Martin Lapointe began skating at the facility that now bears his name when he was 5 years old. Just about every day, the former NHL player would lace 'em up at the old rink in the Ville St. Pierre area of Lachine, a quick drive from the Montreal Forum.
"I used to hang out at the rink and spend weekends there. I used to never go home," Lapointe told NHL.com. "We played shinny hockey in the corner and in the hallways. Those are the things that I remember from my childhood."
For kids in the neighborhood, the arena, now known as the Martin Lapointe Arena, was the fashionable place to be. Thanks to a combined effort by the NHL, The Home Depot, the Montreal Canadiens
and the Borough of Lachine it should be again.
The League, the store, the team and the borough combined to invest more than $250,000 and countless volunteer hours to refurbish the 35-year-old Ville St. Pierre rink, which has been called the Martin Lapointe Arena since 1997.
The refurbished rink will be unveiled publicly on Friday in an event billed as the NHL All-Star Replay. It will include a board-cutting ceremony, an audience with the Stanley Cup and speeches from Lapointe, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Lachine Mayor Claude Dauphin, and The Home Depot District Manager David Stern.
"It means a lot, especially for the young kids in the community," Lapointe said. "It's a great thing for them. I think that rink was left by itself quite a few times now and now that Home Depot partnered up with the NHL, it says a lot about both parties. They want kids to play a game that is such a fun game to be a part of. They want to involve more kids in youth hockey and around that rink there are a lot of young kids that want to play hockey, but if the rink is not up to par with the new technology they won't do it."
According to Jack Paul, The Home Depot store manager at the L'Acadie location who coordinated the entire project, a group of 70 volunteers spent four days at the arena two weeks ago. They did everything from painting and maintenance work on ceilings, hallways, dressing rooms and bathrooms to refurbishing the benches, stands, rink doors and rubber flooring. The volunteers were from Team Depot, The Home Depot's employee volunteer program.
The key element of the project is the brand new, state of the art, eco-friendly Olympia ice resurfacer that rink manager Pascal Boivin now has at his disposal.
"It's the third one of its kind in Quebec," Paul told NHL.com. "No fossil fuels. It's a battery-operated, eco-efficient. It's a green machine."
Paul stressed that Boivin and his staff do a great job of keeping the arena clean, but it needed a facelift to attract more people. Lapointe agreed.
"Since I have played there, it has slowed down a lot," Lapointe said. "I remember when I would go to the rink and it was packed. Now, I don't know if it's because kids have changed with the technology that they don't want to go out and play hockey, but to make a facelift for the rink, hopefully it will help. I think it's great timing."
Initial indications suggest the community is excited.
"They closed the arena down for four days (when Team Depot was working) but people were still curious," Paul said. "It is attached to the public library there and they had people popping in and just going, 'Wow, wow, wow.' That's the pleasure for us, seeing people's eyes pop. It's going to be a big difference."
The NHL chose the Martin Lapointe Arena because it wanted to make sure the NHL All-Star Game left a lasting and positive imprint on the city of Montreal, said Kyle McMann, the League's Director of Integrated Sales & Partnership Marketing.
"Once we started talking with The Home Depot, an arena refurbishment became a natural way to create the NHL All-Star Legacy," McMann added. "We are thrilled to be working so closely with The Home Depot -- which has executed many rink refurbishments across Canada -- along with the Montreal Canadiens
and Borough of Lachine. They have all contributed to ensure the Martin Lapointe Arena will be in great shape for hockey players and their families for years to come."
"I'll talk about me playing there as a young kid, my memories and I will thank The Home Depot and the NHL. I think it's a great thing for young players, to make sure hockey is fun, to tell them you don't have to sit in front of a TV and play Xbox or PlayStation all day. You need to have some activity in your life. That's what I did as a kid. I was rink rat."
-- Martin Lapointe
Before the state-of-the-art Bell Sports Complex opened in Brossard last month, the Montreal Canadiens
used to hold some of their practices at the Martin Lapointe Arena. Visiting teams still use the facility.
Lapointe said he never got to practice there during his 16-year NHL career, but he heard stories and was able to get a good picture of how it was aging.
"I remember I was lining up for a faceoff and I was playing for Boston at the time and Chris Simon
said, 'By the way, you're rink (stinks). You have to do something about those showers,'" Lapointe recalled. "I just said, 'Sorry about that. I don't think it was that bad, but he wanted to bust my chops a bit."
The arena was renamed in honor of Lapointe, who grew up seven blocks away, after he won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 1997. Lapointe's parents, Jeannine and Delphis, still live in the same house, roughly 10 minutes from the Bell Centre.
"The mayor called me up and said, 'What would you think about naming the rink after you?'" Lapointe recalled. "I was like, 'Wow.' Usually they do that when a guy is dead. It was quite an honor to have it named after me when I was 25 years old. It was a big deal."
So is Friday's ceremony.
Lapointe, who lives in Chicago with his wife and four children, still believes he still has something left to give to an NHL team, so he doesn't get to visit the building that bares his name too often.
He'll return Wednesday to see it. He will speak from the heart Friday.
"I'll talk about me playing there as a young kid, my memories and I will thank The Home Depot and the NHL," he said. "I think it's a great thing for young players, to make sure hockey is fun, to tell them you don't have to sit in front of a TV and play Xbox or PlayStation all day. You need to have some activity in your life. That's what I did as a kid. I was rink rat."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com