The Centennial Classic
I wouldn’t usually buy tickets to go to an outdoor hockey game.
I am not sure why, but I have been one of those people who rather sit on the couch, listen to commentary and scan twitter during Toronto Sports games. I am a diehard Leafs, Raptors and Jays fan, but I usually only go to a few sporting events a year and rarely seek out tickets to go to a game.
My view on this changed after the most recent playoff run by the Toronto Blue Jays. A few friends and I decided to get tickets to the wild card game against the Orioles. We watched Edwin Encarnacion hit a walk-off homerun in the 11th inning. As a Toronto sports fan who has lived through a series of forgettable moments, it was one of the most euphoric feelings I have had in my life. I couldn’t sleep from the adrenaline and was hungover as hell at work the next day, but it was all worth it.
Since then I went to a few more Jays games, a few more Leafs games and have taken the stance that spending money on events I care about are a good investment. The chance I may experience something close to what I did at the Blue Jays Wild Card game is too good to pass up.
Now, I know I have portrayed this as some sort of epiphany that has altered my life, but I’ll be realistic. It is much easier to justify spending $150 to go watch Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander rather than watching a last place team that was practically dressing an AHL team in the second half of the season.
So, I’ll say deciding to buy tickets to the game was a combination of a change in mindset, a remedy to my New Year’s hangover and an improvement of the on-ice product.
Anyways, my friends and I ended up buying tickets to sit up in the nosebleeds. I had little expectations in terms of the view, but high hopes on the game.
BMO Field: The Venue
I have only been to BMO field a few times in the past for some TFC games, but it was the perfect venue for an event like this. For one, unlike baseball stadiums, most seats had decent sightlines.
Sitting in section 316, I was not expecting much in terms of viewing. I was pleasantly surprised to find we had a full view of the rink with no blind spots. In fact, I’d argue the viewing was better than the 100 section. I had a few friends who sat much closer to the ice, they all mentioned that it was great being close to the action, but struggled to see the play in certain areas of the ice.
The panorama view from our section was spectacular.
I had heard horror stories from the Winter Classic at The Big House of fans missing entire periods waiting to buy a beer or go to the washroom. At BMO field, I cannot remember waiting for more than 5 minutes for either. Both beer and toilets were readily available with little resistance.
Obviously, 40,000 fans is much more manageable to plan for than 110,000 fans, but it was a job well-done nevertheless.
For an outdoor scheduled on January 1st in Toronto, you could not ask for better weather.
Walking around before the game I was actually a little warm in my four layers. At puck drop, it was a comfortable 3 degrees celsius. Comfortable for the fans, players and more importantly ice conditions.
The game started 30 minutes later than scheduled because of sun glare. As a result, the second half of the game was being played in the dark. Once the sun went down, it did get substantially colder, however, remembering that fans were toughing it out at The Big House in -20 degree weather made me feel more lucky.
To be completely honest, the first forty minutes of the game were a bit of a snooze fest. Neither team generated much offense and I was a little nervous that we were going to witness a game with no goals for the home team. It was one of those bouncing puck, defensive games that outdoor games have become associated with.
The third period, however, turned in a completely different game. A different game that fit the narrative of the Leafs season to-date.
- Maple Leafs show their quick-strike offense
- Mitch Marner makes a dazzling play
- Auston Matthews scores… again
- Maple Leafs show their quick-strike lack of defense
- Auston Matthews completes another memorable moment
The Leafs literally summed up how the first 35 games of the season have gone in 25 minutes.
In section 316, the mood went from …
“thank God I have something to cheer for”
“holy crap, this team is the freaking best”
“it was 4-1”
“I’m never taking off this Auston Matthews jersey”
In all seriousness, I am not sure what I would have done if Matthews did not score that overtime winner. Never have beat reporters had two drastically different possible story lines.
- The Leafs blow another 4-1 lead in the last 10 minutes, reviving a haunting memory for all Leafs fans and confirming that Jesus will not allow us to have anything nice.
- The saviour, Auston Matthews scores the overtime winner in a storybook ending.
Lucky for my health, it was story B.
It was the second time I’ve seen Auston Matthews in person and he did not disappoint.
Matthews scored twice to take over the rookie league with 20 goals. He was taking on Henrik Zetterberg for most of the game and was still one of the most dominant players on the ice.
Obviously, being drafted first overall following a decade of disappointing Leafs teams can put a lot of expectations on a kid. However, I think he has exceeded the highest expectations of Leafs fans. Only 36 games into his NHL career, Matthews has proven to be an elite player already and seems to make history every time he is given the chance. He can shoot, pass, control the puck, play defense and celebrate goals with the best of them.
Who knew a little wrist flick could look so smooth?
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) January 2, 2017
One thing I noticed was the amount of Matthews and Marner jerseys. I have never seen a sporting event where such a large portion of the fans were wearing the same jersey. I was given a Matthews jersey for Christmas and it was definitely not an original choice.
This, however, was an original choice:
— Andrew H (@ChurchySayz) January 2, 2017
The Centennial Classic Conclusion
From a partially biased Leafs fan who has never been to another outdoor NHL game, this has to be in the top two outdoor NHL games played. The other, being of course, Sidney Crosby’s shootout game winner in the first Winter Classic ever played.
- BMO Field did a wonderful job showcasing the Centennial Classic. It provided fans with great seats with lots of toilets and provided a great ice surface for the players.
- The weather was arguably the best for an outdoor game to-date
- The game was between two of the most historic franchises in the league
- The game included highlight reel goals, a fight, an offensive explosion, a comeback and an exclamation point by one franchise’s prodigy.
The Centennial Classic had just about everything you could want in an outdoor game and I am happy as hell I didn’t miss it.