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Northlands Park - Memories Worth Keeping
community events

Amateur and professional

Northlands Park has always had a special relationship with amateur and professional athletes and their sports, going back to its beginnings as a humble agricultural fair.

From 1913 on, the Livestock Pavilion’s central viewing area was frozen over through the winter months to accommodate the latest craze—hockey. Viewing this sport quickly became associated with the holidays, as spectators crowded into the freezing rink to watch players battle it out for control of the largest ice surface in Canada.

The Edmonton Eskimos Hockey Team, owned by Deacon White and Walter Campbell, became the first to play there.

While the distant National Hockey League was still establishing its reputation as a professional organization in the East, barriers imposed by distance and finance necessitated that Western Canada form a comparable organization for itself. Thus, the Western Canada Hockey League—an amateur hockey organization—was born. Spectators were content to drop by the Livestock Pavilion, later renamed the Edmonton Gardens, to watch the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Edmonton Flyers.

Featured Video: 1987 Labatt Brier Promotional video for the 1987 Labatt Brier. Watch Now

Although the Flyers would eventually go pro, winning accolades in their search for greatness, dwindling interest forced the team out of business in 1963. The Oil Kings, meanwhile, had been working on its reputation as a great amateur team since the 1920s.

The team’s General Manager, Leo LeClerc, later pitted those younger players against more experienced professional athletes, giving them a chance to adapt their game and improve their odds of winning against the less experienced competition usually found among junior players. Bill Hunter, who became general manager in 1966, continued in LeClerc’s footsteps. He would later be instrumental in forming the Western Canadian Hockey League.

The Oil Kings eventually went the way of the Flyers, and disappeared in 1982.

Meanwhile, Northlands had cultivated a special relationship with the Edmonton Oilers, a pro-team that played on Northlands’ ice at the Edmonton Coliseum for a number of years before the building came under new management. The Oilers celebrated their most spectacular victories while using the Coliseum as their home rink.

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Although hockey is one of the most enduring sports to have been associated with Northlands, this organization has supported and housed a number of athletic activities through its history.

The Eskimo Girls’ Basketball and Baseball Clubs, which operated throughout the 1930s, made for successful athletic attractions at the annual Exhibition.

Other sports have also made use of Northlands’ facilities. Curling, for example, has a congenial relationship with the organization, cultivated and strengthened through activities at the SportEx.

In addition to a series of regular games, curlers have also held several popular Brier Cup Championships there. Over 220, 000 spectators took in the excitement during the 1999 finals, and the Brier is slated to return to Edmonton in 2005.

Northlands has also hosted a variety of specialized athletic events, including the 1983 Universiade, and a portion of the Commonwealth Games.

None of these attractions would be possible without the participation of top athletes, the contributions of staff and volunteers, and the spectators.


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Amateur and professional



Ice Capades

Edmonton Grad

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