Scotiabank Arena – Toronto Maple Leafs
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29
Scotiabank Arena 40 Bay St Toronto, ON M5J 2X2 Canada
Year Opened: 1999
Since they became the Maple Leafs in 1927, the Toronto Maple Leafs have captured the hearts and minds of Torontonians and Canadians alike. Becoming the heart of hockey, the City of Toronto has weathered the ups and downs that have been the Leafs. From Legends like Conn Smythe, to disasters like Harold Ballard, the Leafs have brought home eleven Stanley Cup Championships, but have left their fans longing for more with the longest current Stanley Cup drought in the NHL. Leaf fans are among the most hearty and ardent in the sports and the Toronto Maple Leafs are among the toughest tickets in sport, even during the pandemic years.
Founded in 1917 as the Toronto Arenas and spending time as the Toronto St.Patricks from 1919 to 1927 the Leafs have called a few arenas home, most notably, the Cashbox on Carlton, also known as Maple Leaf Gardens. Home for the Leafs since 1999 is Scotiabank Arena. Located right in the heart of downtown Toronto, Scotiabank Arena is one of the premiere facilities in the NHL and boasts the richest naming rights deal at the time. Armed with Scotiabank Arena and one of the richest, and most unique, ownership groups in sport, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the Leafs continue to push franchise values in the NHL upward, and remain a bucket list item for hockey fans everywhere.
Food & Beverage 5
The culinary experience at Scotiabank Arena is as good as any professional sports facility. All of the expected options are available throughout the concourses but there are a number of unique concession spots also. Pizza Pizza, Tim Hortons, Mac & Cheese Boutique, Hogtown Gourmet Hot Dogs, Hot Stove Carve, The Poutinerie and St. Patties all offer unique items fans will want to check out. The Molson Canadian Brewhouse is a large bar area where they brew their own beer on the premises. There are also a number of different bars and points for purchase of different alcoholic beverages. The Crown Royal bar on the main floor, for example, offers a variety of mixed cocktails.
Scotiabank Arena is located on Bay Street in Toronto, however, it is at the “back” of the arena that is the best gathering spot and most interesting. Maple Leaf Square, on the opposite side of Bay Street, is the famous gathering place known as Jurassic Park for Raptors games. The massive videoboard on the facade of the building is demanding of the attention of anyone walking by. However, it is the sculpture “Search Light, Star Light, Spot Light” that is synonymous with the Scotiabank Arena structure. In the southwest corner of the building, fans will find the homage to Toronto Maple Leafs history in Legends Row. This attractive set of bronze statues has the unique focus of Toronto Maple Leaf legends interacting, while being of many different eras. Relatively modern players like Mats Sundin and Wendel Clark join longtime Leaf icons like Tim Horton and George Armstrong. Other Leaf legends that are a part of Legends Row include Ted Kennedy, Darryl Sittler, Johnny Bower, Borje Salming, Syl Apps, Dave Keon, Turk Broda, Charlie Conacher, Red Kelly and Frank Mahovlich. Maple Leaf Square is a terrific place to meet a group of friends for the game and is right by Union Station for public transit convenience. Scotiabank Arena is located at the former Canada Post Delivery Building and there are some artifacts inside the Galleria on the north side of the building.
Inside Scotiabank Arena, fans are welcomed to wide concourses and plenty of activity. There are plenty of old photos and posters for fans who are adept at exploring. The Captains Wall honours all of the previous Maple Leaf captains, right up to current holder of the ‘C’ John Tavares. Entering the seating bowl, fans are bombarded with the banners that hang from the ceiling and the state of the art videoboard. The ice runs from west to east and the best side to find a seat for that perfect picture of the centre ice logo is the south side. On the north side of the arena hang the 1918, 1922, 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1962, 1964 and 1967 Stanley Cup Champions banners. The south side features the retired numbers of Frank Mahovlich, Wendel Clark, Dave Keon, George Armstrong, Charlie Conacher, King Clancy, Ave Bailey, Red Kelly, Johnny Bower, Turk Broda, Hap Day, Bill Barilko, Tim Horton, Ted Kennedy, Syl Apps, Mats Sundin, Borje Salming, Darryl Sittler and Doug Gilmour.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have made some very successful and calculated moves for game day presentation. The Leafs consistently struggle with attempting to balance the massive history that they enjoy with promoting the modern players and experience. The Maple Leafs staff have always done a tremendous job utilizing the video board with montages incorporating the vast Leafs history, both good and bad, as well as the current Maple Leaf players. A few years ago they made the bold move to change the goal song to “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall and Oates, a decision that is still paying dividends with originality across hockey. At times, it seems that the Leafs are trying to do a bit of everything with organist Jimmy Holmstrom playing at specified points as well as in-house DJ, Cale Granton playing club music as well as regular songs.
There are very, very few arenas with a better location than Scotiabank Arena. Right in the heart of downtown Toronto, Scotiabank Arena is perfectly situated to take advantage of all that downtown has to offer. There are a ton of sports options in Toronto for fans to take advantage of. The Leafs share Scotiabank with the Toronto Raptors of the NBA. Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB, is just west of Scotiabank Arena. Exhibition Place is close to the waterfront, just west of downtown, and is home to BMO Field, home of Toronto FC and the Toronto Argonauts. Coca-Cola Coliseum is also found at Exhibition Place and is the home of the AHL affiliate of the Leafs, the Toronto Marlies. The old Maple Leaf Gardens still stands and is a fantastic venue for Ryerson University where the Rams play hockey and basketball. Just north of downtown is the University of Toronto where the Varsity Blues basketball team plays at the Goldring Centre, the football team plays at Varsity Stadium and hockey team plays at Varsity Arena. York University is in the north end of the city and is home to Lions football, hockey and basketball. The Toronto Rock of the NLL have recently moved out of Scotiabank Arena and to FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton.
Outside of sporting options, there are a plethora of other things to do in Toronto. Harbourfront always has something going on. The CN Tower is among the top tourist attractions in Canada and Ripley’s Aquarium, at its base is worth checking out as well. The iconic Eaton Centre is a top notch spot for shopping. Also, Toronto ranks a live theatre scene that is second only to Broadway in New York City. All of those are within walking distance of Scotiabank Arena. However, each and every hockey fan must make a pilgrimage to the Hockey Hall of Fame, which houses, among other things, the Stanley Cup.
There are also countless spots within walking distance of the arena for pre or post game food and drink. Real Sports is just on the other side of Maple Leaf Square. Other options include The Loose Moose, The Fox, Miller Tavern, e11even and Aria are excellent choices. For a truly unique experience, fans should consider reserving a spot in the revolving restaurant at the top of the CN Tower to enjoy excellent cuisine and the best view in the city.
There are also a number of options for fans who wish to stay near the arena. The Westin Harbour Castle and Le Germain Hotel are among the closest. Staying downtown is going to be pricey.
What can you say about a fan base that has suffered through one of the worst owners in sports history, and have continued to sell out the arena for decades? The Harold Ballard era is widely agreed to be one of the worst ever, yet Toronto fans never missed a beat or failed to sell out his beloved Maple Leaf Gardens or Scotiabank Arena after that. Maple Leaf fans have been the envy of many a hockey owner over the years, consistently ranking among the top franchises in attendance. The argument usually made against Maple Leaf fans is that they are too corporate and often found in blazers and dress shirts as opposed to hoodies and jerseys. The chant of “Go Leafs Go” is about as creative or rowdy as Leafs fans really get. Toronto and Ontario fans in general, are fairly reserved and quiet.
Toronto traffic can be pretty rough. Getting to the Scotiabank Arena from the north, east or west can be very challenging, especially for weekday evening games. The Don Valley Parkway in the east, Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard all get congested fairly regularly and can cause fans significant frustration driving to the game. On the flip side, however, Scotiabank Arena is attached to Union Station, which offers easy access to the TTC subway, GO Transit trains and Via Rail trains. Fans who are interested in taking public transit to the game should check the TTC or GO Transit websites for schedules, fares and maps.
Getting around the Scotiabank Arena is not terribly 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.
Return on Investment 3
Easily the most difficult aspect of a Toronto Maple Leafs game is the cost. According to the 2019 Fan Cost Index, the Maple Leafs are the second most expensive NHL experience in the league behind only the New York Rangers. The Maple Leafs are a difficult ticket to get, but the advent of the secondary ticket market makes availability easier, at a cost. Standard ticket prices begin at over $100 with those annoying fees from Ticketmaster. An astute shopper can find deals at better prices, but it is going to take some work, and probably a significant Maple Leafs losing streak. Concession prices are on the high side and parking, although cheaper than it once was, is going to cost probably at least $20. Where the FCI has the Maple Leafs cost at $617, one must muse that the Maple Leafs are going with a “once in a lifetime” pricing model, similar to many NFL experiences. Although the Maple Leafs production team are doing everything they can to make a Leafs game the best experience possible, it is almost impossible to make up the return on such a significant investment.
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 Leafs front office making peace with Dave Keon and the Leafs alumni which has resulted in Legends Row.
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.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a bucket list item for all hockey fans. With a location that is probably better than any other in the NHL, Scotiabank Arena gives fans the opportunity for a full-fledged experience for the hockey fan, especially considering its proximity to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Fans should plan well for a Leafs game to make it the best possible and the centerpiece of a Toronto vacation.