For those who visit Stephenville Dome on a regular basis, there is no more familiar face than Stan Doucette’s.
That’s especially true for those who frequent the Stephenville Minor Hockey canteen — Doucette has been there for the full 15 years that the ice arena has been in existence.
In fact, the Port au Port man’s volunteer efforts go back a lot further than the existence of “The Dome.” He has about 40 years of service in total with Stephenville Minor Hockey. That means he spent even more years at the former Stephenville Gardens than he has at The Dome.
Reflecting back, Doucette remembers the unofficial opening of Stephenville Dome in February 1999 to accommodate short-track speed skating and some men’s hockey games. Bleachers from baseball and soccer fields in the town were all scooped up and brought into the arena since the permanent ones weren’t ready to go for the opening. The Olympic-sized ice surface was required for the short track speed skating.
Doucette said as soon as The Winter Games were complete, The Dome was closed to allow the construction to continue. The doors were open to the public in October of that year, in time for the regular hockey season.
“People who have come here for the first time leave a lot of compliments behind on the building — how clean it is and even on the memorabilia display cabinet,” Doucette said.
But he still has a place in his heart for the former Stephenville Gardens.
“I miss the senior hockey that used to go on in that building, and there are times I still drive down and look at the concrete pad where the building used to stand,” he said, but adds that building had outlived its usefulness.
Although he has served all levels on the executive of Stephenville Minor Hockey, today he limits his volunteer work to operating the canteen.
His dedication to that part of the facility has been so profound that the minor hockey association named the canteen Stan’s Place in his honour several years ago.
Doucette said you won’t likely find a better canteen in another stadium across the island for a building that size.
Looking back over the years at the events and activities in The Dome, Doucette said the busiest was Hockey Day in Canada on Jan. 7, 2006. He said staff had to stop letting people in for a while because it was so crowded. He estimates there were 4,000 to 5,000 people inside and outside.
Doucette said the Atlantic Midget Championships in 2007 was another big event, as was the World Broomball Championships in 2004 and the Canada Judo Championships in 2000. There were also a couple of American Hockey League exhibition games played at The Dome.
He said today the facility is still a busy one during the fall to spring season, with prime time in great demand. Minor hockey, figure skating, broomball, recreational hockey, senior hockey and women’s hockey all use the building on a regular basis.
Doucette said The Dome will be of use to the community for a long time to come.
Bob Byrnes, chairman of Stephenville Gardens Commission, which oversees Stephenville Dome, said the facility is in need of an interior and exterior lighting upgrade. He would like to see financial support from government for the installation of new LED lighting system that would save in energy costs in the long run.