Clegg’s Corner – Happy Birthday to Our Grand Old Lady!

If you’re picking up this newspaper today [Jan. 16], you have missed remembering and recognizing an important part of High Prairie’s history.

Jan. 15, 1958 was the official grand opening of the Sports Palace. Yes, Our Grand Old Lady has officially turned 60!

The building opened months before but town brass waited so they could do it up right. It was a big community event.

Arenas are the recreation and social hub of small communities. Children and youth meet to play while parents socialize. Sporting events and hometown teams bring a great source of pride to a community, and the eventual heartache. But we can live with that!

Our Grand Old Lady has seen it all. Not just sporting events, but bingos, weddings, trade shows, boxing, dinners and galas.

And as I like to remind Rod Berg, real athletes performing when Stampede Wrestling came to town!

Who can forget Rick Dumont’s Game 7 overtime winning goal on April 6, 1985 and a plethora of other great High Prairie Regals’ memories? All those championships and all those wins!

Add to the list all the minor hockey wins and figure skating accomplishments. Ringette flourished for a short time.

I was not born and raised in High Prairie but I remember my first trip to the Sports Palace on April 6, 1978. The Fairview Elks were in the NPHL final against the High Prairie Regals. The Regals led the series 3-2 and won the title that night, 7-5 in overtime.

April 6! A date very kind to the Regals! Seven years later Dumont performed his heroics.

I was supposed to be memorizing some Shakespeare that night for a test the next day but dad decided to treat me to the big game. We pulled up to the Grand Old Lady from the west and entered the building.

The atmosphere was electric! For year, I listened to Ken White broadcast NPHL games from the venue. Now, I was actually inside this palace. It was – and still is today – the best venue to watch a game from in the Peace Country.

A very large man was cheering for the Regals behind me. Years later, when I came to High Prairie, I am positive it was Steve Blonsky. It would be so unlike Steve to venture into “enemy” cheering territory, right! Ha, ha!

The Sports Palace was the standard by which other arenas were measured. It seemed only winning teams with winning traditions played there. For outsiders, it was almost an honour to play inside those iconic walls. To be the best, you had to beat the best.

Now she is 60 and still looking good. The sound system needs fixing but I still would not want to watch a game in any other building.

There will be a time the Grand Old Lady will be torn down or, God forbid, meet the same fate as Manning’s and Grimshaw’s arenas. Until that time, enjoy the memories of the past, attend some games and make new memories.

What a lady she is!

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