The 2016 National Lacrosse League season has been a rough one for the Toronto Rock. Since the inaugural 1999 season, the Rock have witnessed a deterioration in many facets of their operations. The Rock are the lone Toronto entity that are now not controlled by either Bell Communications or Rogers Communications or a combination of both. This has proven to be a difficult issue for the Rock and has resulted in some difficulties the largest of which is a lack of significant media partner. Under the mysterious Jamie Dawick’s ownership the Rock have continued to work their niche in the Toronto sports market, but they have seen a progressive deterioration with their team in the win column since 2011 culminating with missing the playoffs in 2016.
While the Rock have seen some difficulties in recent years, they remain one of the bedrock franchises in the NLL. The Rock blew the league out of the water in 1999 with their move from Hamilton, their brilliant marketing, championship teams and unprecedented fan support. They would win the Champions’ Cup in their first year in Toronto and continue with five more. Home for the Rock is the MLSE owned and operated Air Canada Centre in downtown. The ACC, or Hangar, has one of the best locations in all of sport and is a central point in a major North American tourist destination. Even with the difficulties that the Rock have faced in recent times a trip to see lacrosse at the ACC will Rock Your World.
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".
Concessions at the Air Canada Centre are excellent due to being part of a major league venue, however they are accompanied by major league prices.
The Air Canada Centre features a huge variety of food options. A combination of major restaurant chains and unique items pepper the halls of the ACC. All of the expected items including nachos, pizza ($6.25), popcorn ($7/$12), candy, chocolate bars, burgers, hot dogs, Italian sausage, poutine, and fries are readily available. Some of the more unique items available include burritos, nachos, taco salad, steak banh mi, pulled pork, pulled chicken, buffalo chicken wraps, chicken parm, eggplant and the Drake inspired Hot Lime Bling. Major chains including Hero Certified Burger, Mr. Sub, Tim Hortons, Pizza Pizza and Smoke's Poutinerrie all have a strong presence at the Hangar. Nathan's Dog House, provider of gourmet hot dogs, would be a great place to find that perfect item. Be advised that not all of the stands are open for Rock games and this is disappointing. Specifically Sweet Willy's and MacCheesey are not open.
The Hangar has decent beverage selections. Coca-Cola products are the main soft drinks available with bottles ($5.50) and fountain varieties ($8.75/$5.50). A decent beer selection is available including Molson Canadian, Coors, Coors Light, Rickard's Red, Creemore Springs, Heineken, and Dos Equis ($16/$12). The Molson Canadian Brewhouse offers a stand-up bar in the concourse where you can actually see the giant copper cauldrons that brew some of the beer used at the ACC.
The Toronto Rock and ACC provide a great atmosphere for indoor lacrosse, however it is obvious that the Rock are not part of the main tenant group.
The main entrance to the Air Canada Centre would probably be considered to be off of Bremner Blvd. It is here that you will find Maple Leaf Square, which has become quite a gathering place, especially for Raptors fans during the playoffs. With all of the construction over the years around the ACC, the arena is now nestled among high rise condominiums and office buildings. The exterior of the ACC features lots of glass, to allow natural light in, and smart looking silver siding. A huge video screen is on the exterior facing Maple Leaf Square featuring advertising or the broadcast of the game going on inside. For Toronto Rock games, Maple Leaf Square is on the quiet side. Inside the concourse, fans will be drawn to numerous pictures showcasing big moments in both Maple Leaf Gardens and Air Canada Centre history. As expected, the vast majority of pictures feature the Maple Leafs or Raptors. The advertising has been toned down in the concourses over the years.
The seating bowl inside the Air Canada Centre features a full 360 degree lower bowl with north and south seating areas in the upper level. The east and west ends of the 300 level feature luxury boxes and a standup bar scene. The floor is situated in an east to west fashion and that perfect view of the centre floor logo can be found from the south side of the arena (sections 105-111 or 306-312). The west side of the arena, hanging from the rafters are the championship banners for the Rock. The Rock proudly display seven banners for their Champions' Cup teams of 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2011. The Rock have retired the number 29 of goaltender, and Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee Bob "Whipper" Watson. There is also a banner to honour the contributions of former coach Les Bartley, also a member of the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, these banners are only up for Rock games and are taken down for other ACC events. Given the number of championships that the Rock have won, and the number of Hall of Fame members who were integral parts of those Rock teams, they have the opportunity to legitimately honour a number of former players in the future.
The in-game experience for NLL lacrosse is unlike any other. The PA announcer works overtime adding commentary during the play and encouraging the fans to show support and make some noise. Classic and modern rock music are played throughout the game and there is a much more laid back atmosphere than you would find for a Maple Leafs game. The in-game host also travels throughout the ACC assisting in promotions and attempting to pump up the crowd. The Rock mascot is Iggy who does his thing also and the Toronto Rock cheerleaders perform on the field during stoppages in play.
The location of the Air Canada Centre is second to none.
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, The Loose Moose, The Fox, or Hoop's. 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 Rock along with the Toronto Raptors of the NBA and Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL. 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. The former home of the Rock was Maple Leaf Gardens, which has been purchased and renovated by Ryerson University. The Rams play both basketball and hockey in the iconic building. The Hockey Hall of Fame is just east of the Air Canada Centre and is great spot to hit. 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.
The Toronto Rock have seen an unsettling trend in the fan department over the last few years.
With more and more competition for the sporting dollar in Toronto and the Rock off to the side from an ownership standpoint, the turnstiles have taken a hit for the team. When the Rock came into the league over 15,000 fans was common with sellouts at the ACC not being unheard of. In 2014, the Rock averaged 10,500 fans and that number has dropped in the following two seasons with 10,000 in 2015 and 9,150 in 2016. The Rock has seen turnover occur with their players on the field and are due for a rebuild, which aids in the falling off of the attendance numbers. The 2017 season will be a crucial one for the attendance and a turning around of the smaller crowds trend. The Rock have gone from the attendance leader in the league, to the middle of the pack. The fans in attendance are out for a great time and supportive and vocal of their team. There is a bit of a "you don't know what you are missing" attitude in the stands geared towards those that are not present.
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, which is attached to the north side of the Air Canada Centre, 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 also 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.
The Toronto Rock are a great return for your entertainment dollar, especially in a city known for having some pretty expensive sporting options.
Tickets for the Toronto Rock can go for under $20 in the upper bowl. You can get some fantastic seats at the ends for under $45. This is a far cry from the hundreds of dollars that you would pay for the same seats for a Maple Leafs or Raptors game. There are also numerous ticket packages and options available for multiple games. The Rock put on a great show and encourage fan participation all the time. Parking and concessions are a bit on the high side, but there are opportunities to get around those issues. The end result is a great option for the whole family to get out and have some fun.
An extra mark for the NLL players, who are all "real people" with "real jobs." The vast majority of players for the Rock and other NLL teams have 9 to 5 jobs in their hometowns and they moonlight as lacrosse players on the weekends.
An extra mark for the longevity that the Rock have shown in Toronto and their bedrock nature as part of the NLL.
An extra mark for one of the best team names in all of sport, offering fantastic marketing opportunities.
Simply put, a trip to Toronto to see the National Lacrosse League's Toronto Rock is a great investment. In one of North America's premier tourist destinations, the Rock offer patrons a fantastic product at an affordable price, in one of the great buildings in North America. Simply put, the Toronto Rock will Rock Your World.
The national sport of Canada is...Lacrosse! Many believe that hockey is the national sport in the land of the Maple Leaf, but it is really the fastest sport on two feet. For those of you new to lacrosse it is something you want to check out. There are two varieties; indoor and outdoor. Indoor or box lacrosse is played within the confines of a standard hockey arena. The gameplay is a fantastic melding of the structure and roughness of hockey, with the possession game found in basketball.
The Toronto Rock joined the National Lacrosse League in 1999 moving from Hamilton. Since that time the Rock have been a jewel of the league, leading in attendance and winning 5 Champion's Cups including 4 in their first 5 years. Their entry into Toronto was marketed brilliantly. They hold the distinction of having been the final event at historic Maple Leaf Gardens. Since their last championship in 2005, much has changed for the Rock but the winning ways have returned. This review takes place during the final game of the 2011 season in which the Toronto Rock defeated the Washington Stealth to win their 6th Champion's Cup.
In 1999 the National Lacrosse League (NLL) debuted in Toronto. It was an instant hit. The Toronto Rock took the entire lacrosse community by storm. The fastest game on two feet caught the interest of Canada's largest city and it was the beginning of the golden age for the NLL. Four Champion's Cups in their first five years, as well as new attendance records put the Rock firmly at the top of the NLL hierarchy. Now, in their 15th season in Toronto, interest in the Rock has tapered off and the trendy nature of the city of Toronto has once again reared its ugly head. Currently owned by the mysterious Jamie Dawick, the Rock remain one of the central franchises in the nine-team league, and now claim six Champion's Cups as part of their legacy.
The Rock call the Air Canada Centre home; a venue they share with the Maple Leafs and Raptors. Attendance has fallen over the years, but the Rock are still a great outing and some great family fun for a good price.
The Rock have done a wonderful job with keeping Lacrosse alive and well in Toronto and the fans have a lot to do with it. went to a game a few years ago, knowing not much about box lacrosse and fell in love with it. Will go back whenever I get a chance.
In the Toronto sports landscape there are few things that do not fall under the auspice of either Bell or Rogers. The two media giants together own MLSE which owns the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Marlies and Toronto FC. On its own, Rogers owns the Blue Jays. One of those independent endeavours in Toronto remains the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League. Not totally free of the MLSE touch, the Rock play their home games in the Air Canada Centre which is owned by MLSE. Although not the massive success that they were early in their existence, the Rock have found a comfortable position in the Toronto market and enjoy a healthy following.
After making the move to Toronto from Hamilton, the former Ontario Raiders enjoyed unprecedented success. In their first seven years in Toronto, the Rock won 5 Champion’s Cups as NLL champions. They had a very strong following and took the league by storm. Over time, the fan interest and perhaps more importantly media interest began to fall off. Currently, the Rock lack a true radio partner, receive little newspaper coverage but do have decent television coverage. In 2009, Jamie Dawick purchased the team from former Maple Leafs executive Bill Watters and current Blue Jays president Paul Beeston and invested in the team building a specific lacrosse complex and practice facility. Dawick was rewarded with another Champion’s Cup in 2011.
Over the years of change, the entertainment value of the Toronto Rock product remains. A trip to the Rock is an excellent opportunity for family entertainment at a price that will not kill your pocketbook. If there is one thing that this team knows how to do is Rock the House!
I wish it was like this in Philly, New York, Baltimore, and Boston.
146 Front Street West
Toronto, ON M5J 1G2
144 Front Street West
Toronto, ON M5J 2L7
151 Front Street West
Toronto, ON M5J 2N1
30 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M5E 1X8
301 Front Street W
Toronto, ON M5V 2T6
100 Front St. W.
Toronto, ON M5J 1A6
1 Harbour Square
Toronto, ON M5J 1A6