Being in a foreign country has its particular challenges -- and, yes, for all its similarities to America, Canada is still a foreign country.
Before You Go. Make sure you call your bank and tell them you're going. After all, Canada may be an English-speaking country, and a democracy (if a parliamentary one), and a country with a Major League Baseball team, but it is still a foreign country. If your bank gets a record of your ATM card making a withdrawal from any country other than the U.S., it may freeze the card, and any other accounts you may have with them. So be sure to let them know that you will, in fact, be in Canada for a little while.
And, since June 1, 2009, you need a passport to cross the border in either direction. Even if you have a valid driver's license (or other State-issued ID) and your birth certificate, they ain't lettin' you across into the True North Strong and Free. Not even if you're a Blue Jays season-ticket holder living in Buffalo or if you sing hosannas of praise to Wayne Gretzky. You don't have a passport? Get one. You do have one? Make sure it's valid and up to date. This is not something you want to mess with. Canadian Customs officials do not fuck around: They care about their national security, too.
Do yourself another big favor: Change your money before you go. There are plenty of currency exchanges in New York City, including one on 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenue.
Leave yourself $50 in U.S. cash, especially if you're going other than by plane, so you'll have usable cash when you get back to your side of the border. At last check, on the night of March 11, 2017, US$1.00 = C$1.35 – or, C$1.00 = US 74 cents. However, since the currency exchanges need to make a profit, the current rate may come close to actually favoring Canada. (I was actually in Canada on the day when it most favored the U.S.: January 18, 2002, $1.60 to $1.00 in our favor.)
The multi-colored bill were confusing on my first visit, although we have those now, too. The $5 is blue, and features Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister 1896-1911). The $10 is purple, and features John A. Macdonald (the 1st Prime Minister, 1867-1873 and again 1878-1891, essentially he's their George Washington without having fought a war for independence). The $20 is green, and features the nation’s head of state, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. The $50 is red, and features William Lyon Mackenzie King (the longest-serving Prime Minister, 1921-1926, 1926-1930, 1935-1948, including World War II). And the $100 is yellow, and features Robert Borden (Prime Minister 1911-1920, including World War I).
The tricky part is going to be the coins – and you'll thank me for telling you this, but keep your U.S. coins and your Canadian coins separate, for the simple reason that their penny, nickel, dime and quarter are all the same colors and just about the same size as our respective coins. (To make matters more confusing, as we recently did with our States, they had a Provincial quarter series.)
All coins have Queen Elizabeth's portrait on the front, but she's been Queen since 1952, and depending on how old the coin is, you might get a young woman, or her current 89-year-old self, or anything in between. You might even get a penny or a nickel old enough to feature her father, King George VI. Such a coin is still legal tender, however.
They have a $1 coin, copper-colored, bigger than a quarter, and 11-sided, with a bird on the back. This bird is a loon – not to be confused with the people lunatic enough to buy Maple Leafs season tickets. The coin is thus called the "loonie," although they don't say "ten loonies": They use "buck" for "dollar" the way we would. In fact, the term is connected to Canada: Their first English settlers were the Hudson's Bay Company, and they set the value of a dollar to the price of the pelt of a male beaver, the male of the species being called, as are those of a deer and a rabbit, a buck. (And the female, a doe.) The nation’s French-speakers (Francophones) use the French word for loon, and call it a "huard," but since the Montreal Expos are gone, you probably won't hear that term unless you're a hockey fan and go to see the Rangers, Devils or Islanders in Montreal – or maybe Ottawa, which is on the Ontario-Quebec border and has a lot of French-first-speakers.
Then there's the $2 coin, or "toonie." It's not just two dollars, it's two-toned, and even two-piece. It's got a copper center, with the Queen on the front and a polar bear on the back, and a nickel ring around it. This coin is about the size of the Eisenhower silver dollars we used to have. This is the coin that drives me bonkers when I’m up there.
My suggestion is that, when you first get your money changed before you begin your trip, ask for $1 coins but no $2 coins. It's just simpler. I like Canada a lot, but their money, yikes, eh?
This is Canada, the Great White North, so, being March, it may be damned cold. Or maybe not: According to the Toronto Star website, there's going to be rain next Tuesday. The temperature will be in the low 40s in the afternoon and the high 20s at night, so bring a winter coat.
Toronto is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to reset your watch or fiddle with your smartphone's clock.
Tickets. The Maple Leafs are averaging 19,834 fans per game this season, a sellout every game. Supposedly, they haven't played to an unsold seat since World War II, over 70 years ago. Of course, they haven't reached the Stanley Cup Finals since 1967, 50 years ago, so what does that tell you about the people who show up? It tells me that it's idiots who are making tickets hard to come by.
But some tickets will be available. As the Leafs' website says:
Every game we have close to 200 tickets that become available within 48 hours of puck drop.
Why is that? The NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) provides both the league and players with a specific number of ticket holds for every Leafs game at Air Canada Centre. These seats must be held for them up until 24 or 48 hours before puck drop. More often than not, the league and majority of players decide not to use these, so they are released to you!
Do you want to sit in the same seats as NHL executives and players? Follow the steps below to make sure you're the first to find out whenbecome available.As for ticket prices, expect them to be freakin' expensive, due to the law of supply and demand. Remember also that they will be listed in Canadian dollars, so they won't be as bad as they first appear, but they should be bad enough. Consider that, in the same arena, Toronto Raptors tickets are much cheaper.
Leafs tickets go for C$263 between the goals and C$204 behind them. In the upper level, however, they're much cheaper: C$129 between the goals and C$99 behind them.
If you want to try for a scalper, they'll be even higher, but, presuming you are ready, willing and able to pay, you may have a better selection.
Getting There. The best way is by plane. (Note that these prices, unlike the preceding, will be in U.S. dollars.) Air Canada runs flights out of Newark Liberty, John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia International Airport, and the flight to Toronto's Lester Pearson International Airport takes about an hour and a half. Book on Air Canada today, while they're having a sale, and you can get a round-trip flight for just over $400, making this one of the cheapest roadtrips-by-plane in North America. (Pearson was Prime Minster from 1963 to 1968, and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.)
Greyhound runs 8 buses a day from Port Authority Bus Terminal to the Toronto Coach Terminal, at 610 Bay Street. (Countries in the British Commonwealth, including Canada, call a local bus a bus and an inter-city bus a "coach.") The ride averages about 11 hours, and is $97 round-trip -- one of the cheapest Devils roadtrips.
The TCT is big and clean, although a little confusing, as it seems to be two separate buildings. You shouldn't have any difficulties with it. It's one block down Bay to Dundas Street, and turn left to get to the Dundas subway station.
Amtrak, however, runs just 1 train, the Maple Leaf, in each direction each day between New York and Toronto, in cooperation with Canada's equivalent, VIA Rail. This train leaves Pennsylvania Station at 7:15 AM and arrives at Union Station at 7:41 PM, a trip of 12 hours and 21 minutes – 9:10 of it in America, 32 minutes of it at Customs (4:25 to 4:57 PM) and 2:44 of it in Canada. The return trip leaves Toronto at 8:20 AM, reaches the border at 10:22, and gets back to Penn Station at 9:50 PM. Round-trip fare is $271. Be advised, though, that this is one of Amtrak's most popular routes, and it could sell out.
Toronto's Union Station, at 65 Front Street West, is one of the world’s great rail terminals, and is the heart of the city. It's the centerpoint of the city's subway system, so it's not just in the heart of the city.
If you're driving, it's 500 miles – well, 492 miles from Times Square to downtown Toronto. It's 79 miles from downtown to the closest border crossing, the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge at Niagara Falls. (It's 458 miles from Times Square, and 45 miles from the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, to downtown Hamilton, home of the CFL's Tiger-Cats.)
Get into New Jersey to Interstate 80, and take it all the way across the State. Shortly after crossing the Delaware River and entering Pennsylvania, take I-380, following the signs for Scranton, until reaching I-81. (If you've driven to a game of the Yankees' Triple-A farm team, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, you already know this part.) Take I-81 north into New York State. (If you’ve driven to a game of the Mets' Double-A farm team, the Binghamton Mets, you already know this part.) Continue on I-81 past Binghamton and to Syracuse, where you'll get on the New York State Thruway, which, at this point, is I-90. Continue on the Thruway west, past Rochester, to Buffalo.
What happens next depends on where you cross the border. But first, let's discuss what you should do when you're actually at the border. Because you need to take this seriously. Because Canadian Customs will.
You'll be asked your citizenship, and you'll have to show your passport and your photo ID. You'll be asked why you're visiting Canada. Seeing a Yankees vs. Blue Jays game probably won't (but might) get you a smart-aleck remark about how the Jays are going to win, but they won't keep you out of their country based on that alone.
If you're bringing a computer with you (counting a laptop, but probably not counting a smartphone), you don't have to mention it, but you probably should. Chances are, you won't be carrying a large amount of food or plants; if you were, depending on how much, you might have to declare them.
Chances are, you won't be bringing alcohol into the country, but you can bring in one of the following items duty-free, and anything above or in addition to this must have duty paid on it: 1.5 litres (53 ounces) of wine, or 8.5 litres (300 ounces or 9.375 quarts) of beer or ale, or 1.14 litres (40 ounces) of hard liquor. If you have the slightest suspicion that I'm getting any of these numbers wrong, check the Canada Customs website. Better yet, don't bring booze in. Or out.
As for tobacco, well, you shouldn't use it. But, either way over the border, you can bring up to 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, and 200 grams (7 ounces) of manufactured tobacco. And, on October 14, 2016, President Obama finally ended the ban on bringing Cuban cigars into America. This also applies to rum, for which Cuba is also renowned. It is still considerably easier to buy these items in Canada than in America, but, now, you can bring them back over the border.
If you've got anything in your car (or, if going by bus or train) that could be considered a weapon, even if it's a disposable razor or nail clippers, tell them. And while Canada does have laws that allow you to bring in firearms if you're a licensed hunter (you'd have to apply for a license to the Province where you plan to hunt), the country has the proper attitude concerning guns: They hate them. They go absolutely batshit insane if you try to bring a firearm into their country. Which, if you're sane, is actually the sane way to treat the issue.
You think I'm being ridiculous? How about this: Seven of the 44 U.S. Presidents -- 9 counting the Roosevelts, Theodore after he was President and Franklin right before -- have faced assassins with guns, 6 got hit and 4 died; but none of the 23 people (including 1 woman) to serve as Prime Minister of Canada has ever faced an assassination attempt. John Lennon recorded "Give Peace a Chance" in Montreal and gave his first "solo concert" in Toronto, but he got shot and killed in New York. In fact, the next time I visit, I half-expect to see a bumper sticker that says, "GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE, AMERICANS WITH GUNS KILL PEOPLE."
(Another note about weapons: I’m a fan of the TV show NCIS, which airs in Canada on Global Network TV. If you are also a fan of this show, and you usually observe Gibbs Rule Number 9, "Never go anywhere without a knife," you need to remember that these are rules for members of Gibbs' team, not for civilians. So, this time, forget the knife, and leave it at home. If you really think you're going to need it -- as a tool -- mention the knife to the border guard, and show it to him, and tell him you have it to use as a tool in case of emergency, and that you do not plan to use it as a weapon. Do not mention the words "Rule Number 9" or quote said rule, or else he'll observe his Rule Number 1: "Do not let this jackass into your country, eh?" And another thing: Border guards, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, most likely will observe a variation on Gibbs Rule Number 23: "Never mess with a Mountie's Tim Hortons coffee if you want to live.")
And if you can speak French, don't try to impress the Customs officials with it. Or the locals, for that matter. You're going into Ontario, not Quebec. (And even if you were going into Quebec, they're not going to be impressed by your ability to speak their first language.) A, People of French descent are a minority west of Quebec (although singers Alanis Morrissette and Avril Lavigne are both Franco-Ontarians); and, B, They can probably speak English, let alone French, and possibly another language or two, better than you can. If you try to speak French in Toronto, you won't sound like you're from Montreal, and you certainly won't sound like you're from Paris. You'll sound like a smartass. That's if you speak French well. If you don't, you'll sound like a damn fool.
When crossing back into the U.S., in addition to what you would have to declare on the way in (if you still have any of it), you would have to declare items you purchased and are carrying with you upon return, items you bought in duty-free shops or (if you flew) on the plane, and items you intend to sell or use in your business, including business merchandise that you took out of the United States on your trip. There are other things, but, since you're just going for baseball, they probably won't apply to you. Just in case, check the Canadian Customs website I linked to above.
Precisely where will you be crossing the border? It could be at the Peace Bridge, built to commemorate the U.S. and Canada having "the world's longest undefended border," from Buffalo into the Ontario city of Fort Erie.
The Peace Bridge
After going through Customs, this would take you right onto the Queen Elizabeth Way (the QEW). After the Pennsylvania Turnpike, this was North America's 2nd superhighway, and was named not for the current Queen but for her mother, the wife of King George VI, the woman most people now under the age of 65 called the Queen Mother or the Queen Mum. (You know: Helena Bonham-Carter in The King's Speech.) This road will hug Lake Ontario and go through the Ontario cities of Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Hamilton before turning north and then east toward Toronto. Toronto's CN Tower is so tall that you may actually see it, across the lake, before you get to Hamilton.
The most common route from Buffalo to Toronto, however, is to go north on I-190, the Thruway’s Niagara Extension, to Niagara Falls. After you go through Customs, the road will become Ontario Provincial Highway 405, which eventually flows into the Queen Elizabeth Way.
The Rainbow Bridge
At the edge of the "megacity" of Toronto (Montreal is also now a "megacity"), the QEW becomes the Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway. ("Big Daddy" Gardiner was a major Toronto politician, and was responsible for getting it built.) The Gardiner does not have numbers on its exits. If you're only going for the game, and are leaving Toronto right afterward (I don't recommend this this: Spend a day in the city), you'll take the York/Yonge/Bay Street exit to get to the Air Canada Centre.
If you make 3 rest stops – I would recommend at or near Scranton and Syracuse, and count Customs, where they will have a restroom and vending machines – and if you don't do anything stupid at Customs, such as fail to produce your passport, or flash a weapon, or say you watch South Park (a show with a vendetta against Canada for some reason), or call Sidney Crosby a cheating, diving pansy (even though he is one) – the trip should take about 11 hours.
Though that could become 12, because Toronto traffic is every bit as bad as traffic in New York, Boston and Washington. As Canada native (Regina, Saskatchewan) Leslie Nielsen would have said, I am serious, and don't call me Shirley: Toronto traffic is awful.
Once In the City. Founded as York in 1793, it became the City of Toronto in 1834, the name coming from Taronto, a Native American name for the channel of water between Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching. There are 2.6 million people in the city, and 5.6 million in the metro area; in each case, making it larger than any in North America except New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- unless you count Mexico to be part of "North America" instead of "Central America," in which case add Mexico City to those that are larger.
Since Canada is in the British Commonwealth, there are certain subtle differences from the U.S. Every measurement will be in the metric system. Dates are written not as Month/Day/Year, as we do it, but as Day/Month/Year as in Britain and in Europe. So, for us, this game will be played on "December 8, 2015," but for them on "8 December 2015." We would write the date as 12/8/15, but they will do so as 8/12/15 -- the 8th of the 12th, not December 8th.
They also follow British custom in writing time: A game starting at 7:00 PM would be listed as 1900. Those of you who have served in the military, you will recognize this as, in the words of M*A*S*H's Lt. Col. Henry Blake, "all that hundred-hours stuff." And every word we would end with -or, they will end with -our; and some (but not all) words that we would end with -er, they end with -re, as in "Air Canada Centre."
Another thing to keep in mind: Don't ask anyone where the "bathroom" is -- ask for the "washroom." This difference was a particular pet peeve of mine the first time I arrived at the Toronto Coach Terminal, although it wasn't a problem in Montreal's Gare Centrale as I knew the signs would be in French.
Every measurement will be in the metric system: Temperatures will be in Celsius, not Fahrenheit; distances will be in "kilometres," not miles (including speed limits, so don't drive 100 thinking it's miles); and gas prices will be per "litre," not per gallon (so don't think you're getting cheap gas, because a liter is a little more than a quart, so multiply the price by 4, and you'll get roughly the price per gallon, and it will be more expensive than at home, not less).
When you arrive, I would recommend buying the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. The former newspaper is local, the latter is national, and both are liberal enough to suit my sensibilities (or, should I say, sensible enough to suit my liberalism). And The Star has a very good sports section, and should do a good job covering the Jays, although, being a hockey city in a hockey Province in a hockey country, you’ll see a lot of stuff about the Maple Leafs and nearby minor-league, collegiate and “junior” hockey teams no matter what time of year it is.
I would advise against buying the Toronto Sun, because it’s a right-wing sensationalist tabloid, and every bit the journalistically sloppy rag that the New York Post is. (It also has conservative “sister papers” called the Sun in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary, although the Vancouver Sun is not connected.) The National Post, while also politically conservative (and thus a national competitor for The Globe and Mail), is a broadsheet and thus conservative in the sense that it is calmer and more sensible with its journalism.
If you can get to Union Station after leaving your hotel, you may also be able to get out-of-town papers, including the New York ones, as well as Canadian papers such as the Montreal Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen.
Toronto's sales tax is 13 percent -- in 2010, this replaced the former Provincial sales tax of 5 percent and the federal GST (Goods & Services Tax) of 8 percent. In other words, the Conservative Party government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper wanted Canadians to think he'd killed the hated GST, when, in fact, Ontarians (who only make up 36 percent of the country) are paying pretty much the same taxes that they did before. See how stupid it is to vote for conservative candidates? It doesn't work in any country. (And now, Harper is out, and Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau is in, making him and his late father Pierre Trudeau the only father & son PMs in Canadian history.)
As if being Canada's national media, culture and finance capital wasn't enough, there's another reason why people outside it, and particularly inside the Province of Ontario, hate Toronto: It's the Provincial capital, its Legislative Building located at Queen's Park, just north of downtown. "Queen's Park" has become slang for the government, or for perceived government corruption.
The Ontario Legislative Building.
It looks more collegiate than political.
Union Station is at the intersection of Bay & Front Streets. Bay runs north-south, and divides Toronto's east and west sides, and the street numberings thereof; the lake serves as the "zero point" for streets running north and south, and thus there's no North and South on street names. Bay Street is also Canada's "Wall Street," the center of Toronto's financial district, and is not particularly well-liked by, well, anybody who isn't conservative in Canada. Unlike the New York Stock Exchange at Wall & Broad, however, the Toronto Stock Exchange is at King & York, not on Bay.
Toronto has a subway, Canada's oldest, opened in 1954 and known locally as "the Rocket." (I'll bet Montrealers hated that, since it was the nickname of their beloved hockey star Maurice Richard, well before future Blue Jay and Yankee Roger Clemens was even born.) Along with Philadelphia, it's one of the last 2 subway systems in North America that still uses tokens rather than a farecard system such as New York's MetroCard.
A Daypass is a much better value, at C$11.50, or US$8.86.
Toronto also runs a light rail system, calling the vehicles "streetcars" as they always have. The same fare system applies.
Going In. The Air Canada Centre (ACC), a.k.a. "The Hangar," is at 40 Bay Street. Opening in 1999, it has been the home of the Raptors and the Maple Leafs ever since. It is 1 of 10 current arenas to be home to both an NBA team and an NHL team.
The east entrance, with the CN Tower behind it
From the arena website:
The Galleria is a public walkway running east to west at the north end of Air Canada Centre. It is a covered, climate-controlled walkway that houses the Ticket Office and public entrances to CentreSports and Union Market. The east end Galleria entrance features a display of historical artifacts from the original Canada Post Delivery Building.
Maple Leaf Square is a vibrant global entertainment destination located just outside Gate 6 of Air Canada Centre. Connected to the city's transit system and underground PATH network, Maple Leaf Square is a touchstone linking visitors and residents to Toronto's vast cultural tapestry. Maple Leaf Square includes: Real Sports Bar & Grill, E11even Restaurant, Hôtel Le Germain and much more.
Both teams, and the arena, are owned by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. The company knows on which side its bread is buttered: The board named the company after Canada's most popular, and yet most underachieving, sports team. It is the successor company to Maple Leaf Gardens, Ltd., founded by Leafs boss Conn Smythe in 1931.
The company also owns the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League (named for the Ontario Hockey League's old Toronto Marlboros, a longtime Leafs farm team), Raptors 905 of the NBA Development League (based in adjoining Mississauga and named for their Area Code), and Major League Soccer's Toronto FC.
Having already hosted the NHL All-Star Game in its 1st season, 1999-2000, the ACC will host the NBA All-Star Game in 2016. The World Cup of Hockey will be played from September 17 to October 1, 2016, and the ACC will host all the games. Participating will be the national teams of Canada, the U.S., Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic, a team featuring the rest of Europe's nations under the name of Team Europe, and a Team North America comprised of U.S. and Canadian players under age 23. NHL players will be eligible.
Most likely, you will be entering from the north, through Union Station -- especially if you took the subway, to Union Station subway stop. Hopefully, if you drove into Toronto, you will have left your car in a hotel's parking deck. You could get a space nearby for as little as C$6.00 (US$4.62), but it's more likely to be at least C$10.00 (US$7.70). The rink is laid out east-to-west, and the Leafs attack twice toward the west end.
Food. According to the ACC website:
Forty concessions are featured on the two public concourses, including a food market adjacent to the Galleria that is open to the public on non-event days.
Concessions at Air Canada Centre offer interesting food choices under the banner of the "Union Market Food Co." The market theme presented at Air Canada Centre is inspired by Toronto's local St. Lawrence and Kensington Markets, and is evident throughout our selection of fresh, quality foods displayed at our Grill, Deli, Café, Trattoria and Food Co. concepts.
Local vendors such as Pizza Pizza, Mr. Sub, and Tim Hortons are featured in these locations to provide fans with premium fare and highlight the "crowd pleasing" brands Toronto has to offer. In addition to the normal arena fare of pizza, hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, pretzels and candies, we also offer a wide selection of hot carved sandwiches, sushi and kosher foods.
Crown Corner is a vibrant, modern bar with a view of the arena bowl as well as a western view of the Toronto skyline. Open to the ticketed public at all sports events and many other arena events, Crown Corner features a full concession service of premium menu items and provides a large socializing environment with seating before and during the game.
• Location: West side of Level 300; accessed via Level 300 concourse and Gate 5 elevators and escalators
Molson Brew House is located on the south side of the main concourse and has an attached brewery by Molson, under the careful eye of brew master Paul Swindle. The brewery provides the Rickard's Red beer served at Air Canada Centre. In addition, various grilled and prepared foods from The Carvery complement the energized atmosphere under the copper hooded open kitchen.
• Location: South side of Level 100 concourse
Team History Displays. Unlike the Raptors, who don't have much of a history, the Leafs have nothing but history, and it is getting more and more ancient all the time. Remember how we Devils fans ridiculed Ranger fans for not winning the Stanley Cup for 54 years? Well, unless the Leafs win a Stanley Cup in the 2020-21 season or before, they'll top that.
The Leafs only hang banners for their 13 Stanley Cups, not for Conference Championships (they don't have any -- Finals berths that ended in defeat prior to 1982 don't count), not for Division Championships that fell short of Cup wins (1933, 1934, 1935, 1938 and... 2000; "Playoff Championships" in the old Norris Division don't count, either).
And their last Cup was won on May 2, 1967, and the surviving CBS telecast is in black and white. I've often compared the Leafs to an underachieving soccer team in London: They're the Tottenham Hotspur of Canada: They're a club that wears blue and white in the biggest city in the country, and the national media loves them, but they're well behind a team in red (although, unlike "Spurs" with fellow North Londoners Arsenal, the Leafs don't have to share a province, let alone a city or a neighborhood, with the Canadiens), and they haven't won their League since the 1960s. As Arsenal fans taunt Spurs fans, "You won the League in black & white!"
Banners for the Leafs' 6 most recent Stanley Cups.
Still, only 3 other NHL teams have won at least 6 Cups.
Although they've only used the Maple Leafs name, which they took from a minor-league baseball team that played its last season in 1968, since 1927, and were previously called the Toronto Arenas and the Toronto St. Patricks, the Leafs have been playing longer in the same city than all but 11 teams in all of North American major league sports. They've won more World Championships than all but 4 teams. And only 2 teams belong to both categories: The Yankees and the Canadiens.
Yet, for all their history, going back nearly a century, until this very season, the Leafs were not loaded with retired uniform numbers. They had a very slim parameter for retiring numbers: It was only for players "who have made a significant contribution to the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club and have experienced a career-ending incident while a member of the Maple Leaf team."
Until this season, they decided that only 2 players meet this criteria. On December 12, 1933, right wing Irvine Wallace "Ace" Bailey, a member of their 1932 Stanley Cup winners, suffered a head injury after being knocked to the ice by Eddie Shore of the Boston Bruins. Three times, it was reported by newspapers that he had died. He recovered, and managed to work in hockey until 1984 and live until 1992, but his playing career was over.
The Leafs held a benefit game for him on February 12, 1934, which is recognized as the 1st NHL All-Star Game, and they announced that no player would ever again wear his Number 6. One exception was made: In 1968, Bailey himself asked that Ron Ellis be given the number, which he wore for the rest of his career.
The Leafs players, who beat the rest of the NHL 7-3, were: Goaltender George Hainsworth (better known from the Montreal Canadiens); defensemen Red Horner, Alex Levinsky, Hap Day and King Clancy; left wings Baldy Cotton, Busher Jackson, Hec Kilrea and Buzz Boll; centers Joe Primeau and Bill Thoms; and right wings Charlie Conacher, Ken Doraty and Charlie Sands. (Jackson, Primeau and Conacher were known as the Kid Line.)
On August 26, 1951, just 4 months after his overtime goal against the Montreal Canadiens won Game 5 and the Stanley Cup -- making him hockey's "Bobby Thomson" 38 days before Thomson etched his name into baseball history -- defenseman Bill Barilko was killed in a plane crash on a hunting trip. He was only 24, but had already played on 4 Cup winners. His Number 5 was packed away, and no Leaf has worn it since.
At some point, probably after Bailey's death on April 7, 1992 at age 88, someone discovered that there was never a retirement ceremony for his number or for Barilko's. So, on October 17, 1992, the night of the Leafs' 1st home game of the next season, banners with those numbers were raised to the rafters at Maple Leaf Gardens. In 2000, the brand-new Air Canada Centre hosted the All-Star Game, and those banners, and the newly-announced league-wide retirement for Number 99 of Wayne Gretzky, were raised.
In 1993, the Leafs announced their Honoured Number program: They would raise banners to the rafters featuring pictures of team legends, but not retire the numbers, as sort of a team hall of fame. But on opening night of this season, October 15, 2016, they decided to drop the pretense, and retire the Honoured Numbers.
The honorees (or, since this is the British Commonwealth, "honourees"), along with the 2 previously mentioned, 18 of them with 12 numbers, are:
* 1, goaltenders Walter "Turk" Broda, 1937-52; and Johnny Bower, 1959-70.
* 4, defenseman Clarence "Hap" Day, 1924-37; and center Leonard "Red" Kelly, 1961-67.
* 5, defenseman Bill Barilko, 1945-51.
* 6, right wing Irvine "Ace" Bailey, 1926-33.
* 7, defenseman Francis "King Clancy, 1931-37; and Tim Horton, 1950-70.
* 9, right wing Charlie Concacher, 1930-38; and Ted "Teeder" Kennedy, 1943-57.
* 10, center Syl Apps, 1937-48; and right wing George Armstrong, 1950-71.
* 13, center Mats Sundin, 1994-2008.
* 17, left wing Wendel Clark, 1985-2000.
* 21, defenseman Borje Salming, 1973-89.
* 27, left wing Frank Mahovlich, 1957-68; and center Darryl Sittler, 1970-82.
* 93, center Doug Gilmour, 1991-2003.
Notice the different color to Bailey's banner,
to show that it was then retired, not merely "honoured."
In contrast, they have had 62 players make the Hockey Hall of Fame, and 37 of them could legitimately be called Leafs Hall-of-Famers:
* From the 1918 and 1922 Cup winners: Samuel "Rusty" Crawford, Harry Cameron, Reg Noble and Cecil "Babe" Dye. Jack Bickell began serving as the team's financier and part-owner during this period, and was elected to the Hall as a "Builder."
* From the 1932 Cup winners: Day, Bailey, Clancy, Conacher, George "Red" Horner, Joe Primeau and Harvey "Busher" Jackson. This is the 1st great team built by head coach, general manager and part-owner Conn Smythe, with assistance from Frank Selke and Smythe's successor as head coach, Dick Irvin Sr. Also Builders Bickell and broadcaster Foster Hewitt.
* From the Cup winners of the 1940s (at least one of 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951): Broda, Kennedy, Apps, Walter "Babe" Pratt, Gordie Drillon, Harry Watson, Max Bentley and Fern Flaman. Also Builders Bickell, Smythe, Selke, Irvin and Hewitt. Bud Poile played for the Leafs at this time, but was elected to the Hall as a Builder for what he did with other teams. Howie Meeker played for the Leafs at this time, but was elected as a Broadcaster.
* From the 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967 Cup winners: Bower, Kelly, Horton, Armstrong, Mahovlich, Allan Stanley, Bert Olmstead, Bob Pulford, Dave Keon, Dick Duff, Marcel Pronovost and Terry Sawchuk.
Also Builders Smythe, Hewitt, head coach and general manager George "Punch" Imlach, and executive Harold Ballard, elected despite nearly destroying 2 great Canadian sports institutions, the Leafs and the other team he owned, the CFL's Toronto Argonauts. Al Arbour played for the Leafs in this period, and was a very good player, but was elected as a Builder for coaching the Islanders to their 4 straight Stanley Cups.
* From the 1970s: Norm Ullman. Also Builder Ballard.
* From the 1978 team that reached the Stanley Cup Semifinals: Sittler, Salming and Lanny McDonald. Also Builders Ballard, general manager Jim Gregory and head coach Roger Neilson, although Neilson is in more for the coaching he did elsewhere.
* From the 1993 and 1994 teams that reached the Eastern Conference Finals: Gilmour. Also general manager Cliff Fletcher, although he's in more for building the Calgary Flames into a Stanley Cup winner; and head coach Pat Burns, although he's in more for coaching the Devils to a Stanley Cup.
* From the 1999 team that reached the Conference Finals: Sundin. (Gilmour and Clark were traded away, and later reacquired.) Head coach and general manager Pat Quinn, who had also played for the Leafs, was just posthumously elected as a Builder, although his most successful tenure as such was with the Vancouver Canucks.
So, only 6 players in the last 50 years. That shows you how things have gone for the Leafs. Hall of Fame Devils GM Lou Lamoriello is now the Leafs' GM.
Henderson, Salming, Quinn and Sundin have been elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame. Sawchuk, Pulford, Poile, and former general manager Brian Burke have been awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for service to hockey in America.
In 2014, the Leafs dedicated Legends Row, a series of statues outside the Air Canada Centre. They now include Bower, Kennedy, Apps, Armstrong, Sundin, Salming and Sittler.
Dye, Clancy, Conacher, Primeau, Jackson, Pratt, Apps, Broda, Kennedy, Bentley, Horton, Bower, Sawchuk, Kelly, Mahovlich, Keon, Sittler, Salming and 1930s goalie Lorne Chabot (not a member of the Hall of Fame) were named to The Hockey News' 100 Greatest Players in 1998. Mahovlich also played for the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association, and was named to the WHA All-Time Team.
Clancy, Conacher, Apps, Broda, Kennedy, Bentley, Horton, Kelly, Bower, Mahovlich, Keon, Sawchuk, Sittler, Salming and Sundin were named to the NHL's 100th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players in January.
Horner, Conacher and Jackson also played for the NHL All-Stars in the Howie Morenz Memorial Game in Montreal in 1937. Apps and Gordie Drillon played for the NHL All-Stars in the Babe Siebert Memorial Game in Montreal in 1939.
As defending Champions, the Leafs hosted the 1st official NHL All-Star Game at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1947, losing 4-3 to a team of NHL All-Stars. Their lineup consisted of: Goaltender Broda; defensemen Barilko, Bob Goldham, Wally Stanowski, Vic Lynn, Gus Mortson and Jimmy Thomson; left wings Harry Watson, Gaye Stewart and Joe Klukay; centers Apps, Kennedy, Bud Poile and Fleming Mackell; and right wings Don Metz, Bill Ezinicki and Howie Meeker, who would later be elected to the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster.
Ron Ellis and Paul Henderson, who ended up scoring the winning goal, played for Canada in the 1972 Summit Series with the Soviet Union. So did Frank Mahovlich, although he was no longer with the Leafs at the time. They are thus members of Canada's Walk of Fame. So is Bower -- but not such Leaf legends as Smythe, Conacher, Apps, Kennedy, Armstrong, or even Horton, now better known for baking and brewing and scoring and defending. No member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team went on to play for the Leafs.
The Memorial Cup, the championship of Canadian junior hockey, has been won by the following Ontario-based teams:
* Toronto: University of Toronto Schools, 1919; Toronto Canoe Club, 1920; Toronto Marlboros (now Toronto Marlies), a Leafs farm team, 1929, 1955, 1956, 1964, 1967, 1973 and 1975; Toronto St. Michael's Majors (a.k.a. St. Mike's), 1934, 1945, 1947 and 1961; Newmarket Redmen, 1933; West Toronto Nationals, 1936; Oshawa Generals, 1939, 1940, 1944, 1990 and 2015 (but not in 1963, '64, '65 or '66, when they had Bobby Orr); Barrie Flyers, 1951 and 1953; Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters, 1952; and Peterborough Petes, 1979.
* Hamilton: Hamilton Red Wings, 1962; Hamilton Fincups, 1976; Kitchener Rangers, 1982 and 2003; Guelph Platers, 1986; and London Knights, 2005 and 2016.
* Niagara Falls: St. Catharines Teepees, 1954 and 1960; and Niagara Falls Flyers, 1965 and 1968.
* Windsor, across the Detroit River from Detroit: Windsor Spitfires, 2009 and 2010.
* Owen Sound: Owen Sound Greys, 1924 and 1927; and Elmwood Millionaires, 1931.
* Ottawa: Ottawa-Hull Junior Canadiens, 1958; Cornwall Royals, 1972, 1980 and 1981; and Ottawa 67's, 1984 and 1999.
* Sudbury: Sudbury Cub Wolves, 1932.
* Thunder Bay: Fort William Great War Vets, 1922; and Port Arthur West End Bruins, 1948.
* Sault Ste. Marie: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 1993.
Stuff. There is a team store, or rather a teams store, at ACC. From the arena website:
Located at Gate 1, Air Canada Centre, Real Sports Apparel is 3,000 square-feet of the most authentic sports retail experience outside of the locker room. Located just steps from the ice and from the court, Real Sports Apparel brings fans closer to the action in a 360-degree mecca to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC and Toronto Marlies. Specializing in on-site jersey personalization, exclusive merchandise collections and game-worn gear, Real Sports Apparel is as a must-stop shop for Toronto's most passionate fans.
Not surprising, given their long and (non-recent) achievement-laden history, and their place in the national consciousness, the Leafs are very well represented in print and on video. Stephen J. Harper (not the recently-defeated Prime Minister) wrote A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs & the Rise of Professional Hockey, about the 1918 and 1922 Cup winners.
Who is the defining figure in Leafs history? From the 1920s until the 1950s, it was Constantine Falkland Cary Smythe. An officer in the Canadian Army in both World Wars, he built Maple Leaf Gardens at the depth of the Great Depression, and built what was (at the time) the greatest dynasty in hockey history. He was cheap as hell to his players, and even removed a large portrait of Canada's head of State, Queen Elizabeth II, from one end of the Gardens, to install a few thousand more seats. "She doesn't pay admission, does she?" On the other hand, he was a great donor to children's charities and, after his wife's death in 1965, to cancer fundraisers. He didn't found the NHL like George Halas essentially founded the NFL, but he was, pretty much, the Halas of hockey. Kelly McParland wrote The Lives of Conn Smythe: From the Battlefield to Maple Leaf Gardens: A Hockey Icon's Story.
With the Leafs' Cup winners of the 1960s being the touchstone for Canada's Anglophone Baby Boomers, lots of books have been written about them, including Kevin Shea and Paul Patskou's Toronto Maple Leafs: Diary of a Dynasty, 1957-1967.
Smythe made the mistake of selling the team not to his son Stafford, but to a group that Stafford led, which included Harold Ballard. Ballard ended up ruining the team after the last Cup in 1967. (Unlike that other Connie of a team stuck in the past, Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics, who didn't trust his sons enough, Connie Smythe trusted his son too much.)
Ballard was often compared to George Steinbrenner, with his micromanaging and too-quick willingness to fire everyone from coaches to low-level employees. The difference? When Ballard was taken out of the way in 1990 (by death, not suspension), the franchise's 1990s recovery was far from complete; he was not willing to spend whatever it took to win; he overlooked far worse things (the kind of things Vincent Priore has only alleged in his book Abused by the Yankees, and can't prove), and, when he was indicted, he was unwilling to cut a deal, and actually did go to prison. And his image has never been rehabilitated. The Ballard era, in which he was sole owner from 1971 until his death in 1990, and still casting a shadow over them, inspired the title of Peter Robinson's 2012 book Hope and Heartbreak in Toronto: Life as a Maple Leafs Fan.
In 2001, on the 75th Anniversary of the Maple Leafs name (1927-28 to 2001-02), a DVD was released, titled 75, Forever: The Tradition of the Toronto Maple Leafs. As the team hasn't done much since, this is as close as you'll come to a definitive video history.
Toronto Maple Leafs: 10 Great Leafs and Their Most Memorable Games was released in 2009, and includes: Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals, in which Bobby Baun played on a broken ankle and scored the overtime winner to beat the Detroit Red Wings (and played in Game 7, too); the 1967 Game 6 Cup-clincher against Montreal; Game 7 of the Quarterfinals in 1978, won by Lanny McDonald against the Islanders in overtime; Ken Wregget's shutout of the St. Louis Blues to advance in 1987, although calling Wregget a "Great Leaf" is a bit of a stretch, he's usually thought of as a Pittsburgh Penguin from their 1991 and '92 Cups; Nikolai Borschevsky's Game 7 overtime winner eliminating the Wings in 1993, although he's hardly a "great" and probably isn't remembered for anything else; Gilmour's double-overtime winner eliminating the Blues in 1993; Clark's 2-goal performance in a Game 7 against the San Jose Sharks in 1994; an overtime winner by Sundin to eliminate the Ottawa Senators in 2001; Gary Roberts' triple-overtime winner against the Ottawa Senators in Game 2 in 2002; and Roberts' 2-goal performance in Game 6 of that same series, setting up a victorious Game 7. Oddly, Sittler's 10-point game against the Boston Bruins in 1976 is not included, possibly because it was a regular-season game, and these others are all Playoff games.
During the Game. A November 19, 2014 article on The Hockey News' website ranked the NHL teams' fan bases. Somebody had to be listed 1st, and they named the Maple Leafs' fans: "No fans show up as faithfully and pay so much money to watch their team lose." Of course, THN is based in Toronto, so there's some bias there.
You do not need to fear wearing your Devils gear to the Air Canada Centre. Although quite a few U.S.-based crime dramas (and other shows, and films, particularly those that supposedly take place in Chicago) have been filmed in and around Toronto, it’s not a particularly crime-ridden city. Just don't remind anyone that the Leafs haven't won the Cup, or even been to the Finals since the Sixties.
Since you're in Canada, there will be two National Anthems sung. "The Star-Spangled Banner" will probably be sung by about half of the few dozen Devils fans who show up, but "O Canada" will be sung by the home fans with considerable gusto. The Leafs hold auditions for Anthem singers, rather than having a regular singer.
The Leafs' mascot is a polar bar, Carlton the Bear. He wears Number 60, and both his name and his number refer to Maple Leaf Gardens, which is at 60 Carlton Street.
This bear is hugging a redhead, because he's hated blondes
ever since he caught one eating his Tim Hortons porridge.
The Leafs' theme song is "Blue & White" by Jay-Dee. (Not to be confused with Jay-Z.) Their goal song is by, ironically, a band named the American Authors: "Best Day of My Life." The fans' main chant is the rather ordinary "Go, Leafs, go!"
After the Game. Toronto is an international city, every bit as much as New York is, and some of these people may have cut their teeth as sports fans in European soccer. But we're not talking about hooligans here. Canadians are stereotypically polite, and you're not rooting for Montreal or Ottawa. Almost certainly, they will leave you alone.
To the south, if you walk under the Gardiner Expressway, you'll find a pub named The Fox at 35 Bay Street. The Miller Tavern is at 31 Bay Street. And Harbour Sixty Steakhouse is at 60 Harbour Street. To the west, Real Sports Bar & Grill is at 15 York Street, across Bremner Blvd. from the ACC. Hoops Sports Bar & Grill is at 125 Bremner Blvd., 2 blocks west of the ACC.
I would also advise avoiding Jack Astor’s, a smart-alecky-named chain of Canadian restaurants that includes one at 144 Front Street West, a block west of Union Station. I ate there the last time I was in Toronto, and the food and service would be mediocre at half the price. They have only one location in the U.S. -- not surprisingly, in nearby Buffalo, at the Walden Galleria east of downtown.
Next-door to Jack Astor's is the Loose Moose Tap & Grill, at 146 Front Street West. There, as they say, you'll "eat like a king then party like a rock star!" You'll be dining like a typical Torontonian, rather than with guys likely to jump into the Monty Python "Lumberjack Song." (If you've never seen that sketch, let me put it this way: Don't ask, and I won't tell.) And the Lone Star Texas Grill, a block away at 200 Front Street West, is jointly owned by several former CFL players, and is a fair takeoff on the U.S. chain Lone Star Steakhouse.
Actually, your best bet may be, as Vancouver native Cobie Smulders of the TV series How I Met Your Mother would put it, "the most Canadian place there is": Tim Hortons. (Note that there is no apostrophe: It's "Hortons," not "Horton's," because Quebec's ridiculous protect-the-French-language law prohibits apostrophes and the company wanted to keep the same national identity throughout the Provinces.) They have a 62 percent share of the Canadian coffee market (Starbucks has just 7 percent) and 76 percent of the Canadian baked goods market. They also sell sandwiches, soup, chili, and even (some of you will perk up faster than if you’d drunk their coffee) New York-style cheesecake. It's fast food, but good food. I rate them behind Dunkin Donuts, but ahead of Starbucks.
Tim Horton, a defenceman (that's how they spell it up there) for the Maple Leafs, and businessman Ron Joyce started the doughnut/coffee shop chain in 1964, while in the middle of the Maple Leafs' 1960s dynasty. He played a couple of years for the Rangers, then went to the Buffalo Sabres and opened a few outlets in the Buffalo area. He was still playing at age 44, and the only thing that stopped him was death. Specifically, a 100-MPH, not-wearing-a-seat-belt crash on the Queen Elizabeth Way over Twelve Mile Creek in St. Catharines, Ontario. (In other words, if you're driving or taking the bus from New York to Toronto, you'll pass the location.)
Joyce, whose son Ron Jr. married Horton's daughter Jeri-Lyn, joined with Dave Thomas of Wendy's and merged the two companies in 1995, becoming its largest shareholder, with even more shares than Thomas. Although the companies have since split again, it was mutually beneficial, as Wendy's gained in Canada and Timmy's poked their heads in the U.S. door.
There are now over 3,000 Tim Hortons locations in Canada, including inside the Air Canada Centre, one at Toronto's Union Station, and several on Canadian Forces Bases around the world. There's now over 500 in the U.S., and they’re heavily expanding in New York, including 3 in the Penn Station complex alone (despite Horton himself only briefly having played for the Rangers upstairs at the "new" Madison Square Garden). They are also partnered with Cold Stone Creamery, with an outlet on 42nd Street, a 2-minute walk from Port Authority. These Hosers know what they're doing.
The only reference I can find to a bar or restaurant in Toronto where New Yorkers are known to gather, and I'm not very sure of this, is Sports Centre Cafe, at 49 St. Clair Avenue W., just off Yonge Street. It's got multiple screens, it shows NFL games, and I've heard that Giants fans like to watch games there. St. Clair station on the subway.
If your visit to Toronto is during the European soccer season, as we currently are, and you want to see your favorite club play, the city's original soccer pub, the Duke of Gloucester, is at 649 Yonge Street, at St. Mary Street. Line 1 to either Wellesley or Bloor-Yonge.
Sidelights. Being the largest and most influential city in Canada, Toronto is loaded with tourist traps. This has been spoofed in "The Toronto Song," a bit by the Edmonton-based comedy trio Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie. (It's not obvious that 3DTB are from Edmonton until the end of the song, by which point they've said everything in Ontario sucks, as do all the other Provinces, except "Alberta doesn't suck – but Calgary does.")
They're not far off. Toronto is much cleaner than most American cities: U.S. film crews, trying to save money by filming there, have had to throw garbage onto the streets so it would look more like New York, Boston, Chicago or Los Angeles, and then they have to do it again between takes, because the street-sweepers clean it up that quickly. But the city does have slums, a serious homeless problem, ridiculous rents, never-ending lakefront high-rise construction (mirroring recent New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s similar projects), and their share of metalheads, punks, Goths and chavs.
I wouldn't call now-long-parted Mayor David Miller a dork, as 3DTB did, although his predecessor, Mel Lastman, was often a Canadian version of Rudy Giuliani. With better hair. You may have heard about recent Mayor Rob Ford: He was a crook, an alcoholic and a crackhead, who was just barely able, through legal action, to keep his office. Alas, cancer prevented him from running for re-election, and he recently died. The current Mayor is John Tory, and his conservatism makes him aptly-named.
Torontonians can't quite decide whether they want to be Canada’s New York (national media, culture and finance capital, home of the CBC and CTV, and Bay Street is their "Wall Street"), Canada's Chicago (a gritty blue-collar "drinking town with a sports problem"), or Canada’s L.A. (movie-filming center.) Actually, Montreal is Canada's New York (international city, city of islands, great food city, great neighborhood city), Hamilton its Chicago, and Vancouver its L.A.
Toronto is... Toronto is something else. Scientists have yet to figure out what. But check out these locations:
* Hockey Hall of Fame. If you go to Toronto and you don't go to the Hockey Hall of Fame, they should deport you from Canada and never let you back in. This place is great, and the actual Stanley Cup is there. Well, 2 of them are, the original bowl that was so damaged that they replaced it in 1970, plus some of the bands with old-time winners on it, and a display copy. The one that gets awarded every year is also stored there in preparation for its annual awarding, then gets to go wherever the winning team' players want to take it for almost a year.
You'll also see why Canadians call hockey jerseys "sweaters": They used to be sweaters, as you'll see in the display cases. You'll also see why they're not sweaters anymore: Holes where they were eaten by moths. Hockey eventually got that right.
They also got the location for their Hall of Fame right: While it's not clear where hockey was invented, and the NHL was founded in Montreal, they put their Hall of Fame in an easily accessible city, unlike baseball (hard-to-reach Cooperstown, New York is not where baseball was invented), basketball (Springfield, Massachusetts is where it was invented, but it's a depressing town), and pro football (Canton, Ohio is where the NFL was founded, but it's so drab and bleak it makes Springfield look like Disney World… Sorry, Thurman).
30 Yonge Street, blocked by Yonge, Front, Bay and Wellington. Union Station stop on the TTC subway.
* Rogers Centre. Opening in 1989 as the SkyDome and as the 1st retractable-roof stadium in the world, the Blue Jays and the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts have played here ever since.
The Jays won back-to-back World Series while playing here in 1992 and 1993, while the Argos have won 5 Grey Cups since moving in: 1991, 1996, 1997, 2004 and 2012. The last was won at Rogers Centre. (Like its American counterpart, the Super Bowl, the Grey Cup Final is held at a preselected site, but with only 9 teams in the CFL, it has a far lesser chance of turning out to be a neutral site than the Super Bowl does.) It hosted the Vanier Cup, the National Championship of Canadian college football, from 1989 to 2003, and again in 2007 and 2012.
The official address is 1 Blue Jays Way, and it's bordered by Front Street and the railroad on the north, a walkway separating it from the CN Tower complex on the east, Bremner Blvd. and the Gardiner Expressway on the south, and a walkway leading into Blue Jays Way leading into Peter Street on the west. Public transportation access isn't very good, so your best bet is to walk in from Union Station, nearly a mile away.
* Exhibition Place. The Canadian National Exhibition is kind of a nationwide "State Fair." It was on the grounds, off Princes Boulevard, that Exhibition Stadium, or the Big X, stood from 1948 to 1999. It was home to the Blue Jays from 1977 to 1989 and the Argonauts from 1959 to 1988. It hosted only one MLB postseason series, the 1985 ALCS, which the Jays lost to the Kansas City Royals.
It hosted 12 Grey Cups (Canadian Super Bowls), although only one featured the Argos, and that was the 1982 game, won by the Edmonton Eskimos in a freezing rain, with fans chanting, "We want a dome!" The SkyDome/Rogers Centre project soon began, and Exhibition Stadium never hosted another Grey Cup. Rogers Centre has now hosted 4, including the 100th, in November 2012, which the Argos won over the Calgary Stampeders. Exhibition Stadium hosted the Vanier Cup from 1973 to 1975.
BMO Field (pronounced "BEE-moh"), home of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame and Major League Soccer's rather unimaginatively-named Toronto FC, was built on the site of Exhibition Stadium. The parking lot immediately south of BMO Field has plaques embedded in the pavement where home plate and the other three bases were once located at "The Bix X."
BMO hosted the 2010 MLS Cup Final, in which the Colorado Rapids beat FC Dallas. It hosted the 2016 Grey Cup, in which the Ottawa Redblacks beat the Calgary Stampeders.
This past New Year's Day, in connection with the 100th Anniversary of both the League and the Maple Leafs, it hosted the NHL Centennial Classic, an outdoor game. Temporary seating brought the crowd to a house record 40,148. The Leafs blew a 4-1 lead with 8 minutes to go in regulation, as the Detroit Red Wings came to tie, but the Leafs won 5-4 (shades of the 1945 Stanley Cup Finals between the teams), on an overtime goal by Auston Matthews -- a 19-year-old from the San Francisco Bay Area, who nonetheless wrote his name into Toronto's hockey history.
Exhibition stop on the Lakeshore West line of GO, Toronto’s commuter-rail service out of Union Station.
* Varsity Stadium and Varsity Arena. The home of the athletic complex of the University of Toronto, it includes the 3rd Varsity Stadium on the site, replacing one that stood from 1911 to 2002 and the one before that from 1898 to 1911. It only seats 5,000, but its predecessor could hold 21,739, and hosted more Grey Cups than any other facility, 29, from 1911 to 1957.
The Varsity Blues have won the Yates Cup, emblematic of supremacy in Ontario college football, 25 times from 1898 to 1993; the Vanier Cup, Canada's National Championship, in 1965 and 1993; and, as with their hockey team, they were once much bigger, or perhaps the competition was much smaller, they won the 1st 3 Grey Cups, in 1909, 1910 and 1911, and a 4th in 1920.
The current Varsity Stadium, with its blue running track,
and Varsity Arena behind the press box
Varsity Stadium was home to the various Toronto teams in the North American Soccer League, and was the location of the one and only visit to Canada thus far by North London soccer giants Arsenal, a 1-0 over a team called Toronto Select on May 23, 1973.
It hosted the 1969 Rock 'n Roll Revival Concert, as shown in the film Sweet Toronto, featuring John Lennon and his Plastic Ono Band (of course, with Yoko Ono, but also with Eric Clapton), the Doors, Alice Cooper, and founding fathers of rock Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent. This was the concert where a live chicken was thrown at Cooper from the seats, and he threw it back, thinking it could fly, but it died, thus beginning his legend.
Next-door is Varsity Arena, built in 1926 and seating 4,116 people. The Varsity Blues have won 10 National Championships in hockey: 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1976, 1977 and 1984. They used to be much bigger, including serving as the Canadian team at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, winning the Gold Medal. The Arena was also the home of the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association in the 1973-74 season.
Varsity Arena interior
Museum stop on the Yonge-University Line, or St. George stop on the Yonge-University or Bloor-Danforth Lines.
* Rosedale Park. This is where the first Grey Cup game was held, on December 4, 1909. The University of Toronto defeated the Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club, 26-6. There’s now a soccer field on the site of the original stadium.
Scholfield and Highland Avenues. Unfortunately, the closest subway stop is Summerhill, on the Yonge-University Line, and you’ll have to walk a roundabout path to get there. If you really want to see it, you may want to take a cab. In fact, if your time is limited, and you have to cross some of these off your list, I'd say cross this one off first.
* Maple Leaf Gardens. Home of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs from 1931 to 1999, this was arguably the most famous building in Canada. The Leafs won 11 Stanley Cups while playing here: 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967 – and they haven’t been back to the Finals since.
The Gardens (always plural, never “The Garden” like in New York and Boston) also hosted the 1st NHL All-Star Game, a benefit for injured Leafs star Ace Bailey in 1934, one of the Canada-Soviet “Summit Series” games in 1972, and the 1st Canada Cup in 1976, where Leafs star Darryl Sittler stole the show.
Note the Stanley Cup banners down the middle in blue,
and the Honoured Number banners around the scoreboard in white.
On November 1, 1946, the first NBA game was held at the Gardens, with the Knicks winning 68-66 over the Toronto Huskies, who folded after that first season of 1946-47. It hosted the Beatles on all 3 of their North American tours (1964, '65 and '66), and Elvis Presley in 1957 – oddly, in his early period, not in his Vegas-spectacle era.
But somebody who doesn't give a damn about history, only money, decided the Gardens was obsolete, and the Leafs moved into the Air Canada Centre in 1999. A plan to turn the arena into a shopping mall and movie multiplex, as was done with the Montreal Forum, was dropped because of the way the building was built: Unlike the Forum, if the Gardens' upper deck of seats is removed, the walls will collapse.
Fortunately, it has been renovated, and is now the Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens, part of the athletic complex of Ryerson University, including its hockey team, with its seating capacity reduced to 2,796 seats, down from its classic capacity which ranged from 12,473 in the beginning to 15,726 at the end, with a peak of 16,316 in the 1970s.
A recent interior photo, set up for curling
The Ryerson Rams have never won a significant hockey title. They had a football program, but it was canceled in 1964, and has never been revived.
So, while the old Madison Square Garden, the old Boston Garden, Chicago Stadium, and the Olympia are gone, and the Montreal Forum has been converted into a mall, one of the "Original Six" arenas is still standing and being used for hockey. It also has a Loblaws supermarket.
60 Carlton Street, at Church Street. College stop, on the Yonge-University Line.
* Site of Mutual Street Arena. This arena stood at this location from 1912 until 1989, when condos were built there, and was the home of the Toronto Blueshirts, National Hockey Association Champions and Stanley Cup winners 1914, and the Maple Leafs from 1917 to 1931.
They were known as the Toronto Arenas when they won the 1st NHL Championship and their 1st Stanley Cup in 1918, and the Toronto St. Patricks when the won the Cup in 1922. Conn Smythe renamed them the Maple Leafs, after the city’s minor-league baseball team, when he bought them in 1927.
Bounded by Mutual, Shuter, Dundas and Dalhousie Streets. Queen or Dundas stops on the Yonge-University Line.
* Hanlan's Point. This was the home of Toronto baseball teams from 1897 to 1925, and was the site of Babe Ruth's 1st professional game, on April 22, 1914, for the Providence Grays, then affiliated with the Red Sox, much as their modern counterparts the Pawtucket Red Sox are. The Grays played the baseball version of the Maple Leafs, and the Babe pitched a one-hitter and hit a home run in a 9-0 Providence win.
Unfortunately, Hanlan's Point is on one of the Toronto Islands, in Lake Ontario off downtown. The stadium is long gone, and the location is only reachable by Ferry.
* Site of Maple Leaf Stadium, at Home to the baseball Maple Leafs from 1926 to 1967, it was demolished a year later, with apartments built on the site. The Leafs won 5 International League Pennants here, and it was the 1st sports team owned by Jack Kent Cooke, who would later own the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers, the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats and, most notably, the NFL's Washington Redskins.
Stadium Road (formerly an extension of Bathurst Street) and Queens Quay West (that's pronounced "Queen's Key"). Fleet St at Bathurst St station on the city's streetcar system.
The Raptors' D-League team, named Raptors 905 for the Area Code of Toronto's suburbs, plays at the Hershey Centre. 5500 Rose Cherry Place (named for the late wife of hockey coach-turned-broadcaster Don Cherry), in Mississauga, 16 miles west of downtown. It takes 3 buses to get there. The Orangeville A's of the National Basketball League of Canada play at the Orangeville Athlete Institute. 207321 Ontario Provincial Route 9, in Mono, about 50 miles northwest of downtown.
Maple Leafs founder Conn Smythe is buried at Park Lawn Cemetery. 2845 Bloor Street W., about 7 1/2 miles west of downtown. Bloor-Yonge Station, then transfer to Line 2 to Royal York Station. Charlie Conacher is at Mount Pleasant Cemetery. 375 Mount Pleasant Road, about 4 miles north of downtown. King Clancy is at Mount Hope Catholic Cemetery. 305 Erskine Avenue, about 5 1/2 miles north of downtown. Both Mount Pleasant and Mount Hope can be reached by taking the subway to St. Clair Station, then Bus 74.
York University in North York, the Lions, play football at Alumni Field at York Stadium, and hockey at Canlan Ice Sports. Neither team has won a significant title. 989 Murray Ross Parkway in North York, 13 miles northwest of downtown. Line 1 to Downsview, then Bus 106 to Pond Road & Arboretum Lane.
* Fort York, Bathurst Street and Front Street West. You should see at least one place that doesn't have anything to do with sports, and with the bicentennial of the War of 1812 having recently concluded, this place has become more interesting. In that war, the 2nd and last time the U.S. seriously tried to take Canada away from the British Empire, the U.S. Army, led by Zebulon Pike (for whom the Colorado Peak was named), burned the fort and what was then the city of York, now Toronto, on April 27, 1813. However, Pike was killed in the battle. In revenge, the British burned Washington, D.C.
Essentially, Fort York is Canada’s Alamo. But not their Gettysburg: That would be Lundy’s Lane, in Niagara Falls, and I recommend that you make time for that as well.
* Royal Ontario Museum and Gardiner Museum. “The ROM” is at the northern edge of Queen’s Park, which includes the Ontario provincial Parliament complex and the University of Toronto, and is, essentially, next-door to Varsity Stadium. It is Canada’s answer to New York’s Museum of Natural History. 100 Queens Park at Bloor Street West.
The Gardiner Museum, housing the Gardiner family's large collection of ceramic art, is across Queen's Park street. Museum stop on the Yonge-University Line, or St. George stop on the Yonge-University or Bloor-Danforth Lines.
* Canada's Walk of Fame. This consists of stars embedded in sidewalks, similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, except the honorees – 163, including 149 individuals and 14 duos or groups, since the most recent induction in 2014 – are from all walks of life. It is centered on the sidewalk in front of Roy Thomson Hall. 60 Simcoe Street at King Street. St. Andrew station.
* CN Tower, 301 Front Street West at John Street. It rises 1,815 feet above the ground, but with only its central elevator shaft and its 1,136-foot-high observation deck habitable, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) ruled that it was never a candidate for the title of "the world's tallest building." From 1975 until Burj Khalifa opened in Dubai in 2007, it was officially listed as "the world's tallest freestanding structure." The CN stood for Canadian National railways, but with their bankruptcy and takeover by VIA Rail, the CN now stands for Canada's National Tower.
Like New York's Empire State Building, at night it is lit in colors (or "colours") for special occasions, with its usual colors being the national colors, red and white. Admission is C$35.00 -- US$26.95, making it pretty expensive, but still cheaper than the Empire State Building, $32.00. It's next-door to the Rogers Centre and accessible via a skywalk from Union Station.
Note that the Rogers Centre is still lit in blue,
the color of both the Jays and the Argos.
Toronto has quite a few very tall actual "buildings." First Canadian Place has been the nation's tallest building since it opened in 1976, 978 feet high, northwest corner of King & Bay Streets. There are 9 other buildings in excess of 700 feet, including, sadly, one built by Donald Trump and named for himself. Commerce Court North, built in the Art Deco style in 1930, was the tallest building in Canada until 1962, at 476 feet, but is now dwarfed by the 784-foot Commerce Court West, a far less interesting structure that went up in 1972.
Being outside the U.S., there are no Presidential Libraries in Canada. The nation's Prime Ministers usually don't have that kind of equivalent building. Of Canada's 23 Prime Ministers, 15 are dead, but only one is buried in Toronto: William Lyon Mackenzie King, who led the government on and off from 1926 to 1950, longer than anyone, and, like Charlie Conacher, is buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
There have been plenty of TV shows set in Toronto, but most Americans wouldn't know them, so I won't list their filming locations. Probably the most familiar, due to its being shown on PBS, is Degrassi Junior High and its related series. Recently, ABC ran the Toronto-based cop series Rookie Blue.
Because Toronto has a lot of surviving Art Deco structures from the 1920s and '30s, it's frequently used as a filming location for period-piece movies, including the movie version of Chicago (despite Chicago also having many such buildings survive). There were also several scenes from the U.S. version of Fever Pitch that were shot in Toronto. One is the scene of the barbecue in the park: In the background, a statue can be seen. It's a statue of Queen Victoria. I seriously doubt that there are any statues of British monarchs left in Boston.
The Maple Leafs haven't reached a Final in half a century, yet they remain the most popular sports team in their entire country, and the hardest for which to get tickets. Such is the passion for hockey in Toronto.
Good luck, and remember: You are a guest in their country, so try to match their legendary politeness. If you can't do that, just don't go overboard with your New Yorkiness or New Jerseyness.