ARCHIE BROWNING SPORTS CENTRE - ESQUIMALT
1151 Esquimalt Road
Esquimalt, BC V9A 3N6
YEAR BUILT - 1961
SEATING CAPACITY - 1,500
Archie Browning Sports Centre is the oldest arena on Vancouver Island. Originally known as the Esquimalt Sports Centre, it opened in 1961 with Grace Patrick, wife of Lester Patrick, on hand for the inaugural ceremony. In 1992, it was renamed the Archie Browning Sports Centre in honour of Archie Browning, a lacrosse star and prominent citizen of Esquimalt. The arena is home to the Victoria Cougars of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) and Eve’s of Destruction of the Premier Roller Derby League.
Victoria VIJHL Cougars
The Cougars joined the VIJHL in 1998, winning the league Championship (the Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy) seven times and the BC Provincial Junior B Championship (The Cyclone Taylor Cup) in 2007.
Justin Courtnall played for the Cougars in 2005/06, picking up 34 points in 33 games. The next season, the Tampa Bay Lightning selected Courtnall in the 7th round of the 2007 NHL entry draft. His father, Geoff Courtnall, coached Justin for two years with the Victoria Grizzlies from 2007 to 2009. In his final year as a pro, he won the 2015/16 ECHL Kelly Cup championship with the Allen Americans. Courtnall is now working as a Commercial Real Estate Broker with Rubicon Representation in Dallas, Texas.
Archie Browning Sports Centre was the home for two British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL/BCJHL) teams – Esquimalt Buccaneers (1982-83) and the Victoria Salsa (now Grizzlies) from 1997-2000 and again for the 2002/03 season.
The BCJHL came to Esquimalt in 1982 with the arrival of the Buccaneers. In less than a year, the team was gone before their first season was even completed.
In the summer of 1982, owner Reg Midgley transferred the Nanaimo Clippers franchise to Esquimalt for the 1982-83 season. He moved the team to avoid competing with the newly established Nanaimo Islanders of the Western Hockey League. They were renamed the Esquimalt Buccaneers and hired former Victoria Cougars and NHL player Wayne Bianchin as head coach. Midgley said the team needed 700-800 fans per game at Esquimalt Sports Centre to break even, but in the end, only averaged around 350. In February 1983, with a few games left in the regular season, the franchise made the permanent move back to Nanaimo. The club abandoned the Buccaneers' name and once again became the Nanaimo Clippers. (Read more about the history of the Esquimalt Buccaneers)
Archie Browning Sports Centre was the home of the Victoria Salsa (BCHL) on two separate occasions. The Salsa moved to Esquimalt in 1997 when their original home at Victoria Memorial Arena was to be demolished and replaced with a new multiplex arena. After two seasons in Esquimalt, the Salsa returned to Memorial Arena after the multiplex deal fell through. When a 2002 referendum passed to build Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, the Salsa returned to Archie Browning for 2002/03. The next season, the Salsa started the year at Juan de Fuca Arena before moving into their permanent home at the Q Centre in February 2004.
Alton Lister was a two-sport athlete in hockey and lacrosse. In 1982, as a lacrosse player for the Victoria-Esquimalt Legion (now the Victoria Junior Shamrocks), he won the team's Rookie of the Year award. That year the Legion captured the 1982 Western Canada Junior “A” Championship and faced Peterborough for the Minto Cup (Canadian championship). The Esquimalt Sports Centre hosted the series, with Peterborough winning the Minto Cup four games to one.
After lacrosse season was over, Lister laced on his skates and joined the Esquimalt Buccaneers. He put up strong numbers, scoring 35 points in 49 games. Lister went on to a long career with the Victoria Shamrocks spanning three decades, winning multiple Mann Cup Championships. His sons Terrell Davis and Marcus Davis both played football at Mount Doug, UBC and in the CFL.
Len Evans grew up in Powell River and hoped to follow in the footsteps of hometown hero Gary Lupul. At fifteen, he was one of the top four midget players in British Columbia. As a seventeen-year-old, Evans led the Buccaneers in scoring with 87 points and played in the 1983 BCJHL All-Star team. The next year, he attended the 1983 Victoria Cougars training camp and then joined the Nanaimo Clippers. He finished 1983/84 second on the Clippers in scoring, collecting 87 points in only 32 games. Tragically, Evans passed away in May 1984 from injuries suffered in a car accident on Nanaimo's Island Highway. To honour his memory, the Powell River Minor Hockey Association set up the Len Evans Memorial Scholarship.
In 2003, the Victoria Shamrocks moved to the Archie Browning Sports Centre. It was only for one season as they moved into their current home at the Q Centre in 2004.
The Shamrocks made the most of their one year in Esquimalt, winning the 2003 Western Lacrosse Association title and hosting the Mann Cup finals (Canadian Lacrosse Championship) against the Brampton Excelsiors. The Shamrocks took the best-of-seven series 4-1 to capture their seventh Mann Cup title.
In 1961, the Portland Buckaroos of the Western Hockey League held their training camp at the newly opened Esquimalt Sports Centre. The Buckaroos hosted two exhibition games at the Sports Centre against the Seattle Totems and the San Francisco Seals.