By Brian Compton
It was built in 1947. Sixty years later, on Monday, the Toledo Sports Arena will be reduced to rubble.
It leaves behind six decades worth of fantastic memories, a place where generations of folks gathered to watch an old-time hockey game, or to see their favorite band, or to witness any other special event just off the Maumee River.
Come Monday, there will be nothing left of the tiny facility that stood less than 34 feet tall. The Toledo Storm is officially on hiatus until a long-overdue, state-of-the-art facility will open in downtown Toledo in 2009.
Perhaps it was only fitting that the final event held at the Sports Arena was one of those “extreme toughman” competitions back on April 28. Because as tough as those men probably were, the people who packed that arena on a nightly basis to watch their favorite hockey team take the ice may have been even tougher.
The Toledo Sports Arena hosted six different hockey clubs over the last 58 years, dating back to the Toledo Buckeyes from 1949-1950. The most prominent of the bunch was arguably the Toledo Goaldiggers, who won four International Hockey League titles from 1974-1986. Mike Eruzione, who scored the biggest goal in American hockey history back in 1980, was a member of the Goaldiggers for two seasons before joining the U.S. Olympic Team. He scored 57 goals during that stretch.
I first entered the Toledo Sports Arena in 2003. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was no glass behind the Storm’s bench, so if you sat in the first row, you were no more than three feet from the players without separation. The Zamboni ran without a hood. I would almost bet my home that the serial number on it read 001. The fans hooted and hollered for their team to hit somebody — while the playing of the national anthem blared in the background.