A night out with the Coquitlam Express


Nothing pairs better than a cold blustery winter evening in Anytown, BC, and a good old game of Canada’s national winter sport, hockey. This season, the BCHL will ice teams in 17 different markets in the province (and one in a state) varying in geographic location, team nicknames, conferences, and even countries. While many attend these games for the sport itself, a great game day experience is essential to keep the fans coming back for more.

The Coquitlam Express calls the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex home. Often referred to as the Palace on Poirier, or the Pond on Poirier, depending on the season, the 190,000 square foot facility offers the local community several entertainment options.

The arena

Located at 633 Poirier Street in Coquitlam, the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex is a 10-year-old facility housing three ice arenas, three pool options, a fitness gym, and a great walking track. The Coquitlam Sports Hall of Fame is located in the lobby and houses several great exhibits. Construction began on new dressing rooms for the third ice sheet (which formerly housed a curling rink) in February.

The home rink of the Express is slightly smaller than a standard National Hockey League ice surface, measuring 195 feet by 85 feet. Seating for 1,800 surrounds the ice, with most sections being seven rows up from the playing surface, providing every fan with a great view of the action. A press box/media room is located on the penalty box side of the ice.

Detrimental to the arena is a very busy parking lot due to the various activities in the facility. The press box and media room could be bigger and partitioned separately. Several disabled parking spots are available,  but fill up fast on game day. Also, the arena is a lengthy bus ride away from any Skytrain station and suffers from poor access to Trans-Canada Highway. However, with all the housing in the area, the walk-up potential is very good.

Rating: 3/5

The game experience

Besides the action on the ice, a great game day experience is essential to success at the gate and ticket window.

The Express has always had a very good core in terms of game night presentation. In terms of DJs and announcers, the team has been able to attract high-end talent. The team offers good, family-oriented intermission entertainment with the standardized mini-game and frisbee toss among others. Contests like “Sing for your Supper”, “Shiver for a Blizzard”, and “Name That Tune” are commonplace for the media time-outs.

Anthem singers for Express games have also had plenty of talent over the years. Several have pursued opportunities with the Vancouver Canucks, Vancouver Giants, BC Lions, and many other teams in the Lower Mainland. Natasha Zimbaro has taken her act to Toronto, singing regularly for the Toronto Raptors and Toronto Football Club while pursuing her own successful solo career.

The home of the Express offers two different concession areas in the arena itself, in addition to the Ice Water Cafe, which serves up burgers and more, along with a dedicated seated area and easy arena access. Beer can be purchased for in-arena consumption at either the cafe or the main concession at the far end of the arena. A smaller concession area near the main entrance sells popcorn, pop, and other treats.

While the arena sound system has been upgraded and improved, it still is lacking compared to similar systems in the league. Some form of video board would also enhance the overall experience. Luckily the talented Express game night staff combat these shortcomings with great technical production utilizing available resources.

Rating: 4/5


Game day success does not happen in any league without the support of a great supporting cast, and for the BCHL and Express, it is usually in the form of volunteers. Whether they are selling tickets, stamping hands, restricting access, turning on a goal light, running the scoreboard, or fearlessly attending the penalty boxes, these people are true game night ambassadors.

The BCHL and its member clubs recognize the ongoing efforts and tireless hours put in by volunteers, recognizing them for diligence and contribution to the game with the BCHL Volunteer Award. The Express are proud of the efforts of all of their volunteers but especially Carl and Debby Mah, the most recent winners of the BCHL Volunteer Award.

Dedicated, hard-working volunteers are definitely a strength of game day presentation for the Express and should be praised for their efforts.

Rating: 5/5

Overall, the Express and Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex present a solid game experience in a decent arena with the help of great volunteers. In a perfect world, some minor changes could be made to the arena but for the needs of the Express and BCHL, it is more than adequate.

When we are able to return to the arenas in the fall, consider all the moving parts in making your game day experience a great one.