Hockey arenas in Toronto come in no short supply, with hundreds scattered across all areas of the city. Many of these rinks are strictly utilitarian in nature -- just a pad of ice, a few change rooms and a small bleacher area. If you're lucky, there will be a concession stand that sells watery hot chocolate, steamed hot dogs and Halls lozenges. There are, however, hockey arenas that stick out from the pack, whether on account of their facilities or their historic importance.
Here are my picks for the top hockey arenas in Toronto.
CanLan Ice Sports
With six ice surfaces, a well-stocked pro shop and an on-site pub (The Flying Penguin), the sprawling CanLan facility is a hub for everything from men's league to house league. York University's varsity team also plays out of the arena, and Toronto-based NHL players holding out of contracts have been known to skate here. There is also a facility in Scarborough.
Mattamy Athletic Centre (MLG)
It might not be the Maple Leaf Gardens of old, but the cathedral ceiling retains the stature of the old rink even as the facilities have been modernized. Playing here feels more important than elsewhere. You can also watch Ryerson Rams games here if you're not up for renting the ice at $335 for an hour.
North Toronto Arena
While there's only one ice surface and the concession stand is anything but appetizing, North Toronto has great ice, ample space in the stands, and a throwback announcer's booth that gives the place a certain stature. Add to that the nostalgia factor that any kid who once played there has, and you have one of Toronto's favourite barns.
MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence
You might not be able to hit the ice at the ACC, but you can still play where the Leafs practice at this state of the art hockey facility in Etobicoke. With four ice surfaces (one of which can be expanded to Olympic dimensions), a solid pro shop, and a variety of concessions, this is both a good place to play and to bide your time while someone else does. Add to that the possibility of running into an NHL player or a member of the Canadian Junior team, and you've got an exciting arena.
Opened in 1954 after a major fundraising effort on the part of east side residents, Ted Reeve has always kept the feel of a community arena. You won't find OHL teams playing here, but the daily schedule is packed with house league games, pleasure skating (Saturday evenings), and use by the Ted Reeve Thunder, single and double A GTHL teams who call the arena home.
St. Michael's Arena
Another one for the history lover, anyone who's played under St. Mike's domed roof will remember the experience. The Majors no longer play here, but the list of world class players who have graced this ice is a long one, including stars like Eric Lindros, Jason Spezza, and Tyler Seguin.
This is a great old barn. Tucked away behind Varsity Stadium, the arena is almost 90 years old. With seating for 4,000 and a great retro score clock, it's a fun place to play or to watch your girlfriend/boyfriend duke it out in intramurals. The Varsity Blues also call the arena home.
Chesswood Arena occupies a middle spot between modern hockey facility and nostalgia-inducing old barn. There are two rinks here, an on-site bar, decent food (try the old school fries), and a pro shop, but everything feels just dated enough to make it feel like you've walked into a time warp. A hub for adult leagues, the arena is a more intimate alternative to the larger CanLan facility.
Weston Lions Club Arena
At 65 years old, the Weston Lions Club Arena won't be winning any awards for its facilities, but the church-like wooden roof, and the thickly painted red and blue stands are the very stuff of Canadian hockey nostalgia. As an added bonus, the rink has great ice.
The Sports Village
Technically just north of Toronto in Vaughan, the Sports Village is worth a mention for its four ice pads, on-site pub, video games (perfect when two kids of different ages are playing on the same day) and outdoor beach volleyball facilities in the summer. Along with the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence, the Sports Village sets the gold standard for the modern hockey multiplex.
What did I miss? Add your suggestions for Toronto's best hockey arenas in the comments.
Photo by Adam d'Oliveira
by Derek Flack via blogTO