Seven Chiefs Sportsplex opened in 2019 on the southwestern fringe of Calgary, on the grounds of the Tsuut'ina Nation. It consists of multiple sporting facilities, including a pool and gym as well as two indoor and one outdoor hockey rinks. It is a community facility like many others across the country, but when the COVID pandemic struck, it also became home of the Calgary Hitmen for the 2021-22 bubble season. Hitmen management didn't see the point in paying for the Saddledome to open when no fans were allowed in, much like the way the Oil Kings played in a community rink that year as well, and so this became their temporary emergency home.
And that should have been that, except that over the summer of 2022, the Flames moved their AHL affiliate from Stockton, California to Calgary to play alongside the Flames at the Saddledome. Most of the way through the first season as of this writing, the AHL Wranglers haven't been as successful at the gate as Hitmen have been, but with the Flames taking top priority for dates at the Saddledome and the Wranglers and NLL Roughnecks being second and third, the Hitmen have been relegated back to Seven Chiefs for a handful of regular season games in 2022-23, this time with fans allowed in.
Tsuut'ina Nation is right off the Calgary ring road, and the arena itself is only a short drive from the freeway exit. It's a sprawling complex across the street from what will be a big box development once finished, but as of my visit it was still under construction. The arena itself is clad in silver and dark grey with large marquee signs announcing it as Seven Chiefs Sportsplex, along with the adjacent Jim Starlight Centre. A large parking lot surrounds the facility.
Inside, the main Krawford Arena is straight ahead, through a lobby with a restaurant adjacent to the gym. The main arena has a viewing window from the lobby, or doors leading into the grandstands. The main grandstand is only on one side, with the wide, comfortable black plastic seats stretching back to the ceiling, and with a small plywood press box at the red line. On the opposite side there is three rows of bench seating. Most surprisingly, there is a full-sized video scoreboard too, which was off for the kids on the ice at the time, so judging its quality was difficult.
The future of the Hitmen remains uncertain as long as the Flames are interested in having their AHL affiliate in town. It surprises me mostly that the Hitmen are playing here and not Max Bell Centre, which is both larger and more centrally located, but at least in the 2022-23 season this does qualify as a current WHL rink in addition to a former one. It is a better facility than the one in which the Winnipeg Ice play, at least, and I'm glad to have seen it, though I can't particularly say I ever want to come back to watch a WHL game.
The Seven Chiefs Sportsplex was primarily constructed to draw tourist and tournament dollars to Tsuut'ina Nation, and so far it seems that it has been successful. There is no primary tenant, but it's one of the finest facilities of its type I have seen anywhere in Canada.