Sunday, December 13, 2009

Toronto Maple Leafs – Atlanta Thrashers (07-12-2009)

I had to be for business in Toronto and decided to go and see a game of the Maple Leafs, the pride of the city and an established member of the National Hockey League (NHL). To my surprise I was able to buy a ticket through Ticketmaster, three weeks before the game, for $62.50 (this includes a $7.50 “convenience charge”) – incidentally, we are talking Canadian dollars here, which are a bit cheaper than American dollars (equivalent is ca. €40). Fortunately I was able to get a ‘real’ ticket from the guy next to me, as the Ticketmaster tickets are so boring.

I picked up my ticket at the Will Call ticket office of the Air Canada Centre (ACC), in downtown Toronto, roughly an hour before the game. I was surprised to see already long lines in front of the stadium. After changing clothes in my hotel, I walked back to the stadium, just in time for the national anthems.

Turns out that $62.50 buys you a seat at the top row of the stadium. Damn, that is far up. Oddly enough, you see the game quite well. Still, you are somewhat watching other people watching the game, as you are so far up.

The Air Canada Centre holds 18,800 people for hockey games, and although this game was by and large sold out, there were many empty seats. Probably many people couldn’t be bothered to come and were unable to sell their (season) ticket – the Leafs are not having a good start of the season. The first period was dismal: slow, uninspiring, few real goal attempts, and the Leafs not even scoring with two men more on the ice: 0-0.

The second period was the exact opposite of the first. Although the hockey wasn’t that much better, the Leafs seemed to score every short on goal. Within one period, and without really dominating or excelling, the Leafs went from 0-0 to 5-0! Finally they had woken up, and so had the crowd.

I used the break between the second and third period to wonder around the stadium, get some quite decent buffalo chicken with fries, and a souvenir for my brother (who always has had a weakness for the Leafs). The audience was quite diverse, though whiter and more male than the very multicultural city.

The five goals in the second period seemed to have been all that the Leafs were willing to do. The third period was like the first, as far as the hosts were concerned, but this time the visitors were doing the scoring. Without necessarily improving their game extensively, the Thrashers scored twice, while the Leafs had signed off for the day: 5-2 the final score.

This was the fourth NHL game I visited, and yet again I was left disappointed. The pace of the game is so slow, the skating and stick handling technique is remarkably average, and the atmosphere is far from spectacular… and that in Toronto, at the Maple Leafs, one of the institutions of North American hockey. Let’s hope my next game, in Detroit, will redeem the NHL.

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