Fans planning to cheer on the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League’s St. James Canucks will soon need to enter a new destination in their GPS devices, as the ‘St. James Civic Centre’ name is officially no more.
This past week, the City of Winnipeg announced the ‘Ab McDonald Arena’ name change for the building formerly known as the Civic Centre. In honouring the former Winnipeg Jets captain who spent the majority of his time in Winnipeg in the St. James neighbourhood, the city felt a change was necessary, and the late McDonald as the perfect beneficiary.
“Ab McDonald is one of the true legends of hockey in Winnipeg,” new Winnipeg mayor Scott Gillingham said on stage. “Renaming this arena is a fitting honour for someone who represented this city with great class throughout the hockey world, and these displays will share his story with future generations of players.”
The 1,500 seat venue situated at 2055 Ness Avenue is one of Winnipeg’s larger hockey arenas, which also serves multiple other uses, doubling as both a swimming pool and auditorium. Built in 1967, the Civic Centre also has a weight room available to the public.
“It is such an honour for our dad’s legacy to be remembered by naming an arena after him in the city that he lived in and loved,” the McDonald family wrote in a statement. “He was respected for his outstanding hockey career, but his greatest attribute was how he cared for and supported the people of Winnipeg and the community of Manitoba. Our family is so humbled that his city and community wanted to honor him, and we thank the City of Winnipeg and True North Sports + Entertainment for contributing these displays that will allow generations of Winnipeggers to learn his story.”
Fans entering the newly renamed facility will see brand new imagery of McDonald during his prime with the Winnipeg Jets – something designed by True North as a way of recognizing homegrown products.
A six-team NHL veteran, McDonald captained both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jets while going on to win the Stanley Cup in four consecutive years (1958-61) with the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Black Hawks. He was named the first captain of the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets, and scored the franchise’s first ever goal on October 12, 1972.
He put up 29 goals and 70 points over 147 regular season games in his two years with Winnipeg, while adding 182 goals and 430 points in his 762 game NHL career.
“When Ab passed, everybody took a deep breath and said, ‘We really need to do something,’ ” Murray Peterson said, a heritage officer of Winnipeg’s department of planning, property and development. “This is such a great project to honour such a great man.”
The project cost $14,500 and was funded through the City’s Land Dedication Reserve.