Auditorium Occupied by the Canadian Armed Forces
On September 10, 1939, Canada declared war on Germany. After that, nothing would be as it was. The services of one and all were called upon, including the Verdun Auditorium. An agreement between Verdun’s City Council and the federal government’s Department of National Defence sealed the arena’s fate: after only a year and a half of existence, on July 23, 1941, the arena stopped welcoming sports enthusiasts, performers and Verdun residents, and soldiers from the Canadian army were seen entering the building.
With the arrival of these new military tenants, the reserve units of the 3rd Division of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, as well as those of the 16th Field Company and of the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers, the day-to-day routine of the oldest arena in Montréal was turned upside down. The Auditorium was no longer recognizable: Flags of Great Britain waved where sports banners used to be. The Auditorium’s skating rink was no longer used for hockey players’ skating, but rather for soldiers synchronized steps, while training to march. Its spectators’ stands, which used to always be filled to capacity, were deserted. Its backyard became a place for collecting various objects. Even its name was changed: it was now called the Verdun Auditorium Armoury.
On a few occasions, the Verdun Arena’s function of bygone days was restored and it welcomed hockey players once again. Skaters on its rink, the Auditorium never thought it would see that anymore! October 9-18, 1942, a hockey club consisting of servicemen from the Royal Canadian Air Force skated on the arena’s ice. For the first game of this military team, the stands at the Auditorium filled up as before. At last! For a few days, the arena came back to life and Verdunites were allowed to return to the place they had been forced to abandon.
When World War II ended, the Auditorium wanted to quickly go back to its original sports spirit. Unfortunately, the members of the military took their time and it wasn’t until March 2, 1946, that they finally cleared out. Following their departure, the Auditorium needed a facelift before again welcoming its sports teams. It took a number of months to dismantle the military facilities and carry out various works. But the Auditorium can be patient! Its rink would soon be used for skating again.