McCormick Arena is located on the site of the Grand National Rink. Opened 125 years ago on the evening of December 21, 1896, the Grand National Rink at 153 Brock Avenue was Toronto’s largest open-air rink of that era until its closure in 1902. It reopened for one season as the Royal Alexandra Rink at 189 Brock Avenue on the night of January 8, 1908, and reopened again for the winter as the Brock Avenue Rink at 189 Brock Avenue on the evening of December 16, 1909.
Toronto was hit by a blizzard on January 23, 1896. Looking northward on Brock Avenue, at a spot just south of Middleton Street, the picture was taken the next day and shows the field (located centre right, assembled crowd) where the Grand National Rink opened eleven months later. The Grand National Rink was owned and managed by Andrew Wheeler Green (1852-1930), a merchant who lived across the street with his family at 190 Brock Avenue.
Photo: Effect of Storm on Brock Avenue, January 24, 1896, City Engineer’s Office, Toronto Archives
Ad in the Toronto Evening Star, December 21, 1896. Photo: Toronto Public Library, Toronto Star Newspaper Archives
John Nilsson (1875-1955) of Minneapolis held speed skating world records in 1897 and 1900 before he raced in the mile-long skating
derby at the Grand National Rink on February 23, 1901.
Photo: John Nilsson, c. 1903, McMaster University Archive Collection
Frederick James Robson (1879-1944) of Toronto won the Ontario speed skating championships in the 220-yard, half-mile and mile-long races at the Grand National Rink on February 6 and 7, 1902 before winning world records later in 1904 and 1911.
Photo: Fred Robson, c. 1907, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame
Lot Roe Jr. (1881-1964) of Toronto won the Ontario speed skating championships in the 2-mile and 5-mile races at the Grand National Rink on February 6 and 7, 1902 before winning a world record later in 1910.
Photo: Lot Roe at Saranac Lake, New York, January 26, 1911, Roe Family Collection
Thomas Bert Andrew (1882-1973) of Toronto (middle row, third from the left) was secretary of the Royal Alexandra Rink in 1908. Arthur Hillyard Birmingham (1877-1947) of Toronto (back row, second from the left) and his brother Herbert Frederick Birmingham (1881-1918) of Toronto (front row, centre) led an unsuccessful bid in 1909 to build the first home arena on the Brock Avenue Rink for the professional hockey team that became the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Photo: Toronto Marlboros Hockey Club, Ontario Hockey Association Champions, 1905, Geo. E. Gooch Photo of Toronto