Alumni pay respects to Memorial Arena
There was no way Dalhousie Memorial Arena was coming down in April without Rick Reusse, former Tigers goalie from 1984-1988, seeing the 30-year-old rink he once called home one last time. There was no chance.
So, Reusse made sure he would get a final opportunity to enter the familiar confines of the DMA. He and his wife flew in from Toronto to watch the final skate of Dal’s men’s hockey team Feb. 11.
After the Tigers’ last game, Reusse had no regrets about making the pilgrimage to Halifax.
“The arena has a huge place in my heart and I didn’t want to miss it,” said Reusse, struggling for words as he recalled a rink he called the “most important place I’ve ever played hockey in.” “It’s too important for me to not be able to see it before it was torn down.”
Reusse watched the game at the top of the bleachers with some of the Tigers he once wore the same jersey with. Among them was perhaps the man Reusse can most attribute to his wearing of the black and gold, Darren Cossar, currently the executive director of Hockey Nova Scotia.
Cossar was the team’s starting goalie in 1984 when he was tasked with picking his backup. Of the 10 or so prospective netminders fighting for the spot, Cossar opted for a guy who wasn’t recruited by the school.
“I was a walk-on. I wasn’t recruited or anything,” said Reusse, “but Darren came up to me one practice and said ‘just relax’ and he picked me as his backup.
Although their days tending the net competitively have passed them by, the two remembered their time as varsity athletes fondly.
“We spent three hours reminiscing here tonight, watching this game and telling stories and lies about when we were here, and those will never leave us; they were great,” recalled Cossar. “I hate to say that because the rink is going to close it brought all those memories back, but it did, and that’s a really neat thing.”
Cossar wasn’t just on hand for Dal’s last game at Memorial, but also the team’s first 30 years ago. It was exciting to step on that ice surface for the first time, he said.
“I couldn’t tell you who it was against or anything like that, but I do remember the rink was sparkling.”
Today Memorial Arena doesn’t have the same lustre it once had. Things have changed. The player’s benches are on the other side of the rink and there are some new banners on the walls recognizing Dal’s greats from years past. But other than that, the alumni remarked that little has changed.
The building, though, still holds a lot of memories. Halifax native Paul Herron, a centre from 1983-1987, tries to attend a few Dal games a year, but says he can still harken back to his time on the ice with Reusse and Cossar.
“I would get excited when I would walk out that chute, out the ramp, and the music was playing when you stepped on that clean sheet of ice,” Herron reminisced. “You would just get a sense that you were coming to play hockey for the Dalhousie Tigers. It gave you a really good jolt.”
Cossar was surprised there was no ceremony or any recognition from the athletics department whatsoever that this was the team’s last game at the DMA, aside from the team’s salute to the crowd at the game’s conclusion and a touching ‘Let’s Go Tigers!’ chant as the clock winded down.
“There’s a piece of me tonight that said maybe it’s not [coming down]; there was no acknowledgement. It’s sad on that part to see a good friend come into town, you know, because it was going to be the last game.”
Before the three former teammates departed into the Halifax night after the game, they took one final gander inside their old dressing room. Reusse joked he wanted to take one last sniff of the room.
“Like I said to the boys, I don’t know what it is about this building but it smells different than any rink I’ve ever been in in my life,” he said. “It’s a special place.”