If hockey is truly Canada's game, it seemed only right to extend my recent business trip to Toronto and squeeze in a day of hockey tourism. I was delighted (to say the least) upon arriving to learn that the Hockey Hall of Fame and Air Canada Centre were both within walking distance of my hotel, and I was determined to make the most of it.
Note: I've been anxiously awaiting this trip since July, so this blog has been a long time coming.
Mural by David Arrigo outside the Hall (left), Jacques Plante's mask in the Habs locker room (right)
Like a kid on Christmas morning, my first order of business for the day was to walk down Yonge Street and make my way to the entrance of the Hall of Fame. Before I even made it inside, I had a bit of a fan-girl moment over the Greg Harrison mask columns outside the gates. For those who may not know, I'm a bit of a goalie mask nerd, and Greg Harrison basically pioneered mask painting as an art form, so he's the real deal. Once inside, I was overwhelmed by artifacts from the likes of Bobby Orr (his knee brace looked more like a torture device) and Gordie Howe, and the Leafs' centennial exhibit in the heart of the hall. The collection of 100 years of Maple Leafs artifacts all in one place was, even as a Bruins fan, a true sight to see.
The Leafs' centennial exhibit (left), my encounter with Lord Stanley (right)
I made my way through room after room, being dazzled by the collection of Stanley Cup rings and feeling nostalgic over the NHL retro jersey display. I saved the best for last, and after weaving through cases of vintage tickets, Olympic artifacts and even a giant goalie mask, I made my way into the great hall which houses hockey's most precious hardware. The original Stanley Cup lives in a vault in the back of the room, outside of which sits a ring of trophies including the Vezina, Conn Smythe, Selke (locally known as the Patrice Bergeron award) and Lord Stanley's Cup itself.
The Great Hall, home of the Stanley Cup
After spending a few minutes admiring hockey's greatest prize, I took the rest of the bizarrely-warm afternoon to explore the city of Toronto, visiting City Hall, the top of the CN Tower and the Harbour Square Park area along the waterfront.
Outside Toronto City Hall (left), from the observatory deck of the CN Tower (right)
Packing as much as possible into my short time in the city, I took advantage of the Leafs being in town and decided to cross the ACC off my list of NHL arenas. In an all-Canadian showdown against the Canucks, I was eager to get my first taste of what hockey in its native country is all about.
A self-proclaimed connoisseur of sports bars in Boston, I felt obligated to check out the Real Sports Bar outside the Air Canada Centre––dubbed by ESPN as the greatest sports bar in all of North America. With two levels and a TV the size of a small house, it certainly lived up to the hype. While my confession of being a *gasp* Bruins fan didn't make me the most popular visitor to the ACC that night, I was welcomed by the Leafs fans around me and had the pleasure of seeing a wild old time hockey game between two Canadian teams.
The ACC after the Leafs' victory over Vancouver
With 9 goals and 200+ penalty minutes in the contest, the game went from civil to a full on bloodbath in the third period. A goalie fight and a handful of ejections all while star rookies Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner sang Bon Jovi was just the icing on the cake to a perfect Canadian weekend.
Thanks for the love, Toronto––I'll be back soon!