|Lethbridge Arena Before the Fire|
Pictures Curtesy of the Lethbridge Galt Museum and Archives
Lanny McDonald, John Davison, John Chapman and the 1971 Arena Fire; Part 1
What do Lanny McDonald, John Davidson and John Chapman have to do with this arena fire? All 3 were involved in the hockey game that was in progress when the fire started as members of the Lethbridge Sugar Kings. Lanny ( the Lethbridge Herald spelled it Lannie) McDonald, was the 18 year old centre for the Sugar Kings who had just be named the MVP of the AJHL. John Davison had just been named Rookie of the Year for the league after being the AJHL’s stingiest goaltender. John Chapman was the 22 year old coach of the club, guiding them to a second place league finish.
With just 35 seconds gone in the third period, the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) play-off game was abruptly halted when the players suddenly left the ice followed by 1,800 spectators evacuating the arena. The March 13, 1971 edition of the Lethbridge Herald reported that within 20 minutes, the raging fire that started in the south east corner of the Lethbridge Arena caused the roof to collapse. 40 firefighters fought the blaze however the 49 year old arena was destroyed. No spectator or player was injured.
Going into the game, the Lethbridge Sugar Kings held a 2 -0 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series against the Edmonton Maple Leafs. At the time of the fire the Maple Leafs had a 2-1 lead.