Is it possible that the Toronto Maple Leafs could occupy the third most important spot in the Toronto sports scene? Normally this idea would be unthinkable. However, in 2015 with the rise of the Toronto Raptors of the NBA and the miracle turnaround by the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB, it is quite possible that the Leafs have been pushed aside.
That being said, the Maple Leafs are celebrating their 99th season and have been the toast of the town for the vast majority of their tenure. They are a financial juggernaut which has forced the most unusual of ownership situations in all of sports. MLSE, the parent company which owns the Maple Leafs, Toronto Marlies, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC and the Air Canada Centre, is a three-headed monster consisting of Larry Tanenbaum and corporate competitors Bell Communications and Rogers Communications. Both companies have an equal share in MLSE and compete in the business world in almost every sense. Many believe that this ownership situation can only be short-term due to the competition between the companies, but MLSE is so valuable that it is hard to see how the situation could possibly change.
The Maple Leafs are one of the cornerstone franchises in the NHL and one of the famed "Original Six." Their tenure over time has seen them produce nearly countless inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame. They have hoisted the Stanley Cup 13 times, the second best in the NHL. Die-hard Leaf fans will cringe when reminded that they haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1967, and their performance on the ice in recent years has been mediocre at best. However, a trip to downtown Toronto and the Maple Leafs needs to be on your list if you are a serious hockey fan. You may only be able to afford to go once, but if hockey is your thing, then you need to get to the Hangar!
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The concession selections at the Air Canada Centre are really second to none. The selection is absolutely massive and the quality is quite high also.
The food selections at the Air Canada Centre will absolutely make your head spin. There are a number of main concession stands in the main concourse which offer a wide variety of food options. All of your expected fare is available including hot dogs ($6.25), sausage ($7.50), pizza ($6.25), french fries ($5.50) and popcorn ($7/$12). These stands also offer some more interesting options including poutine, chicken wraps, burgers, pulled pork and garlic parmesan fries. There are also a number of specialty stands that you would want to consider. The Bay Street Grill features Tex-Mex fare. Hero Certified Burgers is a franchise that is gaining some momentum in Canada, and maintains a presence at the Air Canada Centre. Also, nothing says Canada like Mr. Sub and Tim Hortons, which have a few spots around the main concourse. A few original spots that you will want to consider include MacCheesey's, a specialty mac and cheese place; Smoke's Poutinerie, featuring poutine taken to the next level; Nathan's Dog House, featuring a huge variety of unique hot dogs; and Sweet Wally's which features sweets to die for including funnel cake fries, loaded brownies and deep-fried rolo.
Coca-Cola products are featured throughout the Air Canada Centre ($5.50/$8.50). If you are interested in alcoholic beverages, there are numerous spots to consider including Suds on Six and the Molson Canadian Brewhouse. At the brewhouse, they actually brew their own beer and the giant copper kettles can be seen from the concourse. Some of the selections that are available include Molson Canadian, Coors Light, Heineken, Coors, Creemore, Dos Equis, Strongbow and Hay Day. Tall boys go for $11 or $12 depending on the type. Molson Canadian and Coors Light are also on draught for $12 or $16 depending on the size. Smirnoff Ice and other alcoholic options are also available.
The Air Canada Centre website does a fantastic job of mapping out concession options, offering the opportunity for the true foodie to do some significant planning. Nathan's Dog House and Sweet Willy's are definitely spots that you want to hit if you are looking for a recommendation.
It is easy to see great improvements in the atmosphere at the Air Canada Centre over time.
Outside of Air Canada Centre, the immediate area has been improved with the addition of Maple Leaf Square. This has become a bit of a gathering place before and after games. Important games have seen the square full of people watching on the huge screen on the outside of the ACC. In Maple Leaf Square you will find the on going Leafs project Legends Row. As of November 2015, the multi-faceted bronze monument has incorporated Maple Leaf legends Ted Kennedy, Johnny Bower, Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming, Syl Apps, George Armstrong and Mats Sundin. The project is not complete and there will be more legends added as time expires leading to the 100th anniversary of the team. To the north of the arena you will find the Galleria. In this link between the ACC and Union Station there are a number of interactive games that are available before the game for fans to participate in. If you go to the northeast portion of the Galleria you can check out some remnants of the old Toronto Postal Building, along with some photos and text showing the old building and what had to be done to transform it into part of the Air Canada Centre, as well as some of the steps taken to preserve the building.
Upon entering the concourse fans are able to check out the Leafs Nation pregame show, which is broadcast from the main concourse and is hosted by Paul Hendrick and Bob McGill for LeafsTV. The concourses have been improved by toning down some of the advertising, which in years previous was absolutely obnoxious in its multitude. There are multiple photos around the concourse of classic moments in Leafs and Raptors history as well as key moments in ACC history. Inside the seating bowl fans will instantly be drawn to the brand new, crystal clear video board. The video board is surrounded by a plethora of banners signifying the Stanley Cup victories of 1918, 1922, 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967. The first two victories were earned by previous incarnations of the Maple Leafs, the Toronto Arenas and the Toronto St. Pats. On the other side of the video board there are a number of banners honouring a plethora of Maple Leaf legends. The Maple Leafs have only retired the numbers of Bill Barilko and Ace Bailey. The other banners hang for Frank Mahovlich, Borje Salming, Mats Sundin, George Armstrong, Teeder Kennedy, King Clancy, Red Kelly, Turk Broda, Johnny Bower, Hap Day, Tim Horton, Charlie Conacher, Syl Apps, Wendel Clark, Darryl Sittler and Doug Gilmour. Other banners hang in front of the Foster Hewitt Media Gondola honouring the opening of the Air Canada Centre and the closing of Maple Leaf Gardens.
The in-game experience has also improved in subtle ways. The pre-game video that plays before the national anthems is one of the best. The Maple Leafs do a fantastic job of not only showing off their wonderful tradition and laundry list of great players and characters, but they are not overly-pretentious and show clips of fans and their frustrations over the lean years. Upon playing O Canada a giant Canadian flag is passed along the lower bowl through a number of sections. On the opposite side, a giant Canadian flag with a Toronto Maple Leafs logo instead of the red maple leaf and blue bars replacing the red is passed along. Upon the lyric "True North strong and free" the crowd in attendance yells out "True North," showing a new level of participation at Leaf games. The playlist during the game is a healthy mix of pop and classic rock mixed with the old-school organ which was a staple in hockey arenas across North America. Carlton the Bear is the Leafs mascot and makes his way around the arena interacting with children and other fans. One of the best moments away from the action is the sing along to the classic Canadian Anthem "The Hockey Song" by Stompin' Tom Connors.
The seating bowl is made up of two main levels with the goals at the east and west ends of the ice. The two levels offer fairly different views. The lower level offers a gentle slope, while the upper deck is steeper than in many other arenas. The upper deck in the west end features the Fan Deck on level 600, a new seating area. The Crown Royal bar is located in the upper deck on the east side. If you would like to see the Maple Leaf logo in its proper fashion, then you will need to head to the south side of the arena. As far as the best place to sit, it will most likely be dictated by your pocket book. You should definitely stay away from the obstructed standing room behind the top row in the upper deck. There is no value for your dollar in this spot. Probably one of the corners in the upper deck is the best spot to be, unless you are okay with pushing your definition of splurging to the limit.
One area where the Maple Leafs may be second to none is the location of the Air Canada Centre.
Air Canada Centre may be in the perfect spot. Located neatly between Front Street and the Harbourfront, the surrounding neighbourhood is an overwhelming plethora of options for either pre or post game fare. Front Street alone is littered with recognizable chain restaurants including Jack Astor's, Texas Lone Star Grill, Canyon Creek, Casey's and Boston Pizza. If you are looking for something a little more original, then you may want to try Joe Badalli's or The Loose Moose. If you head a little closer to the Air Canada Centre then The Fox, or Hoop's may be for you. Right across from the Air Canada Centre, in Maple Leaf Square is Real Sports Bar and Grill, an absolutely massive place with more TV screens than staff. If you have a little extra time and a little extra money, having a drink in The Library Club at the Royal York hotel or having a nice dinner at 360 at the top of the CN Tower will be some uniquely Toronto experiences.
To go along with the plethora of eating establishments downtown, you will also find a ton of things to do. The Air Canada Centre is shared by the Leafs along with the Toronto Raptors of the NBA and Toronto Rock of the NLL. Just up the street you will find the Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. Further up Front Street to Exhibition Place you will find the Ricoh Coliseum, home of the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Also on the Exhibition grounds is BMO Field, home of Toronto FC of MLS and future home of the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. Just north of ACC is the University of Toronto which fields a host of athletic teams at various locations. If you are a true hockey enthusiast, then you will most assuredly want to see the Ryerson Rams play. The Rams call the former Maple Leaf Gardens home and have done a wonderful job preserving the iconic arena while making it functional for Ryerson University. Continuing that idea, a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame, just east of the Air Canada Centre is an absolute must for hockey fans. The Hall balances a fantastic repository of hockey artifacts with interactive games and experiences. North of the Air Canada Centre is the Eaton Centre, which is the centre of a great Toronto shopping district. The Theatre District in Toronto is possibly second only to Broadway in New York City. Of course, the iconic CN Tower is also a great destination to the west of the ACC. Forget coming for the night, or spending the weekend. You could jam pack a full week in downtown Toronto and still need to return to catch what you missed.
There are a number of quality hotels that are well within walking distance of the ACC. However, the downtown location leads to a fairly expensive stay. The Westin Harbour Castle offers a prime location which can overlook the harbour and is just south of the ACC. For a truly classic Canadian experience, you should consider staying at the Fairmont Royal York, one of the oldest, most famous hotels in all of Canada. An option that is a little more affordable and also within walking distance is the Strathcona.
Assessing Toronto Maple Leaf fans is extremely difficult. Leaf fans are an enigma on to themselves.
There are very few fan bases in sports that have suffered like Toronto Maple Leaf fans have. Fans often point to the 1967 Stanley Cup as a sign of their suffering, however Chicago Cub fans would scoff at that notion. However, in the 48 years since the Leafs last saw the Cup, the vast majority of those years the Leafs have been absolutely horrible. Most view being a Leaf fan as having a significant amount of resolve. That being said, attendance at the Air Canada Centre is among the best in the entire NHL. The waiting list for season tickets remains long and attendance is consistently over 19,000 game in and game out. One would think that these factors would make the fans' contribution to the Maple Leaf experience to be above reproach. Unfortunately, the fans that are in the stands do very little to add to the atmosphere of a Maple Leafs game. Toronto fans are notoriously late arriving. It is a wonder that they have enough people in the stands for the national anthem to pass the giant flags around. The high cost of tickets brings many corporate fans to the game which does not translate into a loud and boisterous experience that you would find in New York or Montreal. The fans that are in the stands are pretty quiet until there is something significant to cheer for. That being said, they can be surprisingly loud when something important happens.
The location of the Air Canada Centre offers a wide variety of ways to access the arena.
The Air Canada Centre is located right downtown in Toronto, just north of the Gardiner Expressway, between the Don Valley Parkway and Highway 427. The Gardiner is significantly south of Highway 401, which is the main highway through Southern Ontario and basically the location of Pearson International Airport. Traffic is a regular occurrence in this area of downtown and getting to the arena from the east or west can be a chore, especially if you are braving rush hour during the workweek. A little tidbit if you are coming from the west, consider avoiding the majority of the Gardiner Expressway and take Lakeshore Boulevard. Often Lakeshore is the much faster option.
The Galleria offers a direct link to Union Station from the Air Canada Centre. This is fantastic for fans who prefer to take public transit. The TTC subway stops right at Union and there are a variety of GO Transit buses and trains that come into the station. Also, the Via trains stop at Union for those coming from a short distance out of town. The GO Transit and TTC websites offer maps, schedules and other planning tools to help you in your quest to get to the ACC.
There are quite a few surface and garage parking lots in the immediate area for you to choose from if you are bringing your vehicle. Parking will not be cheap, but can be found for $20 or less. There always seems to be significant construction activity in the area of the ACC so the best plan would be to give yourself plenty of time to find and secure parking so you do not end up being one of those late-arriving Toronto fans. There are some prepaid parking options on sites like ParkMe, or Parking Panda but those are not as prevalent as their American counterparts.
The main ticket windows are located within the Galleria at the west end. With almost no tickets going on sale game day, lineups at the ticket windows are not usually an issue. The main and most popular gate is found within the Galleria. Increased security measures have slowed down the process a fair bit, but ACC officials have been making a concerted effort to speed up this process. The other gates are not nearly as popular, but will require patrons to wait outside.
Getting around the ACC is not a huge issue. A near capacity crowd most of the time will, of course, bring heavy foot traffic in the concourses, however they are quite big and the traffic flows at a pretty decent clip. There are ample washroom facilities and washroom traffic also moves fairly quickly. Lineups at intermissions are common, however you will not spend the entire intermission in line for the washroom.
The investment for a Maple Leafs game is quite significant. It is difficult for the Leafs to offer an outstanding return for such a high investment.
It is very difficult for fans to find a seat in the ACC for under $100. According to fan price indexes for the 2014-2015 season, the Maple Leafs offered the highest fan cost in the entire NHL at $572. That cost was also significantly higher than the team that came in second place with $509. If you want to minimize your investment, some strategies to use would include catching a weeknight game, and avoiding other Canadian teams and Original Six teams. Also, consider purchasing tickets on the secondary market close to the date that you are planning to attend. However, it is important to remember that secondary market tickets are almost always in US dollars, which can be significantly more expensive than Canadian dollars. Parking is on the high side as well as concessions.
Combined with the poor showing on the ice from 2014 through to the beginning of the 2015-2016 season and it is difficult to justify the cost that the fan incurs. Don't get me wrong, the Maple Leafs experience has improved significantly over the last 5 years, and the experience itself is a good one, but the price points make a Maple Leafs game more like a once in a lifetime experience rather than a regular entertainment option.
An extra mark for 99 seasons of Maple Leaf history and the deep traditions and history that go with it.
An extra mark for the continued effort to improve the fan experience at the Air Canada Centre.
An extra mark for the great rivalries the Leafs have with so many teams, Detroit, Buffalo, Ottawa and Montreal at the forefront.
It is said that competition is a good thing. It seems that in the Toronto sports market in 2015-2016 there is some newly found, significant competition threatening to push the Maple Leafs off of the top pedestal. It is a very positive sign to see that the Maple Leaf staff have not sat on their laurels and have been putting forth a consistent effort to improve the fan experience at the Air Canada Centre. How the market plays out only time will tell, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are not going to give up the top spot in Toronto without a fight!
The Toronto Maple Leafs have led a charmed existence. With a history dating back to the inception of the National Hockey League in 1917, they are arguably the banner franchise of the entire hockey industry. They are the most valuable hockey franchise in the NHL according to Forbes Magazine. They have won 13 Stanley Cups. They are consistently in the top 5 in attendance. They have the most loyal fan base this side of the Chicago Cubs.
The Maple Leafs are considered one of the NHL's "Original Six" franchises, and were the last franchise to move out of their "Original Six Arena." In 1999, the Leafs closed the doors of legendary Maple Leaf Gardens, and moved to the newly minted Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs and Air Canada Centre are currently owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE); a group jointly owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Board, and Larry Tanenbaum. The company also owns the Toronto Raptors, Toronto Marlies, Toronto FC, and could be yours if you happen to have approximately $1.5 billion kicking around.
The ACC has been good for the Maple Leafs ... perhaps too good. One of the nicknames of the old Maple Leaf Gardens was the "Cashbox on Carlton," due to its consistent sell-outs, and it may just be an appropriate moniker for the Hangar as well. Although the ACC is not on Carlton Street, it is most definitely a cash box. Unfortunately, as a fan, it is that feeling that resonates throughout the event.
The Air Canada Centre (ACC) is a multi-purpose arena that is home to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Raptors, the Toronto Rock and numerous concerts throughout the year. It first opened its doors to the Toronto Maple Leafs in February 1999, officially leaving behind the 68 years of service that Maple Leaf Gardens provided. Located right at Union Station, the ACC sees a lot of traffic regardless if there is a game on, making it one of the busier arenas in the world.
There still is something amazing about attending at Leafs game despite the suits enjoying caviar in the lower bowl on their Blackberries. It is still an experience and in he upper bowl, you can feel the passion like a palpable sensation in the families who shelled out for tickets. The food is unique and tasty, beer choices are OK, but could improve. Outside the arena, in Maple Leaf Square is the coolest atmosphere, with the fanmobile, the best sports bar around and a huge team store. The arena is right in the middle of things and is nicely renovated - especially gate 5.
Clearly the hottest ticket in town!
Words not often heard in Toronto: "I just got Leaf tickets, wanna come?"
If your friend could get his hands on a single Leaf ticket you would be likely inquire which bank branch he robbed. But an extra ticket for you? C'est impossible! Although the Air Canada Centre is a great environment to watch hockey, it is more practical to get dinner outside the arena and watch the game from Maple Leaf Square, or else at any of the sports bars in the province.
A definite high point for the ACC is the eating choice the fan gets. Food is expensive, and for fans who have been to the nearby Rogers Centre; you won't get the privelage this time round of bringing in your own food and drink, but the selection is incredible.
Personally, I like to save a few quid and grab dinner either before the game at somewhere cheap along Bremner Blvd. or in Union Station or after at Aria Ristorante ($$$$) or Real Sports Bar and Grill. Both restos are located on Maple Leaf Square. I should talk about Real Sports - it is unbelievable and is a MUST when visiting the ACC for the first time. The main screen is 3 stories tall and there are personal beer taps at each table along with a unique pan-american menu. Reservation recommended.
Burkie's Dog House is always recommended and even for fans who generally detest hot dogs (me) there are dozens of selections you will enjoy. There is the main location on the 100 level near gate 5, as well as a sattelite location upstairs.
If you are a 'member' of the elite club of lower bowl suits, then a dinner is probably at one of the three exclusive private restaurants within the arena. I surmise that these are where everyone in the lower bowl is for the first eight minutes of each period!
The Union Market has a variety of counters throughout the concourses which provide their takes on local and Canadian items such as peameal bacon sandwhiches and poutine. Each stand is reflective of a certain neighbourhood or street ie. Spadina Street (kosher), St. Lawrence Market (peameal bacon), etc. and can provide the visitor to Toronto with a taste of the city.
My personal favourite spot during intermissions is the Ice Box, which is at the west end of the arena along the upper concourse. Live bands play and a well-stocked bar provides drinks and snacks with views over the ice or onto Maple Leaf Square.
In the lower bowl there is a menu on each seat and concession items can be ordered and served to the fan at his seat.
The game experience starts on the subway or GO trains coming from the suburbs downtown. The closer to Union you get, the more Leafs' fans pack the train car. All it takes is for one fan to yell out "Go Leafs Go!" and then the chanting will begin. Outside the arena, in the square, fans gather to watch the game on the giant screen and take part in Gate 5 Live, the pre- and post-game show on Leafs TV. The mobile Fanmobile is a mockup of the dressing room with historic jerseys and sometimes even alumni. The bars and restaurants around the arena are hopping leading up to the game, you can feel the grip the Buds have on Toronto.
Entering the arena, kids and grown-ups can be entertained in the Galleria between Bay St. and Maple Leaf Square by interactive games decked out in Leafs and Raptors decals. Once inside the arena, you can feel the passion in the upper bowl where tickets are almost affordable for most. The lower bowl is a dead zone throughout most games and unless there is something really exciting happening on the ice, most of the suits and ties will remain in their seats, on their Blackberries. I imagine this problem will be corrected if and when the Leafs make a meaningful playoff run but until then, stay up higher and enjoy the game from there. Sightlines are excellent and the seating is steep and intimate, reminding of the old Maple Leaf Gardens in that sense.
Another strong point is the central location of the arena. Steps from the CN Tower, Union Station, the Financial District, and the Harbourfront, it is in the middle of a sea of glass condo and office buildings. As with the rest of Toronto, there are dozens of cranes around building new condominiums and offices, as well as a Ripley's aquarium.
Maple Leaf Square is situated on the west side of the arena. Fronting the square are Real Sports Bar and Grill as well as the Real Sports store, Aria Ristorante, Union Station's new South entrance, the Hotel Le Germain, a Longo's supermarket (which will bake a wood-fired pizza for you for $10 -great pre-game dinner!), as well as some corporate offices and condo developments. The Air Canada Centre is a part of the rapidly rising Southcore neighbourhood and is fairly central within lively downtown Toronto.
It is difficult to gauge fans at the Air Canada Centre. Leafs Nation is undoubtedly the most loyal band of supporters in the NHL, and season after dissapointing season pack the Air Canada Centre for home games, and fill road arenas and pubs across Canada when they are visitors. I fully expect Yonge Street to sink under the weight of millions of jubilant fans if the Leafs were to win the cup as there is so much hunger for it in this city and across Canada.
Granted, the Air Canada Centre does not showcase very much of that. Impossibly steep ticket prices and a lack of availability despite that mean that corporations are the only entities that can purchase season seats and oftentimes, you will see the following situation play out: Bay Street finance or law company boss takes young employee out to the game. The young employee is a Leafs fan but is confined to his suit and tie following a tough day at the office. He does not jump or scream for fear of embarrasing his boss, who is busy on his Blackberry while sipping champagne from the Platinum Club.
It is a darn shame, and again, will likely be changed if the Leafs were not so bad for a season.
Getting to the Hangar is not much of a problem. Downtown Toronto is hampered by construction everywhere and driving can be a mess. Although the arena is right next to the Gardiner Expressway into and out of Downtown, public transit is your best bet. The arena is directly accessible from Union Station and subways, inter-city GO Trains, as well as VIA Rail, Amtrak, and Ontario Northland all bring their trains into this central terminus.
Apparantly, PATH, the underground shopping mall/ winter hideaway is being extended south from Union through the ACC and down to the Harbourfront within the next few years but that has not happened yet.
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How can the Leafs get anything higher than a 1 in this category? Demand brought prices so high, but with an inferior product on the ice it is impossible to justify the costs in fans' minds. Everything at the ACC costs more yet tickets are still extremely hard to come by. This speaks to the demand in Toronto, which is certainly bordering on sheer stupidity. I shudder to think of the prices the Leafs could charge if they made a cup run...
1)Extra point for Maple Leafs Square, Real Sports Bar and Grill, and the other amenities outside the arena.
2)Extra point for recent renovations like expanding Gate 5 and turning it into an incredible pre-game gathering place.
3)Extra point for the unfurling of Canadian and Maple Leafs' flags during the anthem as well as the unwavering support for the troops by all three teams who play here.
I have eschewed an extra point for the James Naismith collection, which is very good, but is better suited for a Raptors review. I also won't include an extra point for the nearby Hockey Hall of Fame which is a part of the hockey experience in Toronto, but is not a part of the stadium itself.
Toronto is a must-visit for hockey fans. The chance to see the Stanley Cup in its home is a true pilgrimage and American fans should jump on the chance to see how important hockey is to the way of life of Canadians. And if you can't afford Leafs' tickets nobody is blaming you if you elect to see a couple Marlies games instead!
I was given free tickets to a Maple Leafs game and was excited to go see an Original Six matchup against the Rangers. It wasn't much of a matchup as the Leafs got skunked 5-1. As for the arena, the food was extremely overpriced (even for arena food). I was taken aback by just how stuffy and corporate the whole place seemed to be. It started with the Maple Leafs TV studio that was broadcasting pregame live as we walked into the arena. While I thought that it was a cool feature, it also seemed kind of pretentious. We had to wait on the concourse because they wouldn't let us go to the upper deck before the game. There just didn't seem to be a lot for kids to do there or much for the common fan that was affordable.
There are few sports franchises that have as deep a history as the Toronto Maple Leafs. Approaching 100 years in operation, the Maple Leafs franchise dates back to the early 1910s and the dawn of the National Hockey League. Winning Stanley Cups as both the Toronto Arenas and the Toronto St.Patricks, the Toronto franchise eventually came under the control of legendary hockey name Conn Smythe. It was Smythe who would rename the team the Maple Leafs. Over the years, the Leafs would be credited with winning 13 Stanley Cups, with the most recent being in 1967. The team has the second most Stanley Cup victories, behind only the Montreal Canadiens. The nearby Hockey Hall of Fame is littered with people who have been linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs including 54 players and numerous builders.
However, the team that is often referred to as the "Centre of the Hockey Universe" has undergone significant changes lately. Behind the scenes the parent company of the Leafs, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) has undergone a significant ownership change. The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan sold their majority stake in MLSE to a joint ownership venture between Canadian media giants Rogers Communications and Bell Canada. This would be like Apple and Microsoft getting together to own and operate a property. What has made this venture even more curious is the hiring of former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke as President and CEO. The significant changes behind the scenes have Toronto Maple Leaf fans clambering for a more successful team on the ice and a return of the Stanley Cup to Toronto, which many Leaf fans treat as a birthright.
With one of the most loyal fan bases in all of hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to make a splash going forward. They are one of the legendary franchises in all of pro sports, but due to circumstances partially beyond their control, the Leafs fall short of being a legendary fan experience.
Very few teams, not just in hockey but in all of sport, can match the history, iconic status, and cultural symbolism of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In just under 100 years, the club has won 13 Stanley Cups and has been the very heart and soul of Toronto and much of English Canada (where at the very basic level, one supports either the Anglo Maple Leafs or the Franco Montréal Canadiens). They are by far the richest hockey club in the world and among the leaders of all teams from different sports. However successful they have been off the ice though, their on-ice performance has been mediocre since they last lifted Lord Stanley’s Mug all the way back in 1967.
Even with the long period of lack of success, Toronto is still often referred to as the “Centre of the Hockey Universe.” Home to the Hockey Hall of Fame, where the Stanley Cup is kept alongside so many other treasures of the game, Toronto is a city that is still consumed by everything Leafs and the scrutiny surrounding the team is unmatched in the NHL. Simply put, Toronto and other regions of English Canada cannot get enough of the ‘Buds.
This has led many to suggest that the organisation has gotten too big for its own good. Much more than just the hockey team, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment also operate the NBA's Raptors, MLS’ Toronto FC, and the Leafs’ farm team, the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. MLSE also has a large real estate portfolio and are deeply involved in media. With a business so big (the Leafs are the first and only NHL club to have broken the $1 billion net worth barrier some time ago), everyone wants a slice of the pie. Which leads to an interesting operating scenario; MLSE is split mainly between the country's two most bitter media conglomerate rivals. Rogers and Bell, who hate each other almost as much as do Leafs and Habs (Canadiens) supporters, now own the team and have to agree on major decisions affecting the organisation in what is surely a messy process.
Ticket prices are also by far the priciest in the league and for many the team can seem to be overly corporate and inaccessible to the average fan. Many see the Leafs as a corporate hangout and a place to get business deals done. Often, the lower bowl of the Air Canada Centre, or the 'Hangar' as it is affectionately known, will be filled with professionals in suits wining and dining colleagues and finishing business deals. The Leafs are seen as the best place to close a deal and wow a client. Sure enough, the feeling in the lower concourse at Air Canada Centre is one of hospitality suiting the financial and law firms just up Bay Street. Nevertheless, Air Canada Centre has been given significant improvements in recent years and is reflecting a new ethos for the biggest team in the sport as it becomes rededicated more and more to one of the most loyal and passionate fan bases in the world.
146 Front Street West
Toronto, ON M5J 1G2
144 Front Street West
Toronto, ON M5J 2L7
151 Front Street West
Toronto, ON M5J 2N1
123 Front Street West
Toronto, ON M5A 4R6
378 Yonge St
Toronto, ON M5B 1S6
30 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M5E 1X8
301 Front Street W
Toronto, ON M5V 2T6
100 Front St. W
Toronto, ON M5J 1E3
1 Harbour Square
Toronto, ON M5J 1A6