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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens - TMU Bold Hockey

Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens

60 Carlton St.

Toronto, ON M5B 1J2

Year Opened: 1931

Capacity: 2,796

College Hockey in a Cathedral

Editor's Note: Ryerson University has changed their name to Toronto Metropolitan University. At the time of the writing of this review, they were still known as Ryerson. This review will reflect the name at the time of publishing.

Conn Smythe was a Toronto hockey legend. It was Conn Smythe’s vision that pushed the Toronto Maple Leafs to build Maple Leaf Gardens. With the Gardens, the Leafs were able to generate more revenue and eventually become the hockey powerhouse they are today, both on and off the ice. The Gardens was home to countless iconic sports moments from Stanley Cup Finals to the first ever NBA game. Dignitaries spoke at the Gardens and legends performed there. In 1999 the Gardens went dark and the Leafs would make their move to the Air Canada Centre.

For a number of years the future of the Cashbox on Carlton was up in the air. A provincial and National heritage site, the options for the Gardens were extremely limited. Eventually MLSE would sell the Gardens to the Loblaw Company as a possible grocery store site. Although, a decent use of the site, nobody was overjoyed with the prospects. Eventually, Loblaws would partner with Ryerson University and Maple Leaf Gardens would live on as a Toronto sporting venue. Loblaws would get their grocery store on the main level, but the upper levels would be retrofitted into an athletic centre to service the Ryerson Rams varsity sport teams and the 40,000 Ryerson students as a recreation centre.

A key player in the MLG saga was Mattamy Homes founder Peter Gilgan whose sizeable donation made the key feature of the Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens possible. It is the top level of the MAC that makes it a must see spot for hockey fans. The Ryerson Rams hockey team calls Mattamy Home Ice, home and it is a site to be seen for sure. Icing a hockey team since 1948, the Rams are enjoying their most successful seasons since moving to the MAC in 2012 and are eagerly awaiting their first Queen’s Cup as Conference champions.

Food & Beverage 3

There is a decent food selection at Mattamy Home Ice. Two main concession areas are in the concourses behind the east and west seating areas. The menu includes hot dogs, pizza, Jamaican Patties, popcorn, nachos, chips, ice cream, and chocolate bars. Juice, slushies, tea, coffee, hot chocolate and Coca-Cola products are the beverage options. Bottled and draught beer along with Smirnoff Ice and wine are also available. Alcoholic options are not common throughout the OUA and bump up the concession score at the MAC. Although prices are not spectacular, they are decent.

Atmosphere 5

As part of the heritage site designation, the original front façade of Maple Leaf Gardens on Carlton remains intact. The cream brick has a classic look and the marquee remains almost like it did in the forties, fifties and sixties. The ground level has a Loblaws grocery store on the east side. The west side of the Carlton Street entrance sends fans into the Loblaw Atrium. Smart looking and properly lit, the atrium is welcoming and houses the ticketing windows for the MAC.

With tickets in hand, fans will ascend the escalator to the second level where the recreation facilities and Coca-Cola Court can be found. Two more escalator trips will bring fans to the fourth floor and the entry to Mattamy Home Ice. Throughout the trip to the fourth floor fans can’t help but notice the row of original MLG red seats fastened to the outer wall, high above the atrium. There are also a ton of old pictures illustrating the vast history of the venue. It could take quite a while to get to the seats if stopping to take all of the history in. The hallway at ice level also features some displays that are more Ryerson centric, displaying some of their own team history and trophies.

Entering the seating bowl will no doubt give fans pause. Immediately the iconic roof of Maple Leaf Gardens commands attention and makes fans feel good that it is still Maple Leaf Gardens. The capacity is just over 2,700 which is perfect for the venue. The ice runs from north to south with the perfect picture coming from the west side. The scoreboards and video boards are at each end of the arena and the decor is bright with blue and gold markings making it truly feel like Ryerson’s home. Contrary to most other OUA hockey venues there are a few alternate seating options. With the concourses behind the seating bowl, there is plenty of space for standing room. Mattamy Home Ice also offers a few corner suites and the north end of the area features the Alumni Lounge.

With a strong media program at Ryerson, the game day production is about as professional as it can get. The Rams do a great job of utilizing cameras and the video boards to enhance the experience. The Rams even utilize the logos of the youth hockey teams that play during the intermissions. The music selections and promotions are what would be expected. The Rams’ mascot, Eggy, can be found interacting with the crowd for some games.

Neighbourhood 5

The Mattamy Athletic Centre is located in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood of downtown Toronto. It is very close to Queen’s Park and the Ontario Legislature as Toronto is also the capital city of the province. There is an abundance of opportunities for fans around the MAC and although it is not Harbourfront, fans will not be left wanting. There are a plethora of restaurants and bars within walking distance of the MAC. Some spots that may be of interest would include Mick E Fynn’s, Fran’s Restaurant and Carlton Restaurant.

Toronto is a city where a weekend will not cut it, a whole week is probably necessary to get what may be close to the full experience. For fans hoping for other sporting experiences to pair with a Ryerson Rams basketball game there are a number available. A good place to start would be by going downstairs to Coca-Cola Court to catch the Ryerson Rams play basketball. A twenty minute walk will bring fans to Ryerson’s main rival, the University of Toronto. The Varsity Blues play football at Varsity Stadium, hockey at Varsity Arena and basketball at the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport. As far as the professional ranks go, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Rock all call Scotiabank Arena home. The Rogers Centre is home for the Toronto Blue Jays and BMO Field is home for the Toronto Argonauts and Toronto FC. Across the parking lot from BMO is the Coca-Cola Coliseum, home of the Toronto Marlies. Finally, at the north side of Toronto is York University, home of the Lions. Football is played at York Stadium, basketball is played at the Tait McKenzie Centre and hockey is played at Canlan Ice Sports York.

There are also a plethora of other tourist options near the MAC. Casa Loma is to the north and offers a unique experience in the city. The CF Eaton Centre is probably the most recognizable shopping experience in Toronto and is also close by. The theatre district in Toronto is probably second only to New York and that doesn’t even cover the CN Tower, Hockey Hall of Fame and other tourist spots closer to Harbourfront.

For fans needing to stay close by, the Holiday Inn is right next door to the MAC. The Courtyard by Marriott is also close by.

Fans 3

The Rams enjoy decent fan support as compared to most other OUA hockey programs. They usually welcome between 200 and 400 fans per game. However, the attendance figures are not always reported for each game.

The game that was reviewed was the Winter Homecoming game against York. There was a higher than normal attendance at the game and although it was not reported on, there were probably at least 1,000 fans there. The fans that were in the stands were loud and excitable helping create a great atmosphere.

Access 4

There are a couple of different ways to get to the Gardens. It is located in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood of downtown Toronto. It is north of the Gardiner Expressway and west of the Don Valley Parkway. It is also significantly south of highway 401. For fans coming to the Gardens by car, be prepared to do some significant driving through the city. There are a number of paid surface lots around the Gardens. There is also parking beneath which is controlled by Loblaws. The parking around the neighbourhood usually goes for around $10-$15, but the Loblaws parking is quite significant and can go to $40.

The best way to get to the Mattamy Athletic Centre may be the subway. The College Station for the TTC is less than a block away. There are also buses and streetcars in the neighbourhood. Fans can check out the Toronto Transit Commission website for fares, schedules and maps.

The ticketing window is immediately on the left when entering the MAC off of Carleton Street on the main floor. There are usually not much in the way of lineups. Fans should be aware that at least one window will be a cash only affair.

Getting around the MAC is not too difficult at all. Fans must travel to the second level by escalator to reach the Coca-Cola Court. There are elevators for those who are unable to take escalators. The washrooms on the second level are clean and new. There is more than enough space to accommodate the number of fans that are normally in attendance for Ryerson Rams games.

Return on Investment 5

The Ryerson Rams offer a terrific return for fans on a fairly limited investment. Rams tickets for adults are $13 with discounts for students, seniors and alumni. Concession prices are decent and parking can be expensive if the wrong spot is chosen. Although a bit on the expensive side for OUA hockey, it is balanced with the best facility for university hockey in the country and an experience that is well worth the money being paid. Even American hockey fans should put a trip to Mattamy Home Ice on their bucket list!

Extras 4

Two extra marks for Ryerson maintaining the history of Maple Leaf Gardens. The exterior façade sets the tone and fans of the Maple Leafs and Toronto sports history can spend hours perusing old photos and artifacts.

An extra mark for the budding rivalry with the Toronto Varsity Blues. Games against Varsity are now becoming popular and very well attended. Something that USports desperately needs.

An extra mark for Ryerson putting together the best USports hockey venue in the country.

Final Thoughts

There is not a better university hockey venue in Canada than Mattamy Home Ice. Ryerson University has done an amazing job of taking a hockey cathedral in the Maple Leaf Gardens and repurposing it in the best way possible. Hockey fans all over North America need to take a pilgrimage to this unbelievable facility!

Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9 and on Instagram.

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