Opening in 1949, the arena which seated 11,000 patrons, became Cincinnati's premiere indoor venue. Modeled after Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, this area would go through history playing host to professional basketball, indoor soccer, concerts, Richard Nixon, Elvis, boxing, roller derby, monster trucks, and so much more. Perhaps though, the Gardens most interesting event history is rooted in Ice Hockey.
Originally the Gardens played host to the Cincinnati Mohawks minor league hockey team who are remembered as one of the most winningest teams in IHL history. Over the years it would also play host to the Cincinnati Wings, Cincinnati Swords, Cincinnati Cyclones (who now play at U.S. Bank Arena), and maybe most notably; the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks.
The Cincinnati Mighty Ducks played at the Gardens from 1997 - 2005. Down the road in downtown Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Cyclones played in a rival hockey league. For many years Cincinnati was host to two minor league hockey teams. The Ducks were well known for the high level of talent the team had and the tradition of hockey in the Gardens. Games constantly filled up with spectators as the Gardens offered free parking and group ticket discounts while the rival Cyclones downtown suffered from low attendance and eventually folded.
The Ducks had become the only pro hockey game in town and repeatedly went to the AHL Calder Cup playoffs. Unfortunately after losing their affiliation with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Detroit Red Wings, the Cincinnati Might Ducks folded leaving the Gardens without a main hockey tenant.
With the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks out of the picture, the Cyclones returned to the U.S. Bank Arena in 2006 and started up in the ECHL. Currently they are in first place after breaking the ECHL win streak record and are the only pro hockey team currently playing in Cincinnati. The Gardens attempted a new AHL franchise to replace the Ducks. The Cincinnati Railraiders were announced, merchandise was being sold, and plans were made. However, after the team failed to meet the AHL's requirement for initial season ticket sales, the franchise never got off the ground. Currently the Gardens plays host to various events such as the Shrine Circus and junior/youth hockey while rumors of a new minor league franchise hockey still abound. Someday maybe this historical arena will return to its place in modern hockey history.
All photos were taken with permission of the Gardens staff while being escorted by them. To view the rest of the pictures please click here.