THE Q CENTRE
1767 Old Island Hwy,
Victoria, BC V9B 1J1
YEAR BUILT - 2004
SEATING CAPACITY - 2,780 (2,300 seats and 480 standing room)
The Q Centre is the second-largest arena on Vancouver Island. It is home to the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), Westshore Wolves of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League and Victoria Shamrocks of the Western Lacrosse Association.
The original proposal had the Q Centre attached to the Juan de Fuca Arena. This $12.8 million project was contingent on West Shore residents approving the new arena in a 2002 municipal referendum. Plans had to be revised when Metchosin voters turned it down. West Shore Parks and Recreation then proceeded with a less expensive $10.8 million project backed by the municipalities that voted for the arena - Colwood, Langford, and the Highlands. To save on construction costs, they abandoned plans to build it next to Juan de Fuca Arena. Instead, they moved the location to a nearby site occupied by an outdoor lacrosse box, across from the Juan de Fuca golf course.
The Q Centre opened on February 13, 2004, with a game between the Cowichan Valley Capitals and the Victoria Salsa. The Capitals defeated the Salsa 5-1, with Cowichan’s Kris Boyce scoring the first-ever goal at the Q Centre. The arena was called Bear Mountain Arena when it first opened and renamed the Q Centre in 2014 after radio station 100.3 The Q bought the naming rights.
The rink boards at the Q Centre were originally used by the Florida Panthers in their home rink at the BB&T Centre in Sunrise, Florida.
When the Victoria Cougars moved to Prince George at the end of the 1993-94 season, it left Victoria without a junior hockey team. The BCJHL acted quickly to fill the void, and in May 1994, an expansion franchise was awarded to Sam Kawalko. The team signed a three-year lease with the City of Victoria for use of Memorial Arena starting in September 1994. Eyebrows were raised when they announced the team name as the Victoria Salsa. Kowalko selected Salsa because he owned a chain of Taco Time restaurants.
The Victoria Salsa made their BCJHL debut on September 17, 1994, with a 6-2 road loss to Cowichan Valley. On October 1, 1994, Victoria won their home opener with a 5-4 victory over Nanaimo in front of 2,251 fans. Wins were hard to come by in the first few years as those early Salsa teams struggled. After two losing seasons, Kowalko sold the team to Mark Wagstaff.
In 1997, the franchise began an eight-year nomadic existence as they scrambled to find a permanent home. The Salsa moved to Esquimalt’s Archie Browning Centre at the start of 1997-98 because a new multiplex was replacing Memorial Arena. After many delays, the developer eventually backed out of the multiplex project before it got started. With Memorial Arena still standing, the Salsa went back to their original home in 1999.
The Salsa enjoyed a magical 2001 playoff run on their way to capturing their only BCHL championship. In the finals, Victoria defeated the Merritt Centennials four games to three. A huge crowd of 4,423 watched the series-deciding game seven victory at Memorial Arena.
In November 2002, voters of Victoria approved a referendum to build Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. With Memorial Arena now officially being torn down, the Salsa returned to Esquimalt for 2002/03. To start the 2003/04 campaign, the Salsa relocated to Juan de Fuca Arena before moving into their current home at the Q Centre in February 2004.
On August 10, 2005, Len Barrie, former Cougar player and ex-owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, joined the ownership group. At the same press conference, they announced the Salsa name was being scrapped. To begin the 2006/07 season, the Victoria Salsa became the Victoria Grizzlies.
Geoff Courtnall, the former Cougar and NHL player took over as head coach in December 2007. He replaced another Cougar alumnus, Jackson Penney, who remained the team’s general manager. Courtnall was behind the bench when the Grizzlies hosted the 2009 Royal Bank Cup (Canadian Junior A Championship). Victoria was eliminated in the semi-finals after a hard-fought 3-2 overtime loss to the Humboldt Broncos.
In 2012, the Vancouver Island Sports and Entertainment Ltd., a local group headed by president Ron Walchuk, purchased the club from majority owner Len Barrie. Walchuk is currently the Grizzlies governor and managing partner.
The 2019 NHL entry draft saw two Grizzlies selected. The Colorado Avalanche picked Alex Newhook in the first round, and Alex Campbell went to Nashville in the third round.
The following players have their number retired and their jersey hanging in the rafters of the Q Centre:
· Jordie Benn - #8
· Jamie Benn - #16
· Tyler Bozak - #11
· Jason Gow - #10
· Kyle Greentree - #39
Craig Didmon is the coach and general manager of the Grizzlies. In 1991/92 he was the leading scorer for the Victoria Warriors (BCHL) with 105 points.
Matt Pettinger - Born in Edmonton and raised in Victoria, Pettinger played two seasons with the Victoria Salsa before moving on to the University of Denver. He participated twice in the World Juniors, picking up a silver in 1999 and a bronze in 2000. The Washington Capitals selected Pettinger in the 2nd round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft and went on to appear in 414 NHL games. After retiring in 2010, he is now a Victoria real estate broker.
Tyler Bozak - Joined the Victoria Salsa in 2004/05 and spent three years with the club. In 2006/07, Bozak recorded 128 points and won the Brett Hull Trophy as the BCHL's top scorer. After two years with the University of Denver, he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs and spent nine years with the team. Bozak went to St. Louis in 2018 and won a Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019.
Leo, Gerry and Myles Fitzgerald are triplets who played with the Grizzlies from 2012-2014. They each went on to play collegiate hockey with Bemidji State University from 2014-1208. As children, they appeared in the movies Baby Geniuses and Baby Geniuses 2.
In 2012, the Westshore Wolves joined the VIJHL as an expansion team. Their best year was 2014/15 when they finished in second place with a 29-16-2-1 record.
Wolves head coach Aaron Spotts is a former Cowichan Valley Capitals defenseman (2003-06). In 2019 he was the VIJHL coach of the year with the Kerry Park Islanders.
In 2015, the Canucks and San Jose faced each other in a pre-season contest at the Q Centre. The Panorama Recreation Centre won the right to host an NHL game after winning the 2015 Kraft Hockeyville contest, but their arena was too small so the game was shifted to the Q Centre.
The Q Centre hosted the Victoria Royals for the 2013 WHL playoffs. Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre was not available because it was hosting the World Curling Championship, which forced the Royals to find a new venue. Two games were played at the Q Centre with the Kamloops Blazers beating the Royals twice to sweep the first-round series 4-0.
Victoria Salmon Kings
The Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL played their first season at the Q Centre in 2004/05. They were originally scheduled to debut at the new Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre but construction delays forced them to use the Q Centre for one year.