Selland Arena Back in Action

by Manny Brizuela

A couple things changed for the city of Fresno by the end of the 2012-13 season. If you were to ask people of the hockey community, in Fresno, where the best place was to catch a hockey game, they would inevitably tell you about Selland Arena.

Former home of the now defunct Fresno Falcons (ECHL), Selland Arena has a history of hockey that recently suffered a void. 

After the Falcons, the city fielded two junior hockey teams in the Fresno Monsters of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and of the Western States Hockey League. Both teams operated under the same organization and both played out of the 10,132 seat Selland Arena.

But after the 2012-13 season, the city saw its NAHL Monsters relocate to become the Wenatchee Wild and the WSHL Monsters moved over to the Gateway Ice Center. A lid was placed on hockey in downtown Fresno for the time being and Selland Arena was no longer home to Monsters Hockey.    

(Photo Via WSHL Monsters) 

“Having the NAHL team in there [Selland Arena] with the distance in travel partners made it financially difficult to justify a team being here,” Fresno Monsters Owner Jeff Blair said. “The previous owner kept it going for so long but then decided to remove the NAHL team out of the equation and move the WSHL team to play from the Gateway Ice Center.”

The NAHL Monsters’ geographically closest opponents were the Amarillo Bulls in Texas and the Kenai River Brown Bears in Alaska. The travel surely took its toll over the course of a season and this lead to the team relocating all together. Up until that point, the WSHL Monsters had Thorne Cup appearances and continued to do so the following season.

Although they lost in the semi-finals of the 2013-14 Thorne Cup, Monsters Hockey managed to sustain valiant efforts and deep season runs out of the Gateway Ice Center. At the end of last season Jeff Blair was able to secure three games in Selland Arena to close out the campaign. His efforts to bring back hockey into a premiere setting resonated with the community.

“I was working with the city of Fresno to get hockey back downtown and it worked pretty well for the few games we had in February,” Blair said. “I went into better negotiations with the city and mayor, Lee Brand, who is a huge advocate for what we are trying to do. After a few meetings we came to an arrangement where we can play hockey for the entire season. We are extremely excited to be back in Selland Arena.”

Blair stated that Selland Arena is where they want to make home for the coming years and beyond—The arena is easily one of the top venues in the league. In a matter of several years, Selland Arena again became the place to be for hockey in Fresno. 

“Monsters Hockey has a very strong fan base here,” Blair said. “We are giving them something to cheer for and the kids something to aspire to. We have always been a team that carried local players that we pull straight from our youth organizations.”

“The community of Fresno has wanted hockey back in downtown for a long time and now we are just trying to get the word out that we are back." 

Selland Arena is proving to be the perfect build for a hockey spectator, which increases the lure of going to watch a game. Unlike your typical arena’s exterior concourse, Selland Arena has an interior concourse that enables the spectator to walk around the entire rink and not miss a second of the action.

“It’s a very well designed building for watching hockey,” Blair said. “I would say that absolutely adds to the atmosphere.”  

The Monsters have lost their season opening games over the last several years, but opened their 2018-19 campaign from Selland Arena—last weekend—with a victory. The Ontario Avalanche paid them a visit and managed to steal one game to avoid a sweep. Tomorrow, the Monsters host the reigning and 3-Time Western Division Champion, Long Beach Bombers. The Bombers have one less game than the Monsters who are eager to get back onto their new home ice.

“The players absolutely love it,” Blair said. “Anytime you get to play in an arena that fits that many spectators the players get amped up and ready to get into the game. Being there really helps pump up morale and energy level and that’s what we want to do. We want to see good hockey out there.”