Wildcats

Moncton Wildcats

Arena Name: Aitken Centre
Capacity: 3,278
Built: 1976
Last Game: 2015
Address: 20 MacKay Dr., Fredericton, NB, E3B 5A3
Ice Surface Size: Regulation

QMJHL

 Aitken Centre

Aitken Centre

 What Was the Arena Like?

The Moncton Wildcats have been subjected to more indignity from having to move their home games than pretty much any other junior hockey team, and have been known to play games at the J-Louis Levesque Arena in Moncton when the Coliseum was booked for bridal expos, RV shows, and other things. (They also have had backup contracts signed with the Tim Horton's 4-Ice Centre, though to the best of my research, they have never played a regular season or playoff game there.) In their last lease at Moncton Coliseum, the team apparently had had enough and demanded "primary tenant" status, giving them priority over their required dates, and arena management acquiesced. The QMJHL also changed its rules since the last Q game at Louis Levesque Arena, meaning that emergency games in tiny bandboxes are, regretfully, a thing of the past. And so should have been the phrase "Wildcats evicted because of a window and door show".

But life works in funny ways. During the 2015 playoffs, the Wildcats forced a game 5 in their series against the Halifax Mooseheads, which posed a problem as both the hockey team and the Radical Speed Sport East show had signed valid lease contracts for the Coliseum at the same time. With the 4-Ice Centre and the Levesque Arena no longer options, and the city unwilling or unable to evict the radical speed show on account of it being just too radical, the end result was that the Wildcats were forced to play a playoff game at the Aitken Centre. Which, for those of you keeping score, is in Fredericton.

It also just so happens that I dropped in on the Aitken Centre when I was in Fredericton in 2006. Of all the former AHL cities in Atlantic Canada, only Fredericton has never had a QMJHL team, and in fact Fredericton is the second-largest city in Canada that has never had a junior hockey team. (#1 is Thunder Bay, which is obviously not an option for geographic reasons.*) And just like Thunder Bay, Fredericton is one of the few cities in Canada that truly cares about university hockey. I'd love to see a Q team move into Fredericton permanently, but the biggest reason why that is unlikely to happen is that the Aitken Centre is on the campus of, and owned by, the University of New Brunswick.

The Aitken Centre is a brown brick and siding building located in the middle of a sea of other university buildings, at the top of the giant hill that makes up Fredericton. The campus is quite lovely, though the arena itself is nothing special. Inside, things improve greatly. The ice is surrounded by a steep seating bowl of red and gold seats, and with the high ceiling, it feels larger than its 3,200 capacity. Seats are laid out in a U-shape, with limited seating in the fourth end, much like the old Brampton Powerade Centre. It's been ten years since I set foot inside, but the arena easily looks capable of hosting the Q, though it's unlikely it ever will as long as UNB has an interest in remaining the biggest game in town.

For what it's worth, the Wildcats apparently also investigated playing that random game 5 at Harbour Station in Saint John and would have preferred that, but the Sea Dogs were also out of the playoffs at that point and Harbour Station no longer had ice installed. The team's lease required the city to pay out a $125,000 fee for forcing them out of the Coliseum, and one sincerely hopes that with the new Avenir Centre opening in 2018, the city will have finally learned an expensive lesson about double-booking their arena.

*For pedants: yes, Abbotsford, BC and Chatham-Kent, Ontario are technically larger. Abbotsford's colossal population growth recently is a symptom of its location close to Vancouver, and while the BC government may not consider it a suburb, it's still an exurban community that wouldn't have nearly the population it does without the influence of Vancouver nearby. Chatham-Kent is a single-tier municipality that includes nearby Wallaceburg, Blenheim, Tilbury, etc. The city of Chatham itself only has about 43,000 people living there, and the number is declining.

 Inside Aitken Centre

Aitken Centre

 What's the Arena Used for Today?
The Aitken Centre remains a one-game wonder in the QMJHL, and is still home to the UNB Varsity Reds.

 Feedback
If anything is incorrect or you have something to add, please e-mail me at Email and I'll update the guide.


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Last Revised: December 17, 2019