Since their first season in 1999, the National Lacrosse League's Toronto Rock have been nothing less than the showpiece of the league. Though they have since amassed a league-leading six championships, the club quickly blew away the competition with excellent performance both on and off the 'box.'
The short history of the club has been filled with memorable moments including the last ever professional sporting event at Maple Leaf Gardens, in 2000. No less than eight NLL Hall of Famers have been members of the club, with many more candidates looking ready for induction in the near future. The rafters of their home, the Air Canada Centre, are filled with banners commemorating numerous achievements and the first retired number for the club, legendary goalkeeper Bob Watson.
In spite of all this success, there have been some storm clouds lately for the Rock. As all the Toronto teams have become scooped up into the tangled media conglomerates of both Rogers and Bell, the Rock are the last team to be independently owned. Whilst owner Jamie Dawick has been exemplary in his dedication to the club, the relative lack of media coverage has certainly been detrimental to the team. Still, Dawick's personal investments as owner have led to stability and top-notch facilities, including a training centre that now hosts NLL-wide preseason games, drafts, combines, and other events to showcase the league.
The massive lacrosse community surrounding the Toronto area has continued to support the Rock, but attendance has been slowly declining. In 2005, attendance was averaging over 17,000 and now the club struggles to attract 12,000 per game. Coupled with a rare playoff miss last year, things seemed troubling for such an important club, This season, though, a young squad is off to a promising start and interest is being rejuvenated. It seems likely the club will, with renewed success on the box, rise again to prominence as the bedrock of the league.
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".
Playing at the Air Canada Centre has, moreso than almost anything else, the advantage of incredible food. Though it comes at a premium, highlights include the gourmet sausages and hot dogs at The Dog House, 'sushiritos' at Edo, gourmet grilled cheese, dessert tacos, and s'mores popcorn. More refined options include items like guacamole and spinach grilled cheese. Popular local food truck Fidel Gastro is represented with items like Pad Thai Fries. The maple bacon burger at St. Patties is a popular choice as is the roast beef at Hot Stove Carve. Though Air Canada Centre won't wow you with sheer size of dishes, as seen at some American ballparks, the variety and uniqueness will blow anyone away.
Aside from the most unique items, national staples Smoke's Poutinerie, Pizza Pizza, Hero Certified Burgers, Mr. Sub, and Tim Horton's are interspersed throughout the concourses. Expected items like sweets, chocolates, burgers, and popcorn are all available too. There are, it should be noted, some concession stands that remain closed for Rock games, but the vast majority are open and most signature items can be had.
As for beverages, a vast selection awaits those who are prepared to part with some substantial sums of money. Beer selections run the gamut from big to small, with prices ranging from $12 and up for a cup. More local options include Creemore Springs and Rickard's, with international choices like Henekin, Dos Equis, and Coors on offer as well. Interestingly, Molson Canadian is brewed on-site, in large vats that can be viewed and toured at the arena. The mini-brewery has all the different stages of production visible and labelled, and open to visitors.
The Air Canada Centre is an absolutely beautiful venue for sport, oozing class at every corner. Unfortunately, though, the Rock are not the primary tenants here, and it is apparent. Historic photos of the NHL's Maple Leafs cover most nooks and crannies, with NBA Raptors photos taking up the rest of the space. Rock banners are plentiful though they share rafter space with the Leafs' retired numbers and Stanley Cups, as well as a small handful of Raptors banners.
Nevertheless, the Air Canada Centre is a great place to watch lacrosse. The seating bowl is very steep and tight. With the lacrosse box occupying the same space as the NHL ice surface, every seat in the house is designed for optimal viewing, and there is not a bad place to sit.
The large and crystal-clear new scoreboard hovers above centre ice and is very distinctive with its giant suspended maple leaf in its centre. Replays are used fairly effectively to show goals and major highlights. There is also a massive LED screen fronting Maple Leaf Square, the popular public gathering place at the west end of the arena, fronting Bremner Street. There is a massive team shop fronting the Galleria, a massive promenade connecting Bay and Bremner Streets as well as Union Station.
Back inside the bowl, the in-game experience is unique. Unlike the Leafs games, for example, where intense viewing prevails, the Rock experience is much more laid-back. The PA announcer adds commentary and encourages fan interaction. Also uniquely, and perhaps unfortunately, the Rock are not immune from the popular (in many arena sports) practice of playing music during play. This is something of a shame, as it drowns out the crowd reacting to the subtleties of play.
If there is one category that can rival the food advantage of the Air Canada Centre, it is the location. The rink is in the perfect spot, located right next to Union Station in the very heart of downtown Toronto. Getting to the arena usually means travelling through the palatial (though currently under renovation) Union Station.
Before the match, there are more options to choose from than games in the season. Nearby pubs abound including some particularly good ones. Just south of the ACC are The Miller and The Fox, both of which are solid choices. Nearby are the Loose Moose, the Town Crier, and Beerbistro. Real Sports, on Maple Leaf Square has a humongous screen and an impressive caesar menu.
After the game, Rock fans congregate at Jack Astor's in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, a little under a kilometre east of the ACC along Front Street. Immediately west of the arena along Bremner, there is a tonne to do. Ripley's Aquarium, the CN Tower, and Rogers Centre, home of the MLB Blue Jays, share space with Roundhouse Park, the Steamwhistle Brewery, and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Numerous hotels round out this touristy area including the sparkling new Delta, the Intercontinental, the Westin Harbour Castle, and the iconic Fairmont Royal York. A more affordable option nearby is the Strathcona Hotel.
For a distinctive Toronto experience, be sure to visit the Royal York for afternoon tea or a crafty cocktail. If visiting for a sporting weekend, round it off with a play in Toronto's famed Theatre District, possibly second only to Broadway. Other major spots downtown are the Eaton Centre mall, or the fashion shops of Queen Street West. Other sporting venues to visit are BMO Field, home of Toronto FC and the Argonauts Canadian football club. Historic Ricoh Coliseum is home to the Marlies, development team of the Maple Leafs.
Even though attendance has fallen somewhat, Rock fans fill the empty seats with their voices. They are loud and tremendously loyal to the team. Particularly, the fans are fond of the goalkeepers. After many years of success with Bob Watson in goal, popularity has moved on to Nick Rose. Everyone chants 'Rosie' after his saves and the encouragement surely helps, with Rosie's strong goalkeeping a trademark of the current squad.
Rock fans are very close knit, in spite of the rivalries within the Ontario lacrosse scene. Lacrosse fans regard themselves as something of a family and there is a real sense of community at the game. Many of the Rock's fans come from lacrosse's rich heartland just north of Toronto, and there is plenty of banter between fans of rival clubs in the provincial league. Still, when the fans come together for the Rock, the individual loyalties are put aside.
The fans continue the party atmosphere after the final whistle. As the players leave the box, occasional chants of Olé, Olé, Olé break out. Finally, a large group of fans ceremoniously travel to Jack Astor's for post-game drinks and bites, where they are joined by players and staff. The experience continues for hours after the game and is a great way to meet fellow fans and the unusually accessible players. Only the CFL can rival the Rock for accessibility of players.
Getting to Air Canada Centre is about as easy to get to as could be possible, with its immediate proximity to Union Station. The grand station is the central point of the GO commuter rail network. For the many fans coming in from north of the city, park the car at a distant train station and take the train or bus in. The subway also stops at Union, with the station at the southern end of the main north-south lines. Streetcars along the Harbourfront also terminate at Union. Finally, VIA Rail trains from across Canada bring in fans from London, Kingston, and Waterloo. Simply put, getting to the game by transit could not be easier.
Driving is a different story. As with anywhere in the city, traffic can be brutal and parking nigh on impossible. For sometimes upwards of $20, underground parking can be found in various locations near the arena but drivers should be wary of the constant construction that is the hallmark of modern Toronto. Within the arena itself, concourses and washrooms are ample for the usual Rock crowds.
In a city of extremely expensive sporting options, the Rock are great value. Tickets in the upper bowl go for $23 with the most expensive Platinum tickets for $72. Getting great seats for $40 or so is a good deal when those same seats at a Leafs game can go for closer to $500 or more.
The Rock are a family friendly option and a very fun community to join, for a reasonable price. Lacrosse is also just about the best spectator sport in terms of action, with goals frequently enough to guarantee excitement, but not too frequent as to diminish their value.
The post-game party at Jack Astor's is a great chance to meet the players and fans, building a real community feel.
The Rock have been an exemplary franchise in a league where relocation and instability is all too common.
An extra point for the generosity and dedication of owner Jamie Dawick. His personal investment in the training facilities for the team have furthered lacrosse in the area and benefitted the whole league.
An extra point for the strong embrace of Native traditions in the sport. Even advertisers are quick to promote their Native connections, such as betting house Sports Interaction who tout their Mohawk roots.
The Toronto Rock are a great idea for a sporting visit to Toronto. Lacrosse is an excellent sport to watch and tied to Canadian culture as much as hockey. The Air Canada Centre is absolutely one of the top-quality arenas in the world and the chance to watch the most successful team in the league, on and off the box, is one not to be missed.
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!
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.
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