Photo Credit: This was the least grainy photo I could find on my instagram profile that wasn't a selfie

Maple Leaf Square: A Survival Guide

If you’re like 99% of the city, you opened up Ticketmaster the other day to get Game 3, 4, or 6 tickets and fainted when you saw the cost to get into the Air Canada Centre. Yes, it is with a heavy heart that I must announce that the supply and demand economy is at it again, and that most of us (myself included) won’t be seeing each other at Game 3.

But an alternative exists if your core purpose is simply to watch the boys in blue and white play some hockey with many of your fellow fans. That alternative is Maple Leaf Square, the stretch of Bremner Boulevard that leads to Gate 5 of the ACC, complete with a huge TV panel hooked up to the front. A tradition oddly started for Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals between the Canucks and Bruins, it was the place to be in 2013 when the Leafs played against Boston in Round 1, and it’s been the place (under the Jurassic Park fan-rebrand) to be for Raptors playoff games over the years.

For those who want to catch a game there, here’s what you should know:

  • Arrive nice and early. If the hype was there to the degree of Game 7, I’d say start heading there right now, because that’s how early people were showing up for that unfortunate night. But it’s been four years, and it’s a weekday; you should be okay to not spend eight hours standing around waiting for another three hours to pass by. I would recommend getting there sometime between 3PM-5PM if you’d like to secure a good spot, though.
  • Be careful what you bring with you. The prohibited list includes weapons, bottles/cans/coolers, sticks/flags/flagpoles, aerosol & fireworks, skateboards, outside food and drinks, drugs, and lawn chairs. Most of these are gimmes, but things like the flag rule and outside food/drink rule may come as a little bit of a surprise to some.
  • With the outside/food drink thing in mind, there’s a couple options to consider for alternatives. Inside food and drinks will be available, but they’ll be expensive. You could eat/drink beforehand, but another option you have is, if staff continue to have in/out privileges for those cleared through, to head into the Square’s tower. The Longo’s in there will have much cheaper food and even has a decently priced bar. There’s also an LCBO in there but, uhh, we can’t really encourage anything.
  • Keep an eye out for contests. If it’s anything like last time, there’s a lot of ways for smarter fans to get themselves some cool stuff. Back in 2013, a friend of mine figured out that one of their jersey giveaway games was on a timer and not at all random, so we made sure our less sweater-fortunate friends cleaned up for a couple games. Another one of my friends got a jersey out of a Sportsnet Magazine survey kiosk. It’s not a gimme that you’ll get free cool stuff, but keep an eye on the right opportunities.
  • This isn’t as vital, but if any of you have Snapchat, I set up an “Actually Good” filter that stretches from the TV to half a block past York Street along Bremner, that will work from 1PM-11PM for the next three days. Use it and either tweet a pic to me or snap it over to jeffvei.
  • The scheduling might get a little complicated down the stretch, as both the Leafs and Raptors are playoff teams for the first time since the square’s inception. Home team gets priority, in that case, which means that we’ll have a few hours overlap on Saturday night: It will be Jurassic Park for the 5:30 tipoff of Raptors/Bucks, and upon conclusion of that game, we’ll get an hour (give or take) of it solely being Maple Leaf Square. I know some will pull the “we’re the bigger team” complaint, but the Raptors deserve the fans’ support just as much, and if we’re being honest about the history of the arena, they’re the ones who decided to build it, so they should get priority.

All things considered, this should be another fun stretch of games in front of the big screen. Maybe we all see each other 4 times, maybe 28, maybe something in between. The most important thing at hand here is that everyone enjoys their time and supports their team (Leafs, Raptors, or both) as loud as possible. The sports world will be watching, and that stretch of cul-de-sac has become a staple of our city’s sports image over the last few years. Hopefully, that reputation will continue to grow this spring.