Plattsburgh Pioneers

Arena Name: The Crete Memorial Civic Center
Capacity: 2,500
Built: 1974
Last Game: 1984
Address: 2 Beach Road, Plattsburgh, NY, 12901
Ice Surface Size: Unknown


 Crete Memorial Civic Center

Crete Civic Center

 What's the Arena Like?

Everything about the Plattsburgh Pioneers story is ridiculous.

On paper, it was a brilliant idea. Plattsburgh is a hockey town in northern New York state, only an hour or so south of Montreal, and with the Q looking to expand its footprint back in the 1980's, why not put a team there in an effort to attract American prospects? If executed correctly, it should have had every possibility of working. It was not executed correctly.

Among the many mistakes made, the single biggest one was the QMJHL's Old Boys Club insisting that no Québecois prospects should actually have to live in the United States among the Anglos. The Pioneers were restricted from participating in the QMJHL draft, and were actually ordered to stock their team only with Americans. Now, even in the early 1980's, there were enough decent prospects in New York and New England to stock a team, but because NCAA rules even now restrict collegiate players from playing college hockey if they've previously played Major Junior, in actual fact the Pioneers were stuck only with players who weren't good enough to make an NCAA roster. The team went 0-16-1 in their first season, 1984-85, before folding midseason, with their kinesiology professor owner cutting his losses and moving on.

The Pioneers actually began their first season at the Ronald Stafford Ice Arena on the campus of SUNY Plattsburgh, because renovations to the Crete Civic Center weren't complete at the time, but the Crete was always intended to be their permanent home. Today, the Crete sits on parkland on the shores of Lake Champlain, with a large parking lot in front and a public beach behind the building. It's an unattractive 1970's building with yellow bricks and a brown aluminum roof that extends to halfway down the facade of the rink.

I had heard that the Crete hadn't had ice in it since the late 1990's, and therefore wasn't expecting it to be open, but to my surprise there were cars in the parking lot and the doors were unlocked. Upon walking into a high-ceilinged atrium clad in brutalist concrete, we turned left and discovered an artificial soccer pitch laid out on what was once the arena floor. All of the stands were temporary collapsible bleachers, and even then they appeared completely inadequate to the needs of a hockey team with aspirations of success. There are a line of windows at the top of the stands that surround the building which would have added lovely natural light, a small Zamboni garage, and that's the building. No concourse, no real facilities, it's hard to even guess where the dressing rooms might have been. Not to state the obvious, but I visit a lot of arenas, and the Crete Civic Center might be the least adequate CHL building I've ever been in that was intended to be a team's permanent home.

We left Plattsburgh pleased not to ever have to come back, but also disappointed in the QMJHL. Plattsburgh could have been a success story for the league, but provincialism and mismanagement killed any chance of the Pioneers being successful long before the team had even played a game. Today, there is no sign of the Pioneers' brief existence in either building, and local hockey fans queue instead to watch the SUNY Plattsburgh Cardinals hockey team, NCAA D-III national champions in 2016.

 Inside Crete Memorial Civic Center

Crete Civic Center

 What's the Arena Used for Today?
The Plattsburgh Pioneers opened their first season in front of a full house at the Plattsburgh State Fieldhouse, because renovations at the Crete Memorial Civic Center weren't yet completed. The Crete Memorial Civic Center was intended to be the long-term home of the Pioneers hockey club, but in the end they only played four games there before going belly-up. The last was a 6-2 loss to the Shawinigan Cataractes in front of 455 spectators on Oct. 25, 1984.

The Crete Memorial Civic Center has not had ice in the winter since 1999, as the city was losing money operating it, and there are two other ice rinks in the city. The building is currently used as an indoor soccer facility. The city has been debating demolishing the building as of 2018, but to date no permanent decision has been made. For those interested, the oddball Greek name is the surname of the donors who had the building constructed back in the 1970's.

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: December 20, 2019