FRANK CRANE ARENA
2300 Bowen Road
Nanaimo, BC V9T 6E9
ARENA WEBSITE - https://www.nanaimo.ca/facilities/Details/2-Frank-Crane-Arena
YEAR BUILT - 1975
CAPACITY - Seating for 2,297
Frank Crane Arena is part of the Beban Park Complex which includes a second ice rink (Cliff McNabb Arena), a swimming pool, pitch and putt golf, tennis courts, bmx track and playing fields. It is home for the Nanaimo Clippers of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) and Nanaimo Timbermen of the Western Lacrosse Association.
The Clippers joined the BCHL in 1972 playing out of the downtown Civic Arena which was demolished in 2006. In 1982 the Clippers franchise ceased operations when the Naniamo Islanders of the Western Hockey League came to town. In 1983 the Esquimalt Buccaneers BCHL franchise re-located to Nanaimo and renamed the Clippers.
They have won the BCHL Championship five times including three years in a row from 1976 to 1978. The Clippers won their 1978 championship after the Penticton Vees forfeited the final series after three games to protest Nanaimo’s rough and violent play.
In 1979-80, John Newberry of Clippers scored 185 points which is still a single season BCHL rookie record and second only to Brett Hull’s record of 188 points in 1983-84.
Nanaimo Islanders – Western Hockey League
In 1982 the Billings Bighorns were purchased by William Zeitlin and Real Turcotte and moved to Nanaimo to start the 1982-83 season. The team only played one year at Frank Crane Arena finishing in fifth place with a record of 20 wins, 51 losses and one time. In 1983 the Islanders were sold and moved to New Westminster and renamed the Bruins. The franchise moved again in 1989 to Kennewick, Washington and is now the Tri-City Americans.
Nanaimo Islanders Alumni
Eight members of the 1982-83 Nanaimo Islanders went on to play in the National Hockey League - Mark Lamb, Jim McGeough, Pokey Reddick, Bob Rouse, Vern Smith, Rocky Trottier, Alfie Turcotte and Richard Zemlak.
Alfie Turcotte - Alfie’s father Real was the coach/owner of the Islanders. Half way through the season Alfie was traded from the Islanders to the Portland Winterhawks. He was on the Winterhawks 1983 Memorial Cup Championship team and named the tournament MVP. He was a 1983 first round pick (17th overall) by the Montreal and appeared in 112 NHL games for the Canadiens, Jets and Capitals After his playing career he has been a skills coach for Nashville, Carolina, Columbus and Atlanta. Alfie’s son, Alex, was a 2019 first round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings and currently plays for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Mark Lamb – Played 30 games with the Islanders before being traded to the Medicine Hat Tigers in 1983. Drafted 72nd overall in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames, Lamb appeared in 403 NHL games and won a Stanley Cup with Edmonton in 1990. He went into coaching after his playing career and spent six years as an assistant coach with the Dallas Stars. In 2006/07 Lamb was hired by the Swift Current Broncos as head coach/general manager and held that position for seven years. He is currently the general manager of the Prince George Cougars.
NHL Alumni born in Nanaimo
Wayne Bianchin, - Played 22 games for the Victoria Cougars in 1971-72 but found success in 1972-73 with the Flin Flon Bombers scoring 60 goals in 68 games. Drafted 23rd overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1973, Bianchin appeared in 275 NHL games and retired in 1982. After his playing career, Bianchin moved back to Nanaimo, coached the Nanaimo Clippers for a couple of seasons and worked in the financial sector.
Gene Carr – Grew up in Nanaimo but left at the age of 16 to play for the Kelowna Buckaroos of the BCHL. Carr was picked 4th overall by the St Louis Blues in 1971 NHL draft and played in 465 career games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and the Atlanta Flames.
Glenn Fry of the Eagles wrote the song “New Kid in Town” about Gene Carr. Fry was a big hockey fan and became friends with Carr when he played for the Kings in the 1970's.
Upon retirement from hockey in 1979, Carr returned to Los Angeles and worked for Universal Studios.
Al Hill - played his junior hockey for the Nanaimo Clippers and the Victoria Cougars. Set an NHL record with the Philadelphia Flyers on February 14, 1977 by registering five points in his first career game. Hill played eight seasons with the Flyers and their American Hockey League team appearing in 221 NHL games from 1977 to 1984. He is currently a pro scout with Philadelphia. (Read our blog post about Al Hill)
2017 Arena Referendum
In 2017, the City of Nanaimo held a referendum asking voters if they were willing to fund a new hockey arena for a Western Hockey League team. If the referendum had passed, the Kootenay Ice (now the Winnipeg Ice) would have moved to Frank Crane Arena in 2018 and played there until the new arena was built. Unfortunately the referendum failed with 80% voting against funding of the new arena. That large a defeat means it will be a long time before the WHL ever considers coming back to Nanaimo. Click here to view the original Nanaimo arena proposal