It is a place with its own scent. By no means is it offensive, but it certainly is noticeable. I have no idea what caused it to be there; but the aroma of Hobart Arena is unmistakable and surprisingly pleasant. Every time I enter that building, I’d like to think that smell is a combination of ice, Zamboni exhaust and concessions. Whatever it is made of, it certainly brings back some good memories.
By all accounts, I was way too young to miss the heyday of the arena. Built in 1950, the facility was huge during its first decade. Big time musical acts like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Patti Page and even Elvis Presley himself, played at the arena.
The arena was also the home of the moderately successful Troy Bruins, a team in the International Hockey League. In eight seasons, the team went 223-226-27, nearly winning the league championship in 1956 before losing to the Cincinnati Mohawks in the seven game final series.
History reveals that the team featured a young Canadian named Larry “King” Kwong. A long time player in some of the Canadian junior leagues, Kwong actually made it to the NHL in 1947 playing for the New York Rangers. His appearance was notable since he became the first player of Asian descent to play in the NHL. After his only appearance for the Rangers, he realized that the cultural shock of having an Asian player in the NHL limited his opportunities. He bounced around the minors for many years, ending up in Troy in 1956.
And while hockey and music were big at the arena, so was big time wrestling, or at least it was to me. I remember as a young kid, probably around age 7 or 8, my father took me to the arena for a night of wrestling. While it was neat, it was complete sensory overload. All I can remember was watching the “Nature Boy” bash some guys head into a table. I recall asking my dad why these guys hated each other so much. Dad, in his wisdom, replied, “Son, they are all leaving on the same bus. Trust me, they don’t hate each other as much as you think.”
I also remember going to high school basketball tournament games at the arena as well. Late winter nights were filled with as many as four games. What I remember most is the floor that the kids played on was one from the old Philadelphia Spectrum, adorned with the logo of the Sixers. Playing on the same floor that Dr. J played on must have been a real treat. And who couldn’t forget the original scoreboard that hung from the rafters. It seemed like a good portion of the lights were out on it, but as a kid looking at something that old that still worked, I was impressed!
Perhaps that largest crowd I remember seeing at the arena was the day the vice president came to town in 1988. George Bush was running for president and I remember on a chilly and damp day, my grandfather took me to the event. It was pretty cool; every seat and even the floor were filled with people. I can’t remember anything about what the former President said, but I remember there were balloons and signs everywhere and my feet were cold from standing on the covered ice.
I am sure I am not the only one with great memories of Hobart Arena. I am sure there are great memories of skating around the rink during the public skating times the arena hosts. Many of you may even have even more nostalgic memories of graduating high school from the Hobart Arena as well.
Not only is it an iconic symbol of our community that makes our community special, it’s a place filled with great memories and even better stories. We sure are lucky in these parts to have a special place like Hobart Arena.
William (Bill) Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.