Owner - Toledo Mercurys, Buckeyes, Blades, Hornets, Goaldiggers (1947-1986)
November 30, 1908 - February 27, 1997
Archival video footage courtesy of WGTE Public Media
It’s hard to imagine how or if pro hockey in Toledo would have developed without the contributions of the native of New Haven, Indiana.
Virgil Gladieux moved to Toledo at the age of 17, and quickly became a successful entrepreneur with the Buddy Box Lunch company, selling boxed lunches to workers at industrial sites. More than a decade after moving to Toledo, Gladieux made his first foray into the hockey business.
Teaming up with Emery Gilbert, a former business rival turned friend, Gladieux built the Ice House in 1940 located next to the Babcock Dairy in order to share the same cooling system. From 1940-43, the Ice House was home to the Toledo Babcocks of the Michigan-Ontario Hockey League, a senior amateur league.
That business experiment motivated Gladieux and Gilbert to team up once again to build the Toledo Sports Arena on Toledo’s east side, which opened in 1947 at a cost of $1.5 million. Gladieux also paid $1,000 for a team to join the International Hockey League, a minor professional league which was expanding out of Canada. That team became known as the Toledo Mercurys, which played at the Toledo Sports Arena from 1947 until 1962 (with the exception of the 1949-50 season which saw the Toledo Buckeyes play in the Eastern Hockey League).
Two other hockey franchises played at the Toledo Sports Arena which Gladieux owned and operated: the Toledo Blades from 1963-1970 and the Toledo Hornets from 1970-1974. Then in 1974, Gladieux lead a group of investors which bought an expansion IHL franchise, to be called the Toledo Goaldiggers, which played at the Toledo Sports Arena until 1986.
Gladieux would see a total of 11 minor pro hockey titles won at the Toledo Sports Arena (Mercurys-3, Blades-2, Goaldiggers-4, Storm-2) before his death in 1997.