It all began on Martindale Pond (St Catharines CYO Minor Hockey)


PrintIt all began on Martindale Pond

It all began on Martindale Pond...

In the fall of 1934, George Howard met with Father Stanley Cassin, a parish priest at St. Catherine of Alexandria Church and two other members of the parish, George “Ozzie” Darte and Geoff Alexander. The purpose of this meeting was to form a hockey league for the Catholic boys of St. Catharines. As there was no arena in the city at the time, it was decided to play on Martindale Pond and other natural ice surfaces in the area. Howard was always one of the first people at the game along with a carload of boys who cleaned the ice if necessary while he built a campfire on shore over which to make hot chocolate to keep the players warm between shifts.

1938 - Garden City Arena

In 1938, Garden City Arena was opened and they were the first amateur hockey league to gratefully partake of its facilities. They began with five teams who played against other teams from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls, Thorold, Welland and Port Colborne. Howard served as timekeeper and first aid man, a position he went on to hold for 51 years. Two of George's sons, five of his grandsons, and two great grandsons all played in the league. The girls were also took part with all three daughters being involved in organizing the games and events.

1942 - Niagara District Hockey League

From 1942 to 1960, these Niagara Peninsula teams played in the Diocesan Championships each year against teams from Toronto in the old Maple Leaf Gardens. During this time, oversight of these church teams was directed by Geoff Alexander, and the league was known as the "Niagara District Hockey League".

1958 - Holy Name Youth Organization Minor Hockey League

In 1958, St Catharines became its own Diocese. No longer part of the Toronto diocese, the St Catharines teams reformed into the "Holy Name Youth Organization Minor Hockey League" involving four parishes and over 350 boys playing. Joe Sheehan stepped in to oversee the operations in 1960, working with representatives from each parish. By the 1970s the league had grown to include eleven parishes. Past presidents included Kerry Howe, Don Moore, Mike Sirotnik, Joe McCaffery and Terry Goldwin.

1988 - 50 Years at Garden City Arena

1988 was a special time for the league as it marked 50 continuous years of using Garden City Arena. At this point there were over over 450 boys playing, aged 5-18, across six different age brackets and representing five parishes. 

1989 - St Catharines CYO Minor Hockey cyo_original_logo.jpg 

1989 saw the beginning of a new era for minor hockey in St Catharines with the formation of the St Catharines CYO Minor Hockey Association. This not-for-profit organization was a member of the OMHA and Hockey Canada. Many of the players and teams from the parish programs joined the new league, and the team names were adopted and grandfathered in, keeping the history alive.

1997 - Alliance Hockey

In 1997, CYO moved away from the OMHA umbrella and over to Alliance Hockey, where it still resides today, under the guidance and oversight of the OHF and Hockey Canada.

Around the same time, Tony Tullo pushed for the introduction of a Girls Hockey Program. The inaugural program comprised of 8 teams playing in two divisions, junior (5-10 year olds) and Senior (11-15 year olds). After a few years, the Junior Division was split to make an Intermediate Division.(8-12 year olds).

By 2000, CYO Minor Hockey comprised of 57 HL teams, with players from across the city. They had a unique necessity to have to play games outside of city limits in order to complete their hockey programs because they needed so much ice! The league had more than 900 players from tyke to midget. The Midget Division was re-introduced with five teams after an absence of six years. Lastly, the association decided it was time to have its' own office building, and construction of an office section at the north east corner of the Garden City Arena began.

1999 - CYO Lions (Special Needs)

Jr-Ice-Dogs_sm.png1999 saw the launch of CYO's Special Needs Program, originally referred to as the St Catharines CYO Lions. This was a hockey program which supports those with Special Needs, be it physical or developmental, whose goal was to learn and enjoy the game of hockey in its' proper form. The program was established by Joe Fegan and Rick Jones, and is still running today. The players have a weekly on-ice program which entails instructional time in teaching the various elements of the game. The program has close ties and association with Special Hockey International, a group of programs across North America which carry the same tyke structure and Hockey Program for those with Special Needs.

The CYO Lions changed their name to the CYO Heat in 2002, due to a sponsorship change to the St Catharines Fire Fighters.

The program is now called the Niagara Jr. IceDogs in partnership with the OHF Niagara IceDogs who operate out of the Meridian Centre in St Catharines.

2001 - CYO Mite Program

The 2001-02 season marked the inaugural year for the CYO Mite Program. It objectives was to initiate players aged 4 and 5 years old to hockey by developing their skating and introducing basic hockey skills. When this program was first introduced by the CYO, approximately forty young players were anticipated but the response was overwhelming and the season finished with approximately 100 mites on the ice (including 16 young girls). The contributions of our primary sponsor, Tim Hortons, and all the volunteers who helped out both on and off the ice was greatly appreciated. Dave Upper was CYO's first Mite Convenor who supervised the entire program.

2001 - Alumni Division

The 2001 season CYO created a program for 18-20 years olds to play hockey while finishing their final years of school. This juvenile division launched with 4 teams. Team names were selected using old St Catharines teams like the Fincups, Falcons, Blackhawks, Bruins and Saints. George Gadula then went on to introduce the Alumni hockey to all players 21 and older in 2008-09, growing the division to 22 teams in 2022-23.

2003 - Girls Hockey

The CYO Girls Hockey Program, led by Bob Choquette, introduced three Chaos Rep teams. Much of the credit is given to Bob who built a solid foundation for girl's competitive hockey here in St Catharines in the 2003-04 season.  

2005 - Minor Development Hurricanes

In 2005-06 CYO introduced the Minor Development (MD) hockey category. President Tony Tullo's reasoning behind the introduction was to provide a more competitive brand of hockey within the CYO framework, thus encouraging the more advanced players to leave the house league, creating a greater degree of balance within the house league divisions. Their inaugural season had five teams. 

2006 - St Catharines Female Hockey League

In 2006, CYO helped form the new St Catharines Female Hockey League (SDFHA). This broke the Chaos girls teams away from the CYO umbrella and over to the new SCFHA teams. The first year in operation, SCFHA had 425 players. 

2022 - Decommissioning of Garden City Arena

In 2022, with the decommissioning of Garden City Arena, CYO relocated to their new home at Merrittion Centennial Arena.