The Denman Arena was an indoor arena located in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. The arena was located at 1805 West Georgia Street at the northwest corner with Denman Street. It opened in December 1911 and was destroyed by fire in 1936.
Its primary use was for ice sports such as ice Hockey. It was the home ice rink of the Vancouver Hockey Club, known as the Vancouver Millionaires professional ice Hockey team, and was the location of several Stanley Cup championships.
The arena was also used for other sports, musical performances and public assemblies. It was an assembly point for Canadian servicemen during World War I. The 10,500 seat arena was the largest in Canada at the time, and introduced mechanically-frozen or "artificial" ice to Canada. Until the Montreal Forum was built in 1926, it was the largest artificial ice arena in the world seating 10,500.
In January 1911, Joe Patrick sold his Nelson, British Columbia lumber business for $440,000. The Patrick family moved to Victoria and the decision was made to use the proceeds of the company sale to go into the business of professional ice Hockey. The family built the Denman Arena to support the new Pacific Coast Hockey Association / PCHA, a professional ice Hockey league, to be run by Joe's sons Frank and Lester Patrick. Both Frank and Lester were professional ice Hockey players and had played in the National Hockey Association and other early professional leagues in Eastern Canada. Constructed of wood and brick, the large brick facing led Vancouverites to refer to it as The Pile. The Patrick brothers simultaneously built the 3,500 seat Patrick Arena in Victoria to help house their three team league which also included New Westminster. They would proceed to raid the established National Hockey Association / NHA in Eastern Canada of much of it’s top talent to stock their teams.
To build the Vancouver arena, the Patricks bought a parcel of land consisting of thirteen lots from the water's edge of Coal Harbour to Georgia Street, bounded by Denman and Chilco Streets. The location was near Stanley Park to the west, and was connected to the downtown business district by a streetcar line along Georgia Street. The site was previously the location of the Kanaka Ranch, which was settled in the 1860s by Hawaiian families, who grew fruit and vegetables, and produced charcoal, on the site.
To finance the construction of the Arena, the Patricks formed the Vancouver Arena Company Limited, capitalized at $200,000. The company was divided into 1000 preferred shares and 1000 common shares, with a 10% annual dividend. The company issued an initial share offering, but by September 1911, the offering had only raised $1400. Two more investors signed on, but it was up to the Patricks to take the rest. To facilitate the playing of ice hockey in Vancouver's moderate climate, the Patricks imported mechanical ice freezing equipment that Frank and Lester Patrick had seen in operation at New York's St. Nicholas Arena. The Denman Arena opened on December 20, 1911, attracting 1500 people for a session of public ice skating. Denman Arena held 10,500 people, making it at the time, the largest indoor arena in Canada, one of the world's largest indoor arenas, and the second largest indoor arena in North America, after the second built Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Arena was built at a cost of $226,382.
The Denman Arena was the permanent home of the professional Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. The Arena was also the home of the New Westminster Royals from 1911 until 1914. The Patricks had hoped to set up teams in Calgary and Edmonton in the PCHA for the opening season, but the plans fell through. To avoid having a two-team league, the Patricks formed the Royals, to represent the neighbouring town of New Westminster and encourage fans to come to the Arena. Although the Royals were an unexpected necessity, the Royals were the winners of the first PCHA championship. The Royals were disbanded in 1914, when the PCHA formed a team in Portland, Oregon. The Millionaires were later re-named the Maroons and were disbanded in 1926 when the Western Canada Hockey League discontinued operations.
The Patricks, being innovators of the game of Hockey would introduce many of the games’ great changes. It was the arena that had the first blueline in Hockey history, the first goal crease and where forward passing was first tested.
The Denman Arena hosted the Stanley Cup "World Series" championship series four times. The 1915 series pitted the Millionaires versus the National Hockey Association's Ottawa Senators, the first Stanley Cup series held west of Winnipeg. The series was won by the Millionaires. As of 2019, it is the only Stanley Cup win by a Vancouver team. The Arena also hosted Stanley Cup series in 1921, won by Ottawa, the 1923 series won by Ottawa and game two of the 1925 series, won by the Victoria Cougars.
The Denman Arena was also home to the Vancouver Lions of the semi-pro North West Hockey League. During construction, the Patricks organized a four-team amateur ice hockey league, the Vancouver Amateur Hockey League, composed of the Vancouver Athletic Club, the Bankers, the Columbians and the Vancouver Rowing Club. In 1921, the Denman Arena hosted the first international women's championship of ice Hockey, organized by the PCHA.
Two other ice sports clubs had their start at the Denman Arena. The Arena also had four curling rinks in the basement and the Vancouver Curling Club was established in December 1911. Curling was discontinued during World War I to make way for the armed forces.
The Arena and Auditorium were also used for boxing matches featuring Max Baer and “Cinderella Man” James Braddock along with wrestling matches.
The arena also featured movie star Rudolph Valentino as well as bicycle races and tennis matches.
The North Shore Indians of the Inter-City League played box lacrosse in the Arena in the 1930s
In 1914, the Arena was used to house over 1,000 soldiers who were assembling to form the 23rd Infantry Brigade. The soldiers left Vancouver in August 1914 to be deployed as the first Canadian troops in World War I.
On October 21, 1924, the Arena was the site of a political radio broadcast by Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, who spoke at Denman Arena during a tour of the west. It may have been the first political broadcast in Canada. Later that year, the telephone line installed was used for the first radio broadcast of an ice Hockey game in British Columbia.
It was mere hours after a full house had attended a boxing match on Aug 20, 1936 that the Denman Arena would be reduced to ashes.