- Dave Cottenie
Scotiabank Arena – Toronto Maple Leafs
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Scotiabank Arena 40 Bay St Toronto, ON M5J 2X2 Canada
Year Opened: 1999
Leafs Forever … On the Cusp
To say the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs is long and rich is a bit of an understatement. The Leafs were founded in 1917 as the Toronto Arenas. By 1927 they rebranded as the Maple Leafs and already had two Stanley Cups under their belts. Nine Stanley Cups later and a couple of the most influential hockey arenas ever and the Maple Leafs stalled out after their 1967 Stanley Cup victory. The exemplary and influential ownership of Conn Smythe deteriorated with the eras of Harold Ballard and Steve Stavro. Currently part of the massive sports conglomerate Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, owned by Bell Canada, Rogers Communications and Larry Tannenbaum, the Maple Leafs have been knocking on the door of real on-ice, playoff success for years. Stymied in the first round over the last couple of years, there is no doubt that the Maple Leafs are a far better team than their playoff record indicates.
In 1999 the Toronto Maple Leafs joined the Toronto Raptors in opening the then named Air Canada Centre. Formerly the Toronto Canada Post Delivery Building, the Scotiabank Arena replaced the venerable Maple Leaf Gardens, also known as the Cashbox on Carlton. Nearly 25 years after opening, the Scotiabank Arena remains one of the premier venues in North American sport. A central part of Downtown Toronto, Scotiabank Arena may be the best located arena there is. Regardless of how the Maple Leafs fare in the playoffs, their experience is a bucket list item for all true hockey fans.
Food & Beverage 5
Concessions continue to be a focal point of the Scotiabank Arena experience and the options continue to improve and capture the imagination of fans both old and new. Well recognized brands like Pizza Pizza and Tim Hortons continue to have a strong presence inside Scotiabank Arena, but there are plenty of more original options to peak the interest of fans. St. Patties for burgers; Hogtown Gourmet Hot Dogs provides some mind boggling takes on the classic stadium staple; Mac & Cheese Boutique has grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese inventions; and Noodle & Bao has many roti options; Edo Sushi provides the asian staple. Popcorn, nachos and other stadium staples are available throughout.
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.
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 videoboard 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 actually part of the original ACC logo, and the 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 a number of 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 Captains Wall, which is becoming more prevalent throughout hockey venues, traces the lineage of those honoured enough to wear the Captain ‘C’ right up to 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 Armstron, 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 videoboard 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 specific 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 move to use the Hall and Oates classic “You Make My Dreams Come True” remains a refreshing, unique attribute of Leaf games that other venues miss out on.
Is there an arena with a better location than the Scotiabank Arena? Right in the heart of downtown, Scotiabank Arena takes advantage of all that the major, cosmopolitan city of Toronto has to offer. There are a multitude of pre and post game spots for food and drink. Real Sports is located right in Maple Leaf Square as is e11even. The Loose Moose, The Fox, Miller Tavern 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.
Looking for other sports in Toronto? There are a ton. 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 to take in. 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. 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.
Toronto Maple Leaf fans are among the most loyal in professional sports. It is often pointed out how Leaf fans have suffered without a Stanley Cup since 1967, however, the last few years the Leafs have been very good during the season. The Leafs do boast one of the strongest attendance figures in the game. They average more than 18,000 per game and are fifth in the NHL. There isn’t really any room to get better as the Leafs have essentially sold out every game for decades. Leaf fans are not over the top rambunctious. Historically, Leaf fans have had the reputation of being very quiet and corporate. The corporate part seems to be more diluted than in the past and there are far fewer suits and ties visible. However, Leaf fans in the lower bowl are late arriving at the beginning of the game and after breaks in the action which often frustrates the fans in the full upper deck.
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 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.
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
Easily the most difficult aspect of a Toronto Maple Leafs game is the cost. According to the 2022 Fan Cost Index, the Maple Leafs are the most expensive NHL experience in the league. 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 $697, 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 continued rivalries the Leafs have with so many teams including the Red Wings, Senators, Sabres and of course, the Canadiens.
There is no doubt that a trip to see the Toronto Maple Leafs should be on every hockey fan’s bucket list. Couple that with the opportunity to take in the Hockey Hall of Fame and all of the other things that Toronto has to offer and the Leafs can be the centre of an excellent getaway. Time will tell to see if the Leafs can move through the playoffs further than previous years and grab that elusive 12th Stanley Cup banner.
Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9 and on Instagram.