STADIUM DUDE’S NHL ARENA RANK: #13
- Location: Toronto, Ontario
- Opened 1999
- Capacity 18,819
- Games attended: 12
- Last visited: 2011
This was my “home rink” for my 30’s. I saw games in here from great overpriced Platinum corporate seats with access to the premium restaurants, some good overpriced Gold seats, as well as several not-so-great overpriced high-up Purples. While there’s only been one rink for which I’ve had a longer attendance gap, I feel like I know this place well.
When I went, it was the Air Canada Centre. When that deal expired in 2018, Scotiabank, one of Canada’s 5 big banks, jumped to become the title sponsor of Canada’s highest profile arena to the tune of $40 million CAD a year for 20 years! Hockey is valuable when you’re in The Center of the Hockey Universe: Toronto is home to NHL headquarters and the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Despite having one of the league’s largest fanbases and a license to print money, the Leafs haven’t won The Stanley Cup since 1967 (it hasn’t even been to the Finals since then). Hell, they haven’t even won a play-off series in High Definition (i.e. since 2004). But they still sell out the building every night and dominate Canada’s sports coverage. The rabid fanbase is absolutely starving for a winner, and with the Cubs now having won a World Series, a Leafs Stanley Cup would be one of the biggest, most cathartic parties in sports (Other than maybe a Browns Super Bowl).
Alas, with the number of people who want to attend Leaf games, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (who isn’t shy about making profits) can charge usury prices to get in. A larger percentage of tickets are purchased by corporations. While those in the corporate seats may know the game as well as Joe Fan (it’s Canada after all), they aren’t as loud as Joe Fan. Which is why Leaf games aren’t the loudest by any stretch (and why Scotiabank Arena is not a Top 10 venue in my book). In fact, the atmosphere is arguably more electric outside in Maple Leaf Square where die hards watch the games on the big screen just outside the rink.
Those lucky enough to get in will see a classic modern arena will all the amenities. Concessions are expensive but are good. There are strong displays celebrating the team’s storied history throughout the building and attached Galleria, the best being the Legends Row display on the outside of the arena featuring bronze statues of 14 all-time Leaf greats looking as if they’re all playing on the same team. The upper deck is nice and steep for hockey, putting fans over the ice. The pre-game celebrations and videos pay homage to the past while pumping fans up for the present. And just in case it starting feeling a little too reverential, goals in recent years are celebrated with the quirky choice of Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True”.
A Leaf game focuses mainly on hockey. While the experience will set you back a princely sum, it’s still a must-do venue for any purist or hard-core fan.