How to survive the NHL lockout in Toronto
This week would have marked the start of the 2012-2013 NHL season. But now the lockout is officially leaving holes in the schedules and hearts of hockey fans. Fear not, there are still plenty of ways to get a hockey fix. Here's the essential NHL lockout survival guide.
Other Hockey Leagues
Just because there isn't an NHL season doesn't mean there won't be any hockey in the city. While the Leafs are the focal point of the city it will be their AHL affiliate's turn to be in the limelight, at least as long as the lockout continues. The Marlies are coming off a deep playoff run last year while their big brothers were sitting out the playoffs yet again. The good news is the Marlies have kept much of the same roster that got them to the Calder Cup final last year. The Marlies will be icing four players who would have been on the Leafs lineup this year including goaltender Ben Scrivens, forward Nazem Kadri and defencemen Jake Gardiner and Korbinian Holzer.
If you're in the mood for junior hockey and aren't feeling up for the commute to Mississauga to take in OHL hockey (go Steelheads!), there's always the university circuit. With three universities within the city limits offering both men and women's high calibre hockey you can forge allegiances with the U of T Varsity Blues, York Lions or Ryerson Rams and you'll save a pretty penny. Bonus: take in some heavily renovated hockey history with the Rams games at Maple Leaf Gardens this year.
If and when the lockout extends into the winter you may as well divert your attention from watching hockey to actually playing it. When the time comes there are some great locations to play shinny around Toronto. The city maintains 51 outdoor rinks, some of which are more hospitable to hockey players than others. The real gems are at Christie Pitts, Alexandra Park and Dufferin Grove.
For more organized and less weather dependant hockey there's a handful of rec leagues around the city looking for players. One popular league is the Downtown Men and Women's hockey league (DMHL). This league is based within the city core playing most games at Ricoh Coliseum, De La Salle arena and St. Mike's arena. There's also the Adult Safe Hockey League (ASHL) which lives up to its name as being a more fun and less competitive option, games are held at Canlan Ice Sports in North York.
Hockey Hall of Fame
The Hockey Hall of Fame is making it a little easier to cope during the lockout without making a huge dent in your wallet. They are offering free admission to kids 13 & under on days when the Leafs would have played a home game in October. The Hall will also be hosting an induction ceremony on November 10th honouring this year's inductees - Mats Sundin, Joe Sakic, Adam Oates and Pavel Bure.
A Legends Classic game will take place on Sunday November 11th at 2pm at the ACC. The two teams made up of ex-players will be captained by Bryan Trottier and some unknown ex-Leaf, Doug Gilmour. As part of the induction weekend the HHOF will also be honouring the 40th anniversary of the '72 Summit Series with a fan forum hosted by Ron Ellis from 1:30 PM-4:30PM. On Monday the inductions will take place at 7:30 from the Allen Lambert Galleria.
If the NHL Lockout diet of square meals and minimal cold ones, you may be inclined to visit one of Toronto's sure to be quiet hockey-centric bars. And if you're still in the mood to provide Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment with a few dollars during the lockout, you'll want to make sure you visit Real Sports located just outside the ACC. If you're less than enthralled at feeding the MLSE machine, here are some of Toronto's best sports bars not affiliated with the Leafs.
Other Sports (they do exist)
Sometimes it's hard to believe, especially in this city, that there are any other sports than hockey. Somewhere between the Leafs, Raptors, Blue Jays and Argos the Toronto Rock gets lost. The Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) are tied for the league's most championships with 6 and have played in a record-setting five-straight championship games. Unlike other Toronto sports teams, namely all of them, the Rock actually wins every once in a while. The Rock play their home opener at the ACC on January 19th tickets range from $15-$68.
Sports Card and Memorabilia Expo
When you're hurting for hockey it might be a good idea to get out of the house and commiserate with other super fans at the Sports Card expo. This expo is like Comic Con for sports fans. With over 900 vendors it will give you the chance to get decked out in time for hockey...next year? Autographs will be provided by ex-players like Phil Esposito, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure. November 9, 10, 11 at the International Centre. Tickets: $12.00/Day Pass $25.00/Weekend Pass
If none of these suggestions are to your liking, I suggest putting the Mighty Ducks series on a loop until hockey resumes. Oh right, and the Raptors? Think about it.
Writing by Matt Stephen / Photo by James DiBianco