attendance of the subsequent team. That team will move to the new MTS centre, a building that seats about 16,000 with great seats, good site lines and reasonable prices. Generally speaking, it's a much better building.
From a concert venue standpoint, it is likely to draw bigger names, more frequently, in a building with better acoustics. This should lead to more and better concerts. So all in all, it's a good thing.
But I can't help feeling sad.
I don't remember the first time I went to the Winnipeg arena, probably sometime back around 1972 or so, before many of you were even alive, but pegging me at the wise old age of 8. One of the most memorable hockey games I attended was on my 10th birthday, Quebec Nordiques versus the Winnipeg Jets. IIRC, both teams sucked for the most part, but I was in my heyday of Canadian boyhood, playing hockey and madly, passionately in love with the game. The game that evening was attended by my dad and I and I believe the Jets won it about 6-4. It was not notable in the grand scheme of things, with the exception of the fact that the game took better than four hours to play. Barbaric to say the least, well over 300 penalty minutes were assessed and the duration of the game was a dream come true to a 10 year old. I didn't get to bed until probably 11 PM. The next day I revelled in the fact that the game was high scoring, full of fights (eh?) and I got to stay up super late.
Many more hockey memories were fostered during the tenure of the old building: multiple Avco cup trophy wins - Hull, Nilsson, Hedberg; entry into the NHL (finally); Hawerchuk being an amazing player; Jets finish 4th overall, only to lose to the Oilers in the first round (Edmonton finished 1st, Calgary 2nd overall); Selanne's amazing year; the whiteouts that have never been matched
; the last regular season game; losing to Detroit in game six of the first round in 1996, a game that never should have happened.
Concerts were another critical part of my life. My first concert was around 1976, Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare
tour. I'm pretty sure my parents didn't know about this one, or they would have put the kibosh on it pretty damn quickly. Later, early concerts included Nazareth, Styx, CCR and more. All in all, I saw probably over 100 concerts in the old building. AS mentioned earlier, the acoustics, to put it mildly, sucked ****. It was, literally built as a barn, adapted to a hockey rink and made into a concert venue for lack of another suitable sized venue. Numerous bands refused to tour through Winnipeg because of the ****** sound and sight lines. Money was there to be made, but they didn't like the venue so didn't come.
I saw Alice Cooper, Nazareth, Golden Earring, Kick Axe, Quiet Riot (booed off the stage at the height of their popularity - the crowd came to see Whitesnake and a local band, Kick Axe); Motley Crue; Black Crowes (Guns & Roses was the opening act, back in 1986
); Styx (Paradise Theatre tour for you old farts); Scorpions (4 x); Iron Maiden 4x - once backing up the Scorpions); Judas Priest (4x); KISS (saw every show); Van Halen (3x); Ozzy Osbourne (3x - both the loudest and the lamest show in terms of volume); Metallica (2x) and so very many more. Drunkeness and drugs were a part of the culture of the Winnipeg Arena. Just a fact of life. I have every ticket stub for every show I attended there. The list above is pale in comparison to whom I have seen.
I left a University Exam early to see Twisted Sister open up for Iron Maiden
; I passed out during a ZZ Top encore, after being up for 38 + hours pulling an all nighter studying for exams. My girlfriend (at the time) threw up all over the side of the car following an Alice Cooper concert.
Alice Cooper has played a pivotal role in my concert going history. It was my first concert at the Arena, or anywhere else for that matter. The second time I saw him, the girlfriend blew chunks on the car. The last time, some few months ago, ironically I had the opportunity to meet with Alice after the show and have his autograph (and yes, a picture) to prove it. I was sorely tempted to leave the history at that - first and last concert being Alice Cooper. It may not scare anyone these days, but he did in the day and I appreciate him for it.
Van Halen was a suitable follow up for the last concert though, and ended the symmetry of seeing Alice, first and last. The show, while not spectacular, was good. Sammy Hagar was entertaining; Eddie can still play the guitar like so few others. The show was loud, energetic and well received. After the lights came up, Green Day's Time of our Life
was playing, the last song I'll ever hear in that building - fitting, ironic and sappy all at once.
The truly lasting memory I'll have of that building is of the bathrooms though. Not sure how many places in the sporting universe have trough systems rather than individual urinals though. In a wave of personal privacy lost forever, at some point in the distant past, some Einstein decided that the human male's need to urinate would easily overpower the need for privacy. As a result, individual urinals were never installed for the men's bathrooms. Instead, a long and large "trough" was put in, allowing as many males as could comfortably stand astride one another do so. They would urinate on the wall, draining into said trough, fed by a constant stream of flush water. This is an innovation that will never be repeated. There has never and will never be a line for the men's washroom at the Winnipeg Arena. Tonight, for example, during the opening act, we stood in the outer area drinking beer and subsequently needed to use the facilities (i.e. trough). We walked a short ways, passed the lineup for the women's washroom, did our duty and returned to find the women's line had not moved an inch. Clearly the designers of said facility had drunken men in mind. A more practical and politically uncorrect decision shall never be made again.
Anyhoo, if you made it this far, bravo. Thanks for your attention. I had need to "verbalize" a fond memory fueled by alcoholic consumption. Carry on.