- Sean MacDonald
Centre Slush Puppie - Gatineau Olympiques
Photos by Dave Cottenie & Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Centre Slush Puppie 500 Boulevard de la Cité Gatineau, QC J8X 2P8
Year Opened: 2021 Capacity: 4,000
Slush on Ice
The Gatineau Olympiques played at the venerable Robert Guertin Centre for 45-years, an aging rink whose time had passed. The city of Gatineau awarded the non-profit organization Vision Multisports Outaouais (VMSO) the contract for construction and management of a 4,000-seat arena, including three community ice rinks. The venue is now known as Centre Slush Puppie after naming rights were acquired by the maker of the “original non-carbonated frozen beverage treat enjoyed by millions of people worldwide.”
In addition to the main rink, there are three other skating rinks, which combine to give 7,700 hours of ice time per year. These hours are distributed to the various sports associations and are used for various free activities offered by Gatineau’s recreation department. The project demonstrates how local governments can work together with sports franchises to deliver venues that serve more than just sports fans.
Still, we are concerned with understanding the venue as it applies to a fan attending a game. So how does Centre Slush Puppie measure up? Stadium Journey went to an early-season game and came away impressed, though there are some areas where improvement is necessary, as you would expect with a new venue. Note that all prices are in Canadian dollars, which at the time of writing is about 80 cents U.S.
Food & Beverage 3
Recessed within each corner of the concourse are the concession stands, and this design limits the impact of long lines on those who are walking by. The food offerings are basic and include nachos ($7), popcorn ($5), and cotton candy (barbe à papa, $6) is your heaviest option, with chips ($4) and chocolate bars ($3) to round out things. Of course, there are two flavors of Slush Puppie, with small cups going for $2 and large for $3. Coca-Cola beverages are available in bottles for $4, and you can get 473ml cans of beer for $8 or $9, depending on the brand. There is one specialized concession that sells only liquor and includes vodka, gin, and whiskey.
The main entrance and box office is on the ground floor. This is where vaccination credentials will be checked. From here, take stairs up a level to get to the arena proper, where your ticket will be scanned.
The arena is very clean, with a shiny concourse and black padded seats that match the team’s colors. It is aesthetically pleasing. In the corners, the top rows have 32 seats; avoid getting in the middle of those, as you will have to traverse 15 other people to get out. The concourse is quite wide, and each corner has a concession stand in an alcove of sorts.
There are drink rails around the entire concourse, and these provide the best views of the action. But once the game starts, patrons are asked to sit in their seats, due to COVID, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Fortunately, by the third period, this rule was no longer being enforced at the game attended.
There are two video boards at either end of the rink, although they don’t show replays. What I found particularly interesting is that the back of the video boards are open, showing just how complicated these things are. The arena does not have an overhead scoreboard above the center ice; however, there is a small steel structure that seems to have no purpose.
The Olympiques have had several players and coaches move on to the NHL; they are all honoured with banners hanging from the rafters. There is also a banner for Guy Lafleur, who was born in nearby Thurso. The team also has had success, with the 1997 Memorial Cup the highlight, and a separate set of banners celebrating these accomplishments.
There are suites and a Budweiser Club that are located one level up; these are not accessible from the arena proper but require you to go up more stairs.
As is the case with most hockey arenas, music plays during every stoppage in play, but it is not excessively loud.
Centre Slush Puppie is located in the eastern part of Gatineau in an area of strip malls and shopping centers. It takes 10-15 minutes to drive from downtown Ottawa, which is likely where most visiting fans will be staying. There is not a lot within walking distance of the venue, but a Pizzédélic is located in a nearby strip mall, a good spot for a pie and a pint.
Gatineau does have some attractions in its own right, including the Canadian Museum of History, which is about 15 minutes away and would be a good spot to visit during the afternoon before a night game. Of course, Ottawa is the nation’s capital and has dozens of worthwhile attractions, as well as a vibrant nightlife scene in the Byward Market and on Elgin Street.
I attended a Friday night game and was very impressed with the turnout. Many fans were wearing Gatineau garb, and they understood and paid attention to the game and cheered at the right time. They also stay to the end and are polite and respectful.
The arena is located at the corner of Boulevard de la Cite and Boulevard de la Gappe and takes about 5-10 minutes of surface street driving if you take Highway 50 from Ottawa. If you arrive early enough, you can find street parking on Cite right in front of the building. If you come later, there is a parking lot on Gappe that is right beside the arena. You can also take a bus from downtown Ottawa right to the rink; the #87 STO bus takes about 40 minutes, while the return would use the 400 bus. Use Google Maps to confirm the details.
Once inside, fans will have to have their vaccination credentials verified. Once you enter the arena, there will be no problems walking around the concourse. At intermissions, however, concession stand lines are very long, and you could spend the entire break waiting to pick something up, so get your food and drink before the game.
The drink rails are the best place to watch the game, and it is not clear why fans are not allowed to stand there. Once that rule is eliminated, this category will get an extra point.
All of the restrooms are along the concourse, and in the case of most hockey games, long lines form after the end of each period. It would be wise to time your trip before this time to avoid long lines.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets are $24 for sections along the sides and $20 for end zone seats. There are discounts for seniors, teens, children, while those under 3 can get in for free. With food relatively cheap and free parking, the Olympiques provide an affordable evening of entertainment.
The club was known as the Hull Olympiques until the provincial government amalgamated all of the cities in the area in 2002. Gatineau was chosen as the new name of these cities. The club’s mascot is a panda named Hully to retain some sense of the past. The arena earns a point for the overall aesthetics. It is well designed and much more pleasant than a typical rink at this level.
Centre Slush Puppie will undoubtedly receive a few guffaws due to its name, but it is a very comfortable and enjoyable place to see a junior hockey game. If you happen to be in the Ottawa region to see the Senators or 67s, check the QMJHL schedule to see if you can add the Olympiques and a bit of slush to your icy itinerary.