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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

Scotiabank Arena – Toronto Maple Leafs


Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Scotiabank Arena 40 Bay St Toronto, ON M5J 2X2 Canada


Year Opened: 1999

Capacity: 18,800


 

Leafs Forever


Founded in 1917 as the Toronto Arenas, the Toronto Maple Leafs have as rich a history as any team in the National Hockey League. The proud holders of eleven Stanley Cup Championships, nine after they rebranded as the Maple Leafs in 1927, fans of the Maple Leafs are filled with angst and dread as they eagerly await the next trip to the finals. It would be the first since 1967, the final year of the “Original Six.”


Suffering through some of the worst ownership groups in sports history, see Harold Ballard, the Leafs are currently on solid ownership ground under the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment banner. MLSE is a conglomerate controlled by the odd partnering of Rogers Communications, Bell Media and Larry Tannenbaum. They also have the coveted superstar with Hart Trophy winner Auston Matthews leading the charge. Finally, the Leafs have one of the premier venues in the NHL, which although opened in 1999, has received several renovations to keep it at the forefront and state-of-the-art.


The venerable home for the Leafs for decades was the “Cashbox on Carlton,” Maple Leaf Gardens. In 1999, the Leafs moved closer to the lake, directly west of the CN Tower to the former Toronto Canada Post Delivery Building, which is currently known as Scotiabank Arena. It is difficult to argue that there is a better-located facility in the NHL, and the building is constantly changing for the betterment of the fan experience. All that remains is for the Leafs to get that elusive Stanley Cup back under the blue and white banner.


Food & Beverage 5

Concessions at Scotiabank Arena are among the best in the NHL, and a focal point of the operators. The menus are consistently examined and upgraded and the incorporation of new technology is also a priority. Concession providers are a mix of local favourites and interior exclusives. National brands like Tim Hortons and Pizza Pizza have a strong presence.


That is balanced with internal options like St. Patties and Hogtown Gourmet Hot Dogs. Fans can find just about any sort of cuisine in Scotiabank Arena that they desire. St. Patties features a variety of burgers; Mac and Cheese Boutique features gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese inventions; Noodle and Bao has several roti options; Edo Sushi has a variety of sushi; Porchetta & Co. and Panini each have a variety of sandwich options; and Hogtown Gourmet Hot Dogs has several interesting hot dog concoctions.


Of course, arena staples like popcorn and nachos are found in several concession stands as well. The integration of technology is found in the Grains & Greens area. A long, narrow, convenience store setup has patrons tap their credit card to go in. They pick up their items and then exit, charges automatically taken.


The selection of beer and alcoholic beverages in Scotiabank Arena will rival any of its contemporaries. Typical national brands are joined by favourites like Creemore Springs, Rickards Red and Sol, to cover the tip of the iceberg. Seltzers, Smirnoff Vodka, wine and Crown Royal are also available at a variety of bars and stands. The Molson Canadian Brewhouse on the 100 level has a huge bar and is a perfect meeting place once inside the Scotiabank Arena.


There are also other bars throughout the arena on multiple levels. Coca-Cola products are the soft drinks of choice and Tim Hortons provides hot beverages. Scotiabank Arena takes it to the next level with possibly the best, most up-to-date website there is, providing a ton of concession information for patrons to take in before heading to the arena.


Atmosphere 5

Scotiabank Arena provides one of the best atmospheres in the NHL. Located on Bay Street, the Scotiabank Arena really should be approached from the west, which is Maple Leaf Square. The main entrance from the square features a massive video board above the entrances. Maple Leaf Square is the location where fans of the Leafs and Raptors congregate to watch the game outside during the playoffs.


Highlights of the Scotiabank Arena exterior are the “Search Light Star Light Spot Light'' structure, which is part of the original Air Canada Centre logo, and Maple Leafs’ Legends Row. The most honoured Maple Leaf players are immortalized in a series of bronze statues that not only cross eras but seemingly interact with each other. Frank Mahovlich, Wendel Clark, Dave Keon, George Armstrong, Johnny Bower, Red Kelly, Charlie Conacher, Teeder Kennedy, Tim Horton, Turk Broda, Syl Apps, Mats Sundin, Borje Salming and Daryl Sitler are all part of the fantasy team.


Upon entering the Scotiabank Arena fans are greeted with decent-sized concourses with a plethora of concession options. For fans who enjoy the treasure hunt, there are some photos and portraits on many of the walls featuring key moments in Scotiabank Arena, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs history. There are not many spots where there is empty wall space. Even stairwells are home to some classic pictures.


The main team store is large and crowded and can be found on the north side of the building. It can be accessed during non-game hours from the Galleria, which also hosts the ticket windows and links directly to Union Station. Markings of the old Toronto Postal Delivery Building along with a history of the building can be found here. The Captain's Wall, which is becoming more prevalent throughout hockey venues, traces the lineage of those honoured enough to wear the Captain ‘C’ right up to the current captain, John Tavares.


When entering the two-tier seating bowl, fans are bombarded with the history and accomplishments of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The two early Stanley Cup banners from the Arenas in 1918 and 1922 as the St. Pats, hang at the north side of the arena, starting from the east. These are followed to the west by the nine Maple Leafs Stanley Cup banners including 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1962, 1964, and 1967. Each banner features a picture of what the trophy looked like when presented that year.


On the opposite, south side hang the banners of the retired numbers for the Maple Leafs. Hockey legends Frank, Mahovlich, Wendel Clark, Dave Keon, George Armstrong, Charlie Conacher, King Clancy, Ace Bailey, Red Kelly, Johnny Bower, Turk Broda, Hap Day, Bill Barilko, Tim Horton, Teeder Kennedy, Syl Apps, Mats Sundin, Borje Salming Darryl Sittler and Doug Gilmour all have a home here. These banners have an appropriate home right in front of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Gondola, where the various press sit. The ice runs from east to west with the perfect center ice picture coming from the south side.


The gameday presentation of the Toronto Maple Leafs provides a bit of a quandary. The Leafs are forced to find a balance between the classic and modern, historical and modern. The massive, state-of-the-art video board is used magnificently and the video montages produced by the team are top-notch and do a good job of balancing the old and new.


Jimmy Holmstrom plays the organ during specifically featured breaks, however, it seems that the organ is featured less than in previous years. Carlton the Bear partakes in some promotions and traverses the arena, interacting with fans. The Leafs employ an in-house DJ and have in-game hosts, which lean more toward the modern. The 2023-24 season has been fraught with controversy with regards to the Leafs goal song. For the last number of years, the goal song was “You Make My Dreams (Come True)” by Hall and Oates, which received props as being original and refreshing in this publication.


The Leafs began the season with a more contemporary goal song which was met with vitriol as a result of concerning lyrics in their selection. Since then, the Leafs have gone with “Dup Dup” by Mickie Krause, which is just another bland, electronic song like so many other teams employ. The Leafs have gone from being a leader and original to a team following all of the others in this manner. It is curious why the Leafs can’t get an original song written by one of the plethora of musical artists who frequent Leaf games.



Neighbourhood 5

Scotiabank Arena has a prime location that is second to none in the National Hockey League. Scotiabank Arena is located right in the heart of the excitement in Toronto, one of the top tourist cities in North America. Toronto is a vastly cosmopolitan city that offers just about anything that visitors could want. The restaurant scene in Toronto is fantastic and there are a multitude of pre and post-game spots for food and drink within mere steps of Scotiabank Arena. Real Sports is located right in Maple Leaf Square as is e11even.


The Loose Moose, The Fox, Miller Tavern, Taverna Mercatto, and Kelly's Landing, to name a few, are all great options that are within walking distance. A unique dining experience fans could choose to partake in is at the top of the CN Tower which features excellent food and the best view of the city there is.


Toronto is also a sports fan haven as there are a ton of other sporting options. Scotiabank Arena is shared with the Toronto Raptors of the NBA. Just down the road is Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB. Heading west along Lakeshore Blvd. will bring fans to Exhibition Place which has BMO Field and Coca-Cola Coliseum on the grounds. These are the homes of the Toronto Argonauts, Toronto FC and Toronto Marlies.


A pilgrimage to the old Maple Leaf Gardens may be of interest. The hockey and basketball teams of Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) can be found here. Just north is the University of Toronto where the Varsity Blues have a variety of athletic teams including hockey, basketball and football.


There are plenty of other tourist destinations in the immediate area. The CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium are worth checking out. The Eaton Centre is an iconic Toronto shopping destination and there are always events going on at Harbourfront. However, any fan reading this review must take a trip to see the hallowed Hockey Hall of Fame. Just a few blocks from Scotiabank Arena, it is arguably as good as Cooperstown and warrants multiple trips.


For fans wishing to stay near the Scotiabank Arena, the Westin Harbour Castle is close. However, any downtown option will be on the pricey side.


Fans 4

The Maple Leafs enjoy one of the strongest set of attendance figures over the years. The Leafs consistently attract more than 18,700 fans per game and enjoy over 100% capacity most years. In the 2022-2023 season, the Leafs had the fifth-highest average attendance. That figure has dropped to sixth in 2023-2024, however, the top team includes an outdoor game, which slightly skews the data.


Over all of the years of poor teams and close calls, Leafs Nation has shown up at the turnstile or tuning in on television making the Leafs one of the most valuable teams in the NHL. Fans in Scotiabank Arena are typically late arriving and the most expensive seats remain empty well into the first stoppage of the period. Fans are also typically quiet, being more reactive than proactive. The well-worn “Go Leafs Go” and reactions to goals or close calls are the extent of Leaf fan interaction.

Access 4

Getting to the Scotiabank Arena by car will force fans to traverse the Toronto traffic, which can be a real challenge. The Lakeshore is quite far from Highway 401 in the north, so using Lakeshore Blvd or the Gardiner Expressway to travel east or west along the lake will be required. There are plenty of parking options around which can be found for $20 or more.


The real travesty is that the City of Toronto has not taken any lessons from other cities when events are put on. Upon exiting Scotiabank Arena, Toronto Police are not present aiding in the movement of traffic, leaving drivers on their own to get out of downtown. On the plus side, public transit downtown is very good. Union Station is attached to the Scotiabank Arena. TTC subways and GO Transit trains along with Via Rail trains can be found here. Fans should check the TTC or GO Transit websites for maps, fares and schedules.


Getting around the Scotiabank Arena is not difficult, however, fans need to keep in mind that there is rarely less than a full house in the arena and intermissions will be congested. Washroom facilities are more than adequate but will have lineups during intermissions as well.


With security protocols and procedures in constant flux, Stadium Journey strongly suggests visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs and Scotiabank Arena websites for the most up-to-date security information before heading to the arena.



Return on Investment 3

The Toronto Maple Leafs are the most expensive experience in the NHL. According to the 2022 Fan Cost Index, the Leafs are at the top of the NHL heap at nearly $700. Ticket prices are part of dynamic pricing, as are for many pro teams. Tickets for a Saturday game or against an Original Six or Canadian team will increase prices significantly.


Obstructed standing-room spots are going for between $98 and $189 on the primary market. Secondary market tickets are in many ways all that is available and come with the increase in ticket prices that are expected. Prices can go up over $700 in some cases.


It will cost some money to park the car and concessions, although high quality, will be on the expensive side. The Leafs do what they can to provide the best possible environment for hockey and there will not be a game where the seats are empty. However, the return struggles to meet the significant investment fans are required to put out for a Leafs game.


Extras 3

An extra mark for the change in fortunes for the Leafs on the ice. They are once again in a relevant position in the Toronto sports scene.


An extra mark for the vast history of the Leafs and their position as a member of the fabled NHL “Original Six.”


An extra mark for the continued rivalries the Leafs have with so many teams including the Red Wings, Senators, Sabres and of course, the Canadiens.


Final Thoughts

All hockey fans should consider making a pilgrimage to see the Toronto Maple Leafs and extend the trip to see the city of Toronto and especially the Hockey Hall of Fame. Scotiabank Arena remains among the premier venues in the league and MLSE has done a spectacular job keeping the arena relevant for the last two decades and continuing to revamp and upgrade the experience.


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


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