Armada


Blainville-Boisbriand Armada

Arena Name: Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau
Capacity: 3,100
Built: 2010
Address: 3600 boul. Grande-Allée, Boisbriand, QC, J7H 1M9
Telephone No: (450) 430-7774
Ice Surface Size: Regulation
Franchise Date: 2011-12
QMJHL Championships: None
Memorial Cup Championships: None
Colours: Black & White
Official Web Site: armadahockey.ca
Tourist Information: Basses Laurentides
Google Satellite: Click Here

QMJHL
Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau
Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau
What's the Arena Like?
A lot of cities these days are building elaborate multi-pad arena complexes to meet rising demand for ice time. You know what every single one looks like on the inside, even if you've never been to that specific one - one larger ice pad with a bit of seating, a bunch more with just ice, a cafe, a pro shop, a lot of bright lighting and neutral paint. I was just describing London's Western Fair Sports Centre there, but it could also have described any similar place in any city in Canada. That sameness is not necessarily a bad thing. Municipal infrastructure these days falls into two categories: elaborate showpieces and functional, unsexy barns which exist only to fulfill a need at the lowest cost. And while most new CHL buildings fall into the "showpiece" category, the Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau in Boisbriand bucks the trend, as a reasonably nice, functional hockey rink that isn't trying to be a basketball arena, a concert hall, or a convention centre.

Blainville and Boisbriand are two adjacent suburban communities on the mainland north of the Islands of Jesus (Laval) and Montreal. I'm not entirely certain why the Armada adopted a hyphenated team name - the arena is in Boisbriand, and if you're going to use two cities, why not three or four? Why not the Blainville-Boisbriand-St-Thérèse-St-Eustache Armada, or use the regional municipality name and call them the Thérèse-de-Blainville Armada? But regardless of the name, the arena is located in a quiet suburban area between housing and light industry, adjacent to the Autoroute and just north of a large retail power centre. It is a bright red and white aluminum-clad building that doesn't particularly stand out from the adjacent warehouses.

When you enter the main door, the arena doesn't appear any different from any other community rink in Canada - there's the same split between the different ice pads, the same small cafe, the same tiny ticket windows. The team sets up a store in the front lobby of the arena, and it seems odd they aren't given their own space somewhere, but I was impressed with how inexpensive team gear was. In addition to the usual arena stuff, there's also an outlet of Sports Rousseau (a sort of Quebec version of Perani's Hockey World that sponsors the building) on site, as well as a dry land training facility with a well-stocked gym.

Once you obtain your tickets, you pass through the cafe/sports bar area, well-stocked with beer and big screen TV's, to enter the arena bowl proper. Tickets are taken and you enter into a modern version of a community barn. The entrance is down in the corner at ice level, but the only concourse runs around the top of the seating, so every single ticketholder entering through the main entrance needs to walk up the stairs along the aisle to get into the concourse. Obviously there is an elevator behind the scenes for the handicapped along with a back staircase, but it still seems like quite a design flaw!

The seating bowl is horseshoe-shaped, with blue seats along the sides and red in the ends, with the first few rows around the building being silver. Suites hang above the seating on one side of the arena, along with a small press box. The ceiling is low and flat and the walls are aluminum, and apart from the fact it's so well-lit, you could easily be in another old community barn like that in Owen Sound. In the fourth end, there is what appears to be a party suite and windows that open out from the sports bar/cafe near the entrance. The setup is reminiscent of the Powerade Centre in Brampton, or the renovated Erie Insurance Arena.

If I'm making it sound so far like I haven't liked the Rousseau Centre (can I call it that? Let's say I can call it that), then I apologize. In a CHL that has replaced dozens of old barns in the past few decades with identikit sports and entertainment centres, it was absolutely refreshing to walk into a new arena that was clearly built for community use, on a budget, and not trying to impress anyone. The Armada's home is unflashy and unspectacular, but all of the seats and sightlines are good and I'm sure taxpayers in the north shore region appreciate their lower bills over having a tyrannovision scoreboard and marble floors in the lobby.

Once the game began, the Rousseau Centre continued to impress. The centre scoreclock doesn't have a videoboard, which is almost unheard of in a new building, but there is a projection screen on the wall end of the building, and two televisions in the far end for use of those whose view of the projection screen is obstructed by the centre scoreboard. The Armada use it well, with a professional-quality graphics package, and my only complaint was that the music was a little too loud for my taste. The Armada have a kickass goal song too, an original compostion called Embarque dans l'Armada done in the rolling style of a punky sea shanty. In a world where team songs range from embarrassing to cutesy to ironically so bad it's good, the Armada having an actually cool original goal song is unexpectedly awesome. They also really embrace being the only monotone black-and-white team in the CHL - all of the ushers wear referee jerseys!

I had been wondering how the suburban crowd would be in terms of enthusiasm, but once the game began, while the place wasn't full, the atmosphere was pretty good. The building's hard surfaces reflect noise, and while I was mildly annoyed with the promotions announcer's obnoxious yelping, the crowd noise levels were still good. Mississauga, this isn't. The building's peripherals are relatively spartan. There's only tiny beer concessions in the arena bowl itself - the food concessions are located outside in the cafe - and there's only one male and one female washroom for the entire bowl, though they're huge.

Overall, the Rousseau Centre is kind of a hybrid of a lot of trends in the CHL. The suburban location and new building call to mind virtually identical new buildings from Sarnia to Kent, Washington, but the community barn spirit (and cheapness) shine through as a throwback to a simpler time. Most cities these days, when building sprawling multi-ice centres, build for inexpensiveness and functionality. Boisbriand added a few more seats to theirs and attracted a QMJHL team, and the experience there is all the better for it - a brand new arena with the feel of an old community barn, built in the days before luxury suites, in-seat concession service and $25 tickets. It is sincerely hoped that the Armada - my old St. John's Fog Devils - are able to stay put and thrive in their third home in the long term.

Nik Coulter says:
I finally made the trek out to the Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau last night, and given that it's only about two hours away (assuming better weather than we had on the way back), it's about time. I also took the time to pay l'Aréna Melançon in St-Jérôme a visit, and even enlightened our St-Jérômeois friend, who had no idea that the Alouettes had once existed. I looked around for a while, and wasn't able to find any reference to them at the arena. I bet that souvenir shop in the front entranceway would make a mint selling vintage Alouettes stuff - Maybe doing that (and building a new arena) would help St-Jérôme catch the eye of the Q again. Then again, with Boisbriand barely half an hour away, I don't see that happening.

We went out for dinner in St-Jérôme, and then hopped on the 15 to make the short drive down to Boisbriand. Once we finally got to the arena (long story...), we were guided into the ample but poorly laid out parking lot. We ended up parking fairly close though. I didn't take the time to get a good picture of the building, both because the optimal angle was from the far end of the building and because the traffic in the parking lot was interesting to say the least. Besides, it was cold, and I prefer to leave my coat in the car if I can help it.

Once we went in, there was a full Sports Rousseau (Québécois Pro Hockey Life) to our right, and as far as I could tell, it was the closest thing to a souvenir stand that they had. From there, we went to find our tickets at the will-call, which was a table set up near the ticket booth. After I visited the Sports Rousseau to pick up my customary puck and mini stick, I went to meet back up with our friends and to find our seats.

The seats were in a U shape, and the Armada did exactly the same odd thing that the Huskies did - They shot twice at the end with fewer seats. We bought our tickets for this game the day before, so we were lucky to get four together, but we ended up down at the end where Boisbriand shot twice. I went for a walk around the top concourse before the warmup and took a couple of pictures. While I didn't spend too much time exploring the arena (I was enjoying the company of the random Armada fans sitting nearby), they seemed to have a fairly decent bar and adequately sized bathrooms.

The arena bowl itself was completely devoid of character, however it quickly came to life once the game started. The arena had another couple of oddities too. Firstly, it had the highest glass that I've ever seen. As opposed to the Bob, where your head is above the glass if you're sitting in the second row, this glass had to have been pushing 12' high. Secondly, the radio announcer didn't sit up with the TV cameras, but rather in a little cutout in the wall at the seatless end of the rink.

The Armada fans were all quite nice, and while we were booed quite aggressively at times (my one friend and I, not the Olympiques themselves), they seemed to like that we had the courage to go into their barn and act like we were still at the Bob. When the Armada started their comeback, they were imitating our lifting the cup, hat throwing, and whatever else we were doing. While I think that we were the two loudest fans in the rink, the Armada fans were anything but reserved. The atmosphere more than made up for the hanger-esque arena. Like I said, I spent the intermissions talking to random Armada fans and they were all very pleasant, even to an Anglo wearing a bright orange Olympiques jersey.
Inside the Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau
Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau
Future Developments
There are no plans to renovate or replace the Centre d' Excellence Sports Rousseau, but there are rumours that the Armada may not last in the area. The Montreal Canadiens are moving their AHL affiliate to Laval for the fall of 2017, to play out of a new 10,000 seat downtown arena there, and the word is that Armada management are concerned about competing with another team in the "reasonably affordable family hockey" market so close by. The strongest rumour is that they might be headed back to St. John's, of all places, but for now it's all hearsay.

How To Get There

From A-640: Exit at #20, boul. Grande-Allée, and proceed north. The arena will be on your right.

There is parking on site for a fee, or you can park for free on the streets in the surrounding area.
Franchise History
The Montreal Juniors were apparently relatively happy in Verdun, but the city of Boisbriand made the team an offer they couldn't refuse, so to speak, to move into their new arena. The Juniors thus decamped for the start of the 2011-12 season from the Island of Montreal to the far northern suburbs, in the foothills of the Laurentians. The franchise began in 2005 as my beloved St. John's Fog Devils.
Retired Numbers
None
Local Rivals
The same teams as before in Montreal - divisional rivals Gatineau, Sherbrooke and Drummondville.
Another Look Inside the Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau
Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau

Feedback

If anything is incorrect or you have something to add, please e-mail me at email and I'll update the guide.






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Last Revised: January 25, 2017