When I was a kid, indoor rinks were nasty cold places in the heart of winter. I guess they still are but I’m old enough now to enjoy throwing stories to my kids about how it was colder and snowier back in the day. For parents and other spectators who didn’t benefit from the physical activity of the actual game to keep warm, they had to brave the cold of the game somehow. I’m not sure this was the official name given to them, but those areas of certain rinks where you could watch the game with some heat on were known as warm rooms.
My mom, a primo hockey mom if there ever was one, was a warm room stalwart. I don’t ever remember her watching a game at ice level. Ever. And yet, I can count on one hand the number of my games she missed over all the years I played.
NorthCrest arena had an awesome warm room. Big glass at the end of the rink, slightly elevated, good snack stand, just big enough to accommodate fans from both sides and yet small enough to be intimate. The Kinsmen arena in Peterborough was the 8th wonder of the world for awhile in the 70’s being a twin-pad with a long vertical, second floor viewing area that looked down on both pads. And being a heated area, it was the cruise ship of warm rooms for its time.
Moses Springer arena in Kitchener used a hybrid approach. Yes, for that old barn, somewhat reminiscent of NorthCrest in Peterborough, they simply hung gas heat lamps over the bleachers at rink side. Not a real warm room, but a pseudo-warm-bench at least.
The Keene arena had an second floor warm room / party room at the end of the rink which got used for wedding receptions and the like (rarel on the same nights as hockey games although I actually did bring my new supertacks, a stick and some pucks with me to a cousin’s wedding in April one year on a Saturday night when the ice was still in and actually slipped down for a skate while the nuptial party unfolded up above). It also had a lobby on the main floor that had a couple of pretty weak viewing windows out to ice level.
Yes, the warm room is an architectural innovation that many a hockey fand, and player, have benefited from. It has kept spectators warm and it has been a gathering place before and after games for generations of players. It’s the 19th hole of the hockey world. It’s where missed chances have been lamented post-game, trash talk exchanged amongst rival player-friends (or enemies) and where families and friends have gathered and socialized with hockey at the centre of the discussion.