Columnists, Sports

Dropping the Gloves: A hockey fan’s trip to Toronto

The Hockey Hall of Fame located in downtown Toronto, Canada. The new location opened in 1993. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

My spring break was spent the same as most college students: a trip to the tropical Toronto. Alright, it was cold and windy and I didn’t get tan, but I got to experience two of the most iconic places for a hockey fan.

In between meals of gluttonous poutine, I ended up at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Perusing through the memorabilia of past champions, the only emotion I was really capable of was awe.

A jersey of Patrick Kane, a puck shot by Gordie Howe, a stick Bobby Orr once played with all sit in glass cases lining the place.

I immediately went to the Esso Great Hall. It’s a marvelous structure with some of the world’s most precious cargo. After asking if I could have a sleepover in the cathedral, I felt overwhelmed of where to begin. There was a large silver trophy that magnetically drew me to the back of the room.

I ran up to the Stanley Cup and examined every team engraved in it. I still can’t believe that I hugged the cup. It’s almost impossible to think about how many amazing men have hoisted that trophy above their heads.

The Great Hall was nothing short of its name. Looking at every major trophy in hockey was probably the ultimate wow moment of the day. Hockey playoffs are my favorite time of year, and the trophies seem to take a backseat to all of the playing excitement. Of course everyone wants to win the Stanley Cup, but this hall really showed the regality of winning one of the trophies.

I made my way back to the beginning since I ran through to get to Lord Stanley. I found my way to a wall of dynasties. When you see the consecutive championship years listed on a wall, it really highlights the unprecedented success of each team. Montreal is in its own category of a dynasty. They won five Stanley Cup championships in a row, and still have the most wins of any team in the league. They’ve somehow made it back to the top of the Atlantic Division even with a coaching change, cutting Michel Therrien for ex-Bruins coach Claude Julien.

Sitting in the Montreal replica dressing room, I couldn’t help but plop down in front of Jean Béliveau’s locker. It’s been almost 50 years since he played in the league, and he is still regarded as one of the best of all time. Winner of the Art Ross, the Conn Smythe, and the Hart Memorial trophies, Béliveau was recently ranked one of the top 100 players in NHL history.

The Habs have the most iconic hockey history, and Montreal is definitely my next Canadian adventure. That being said, Toronto has a pretty significant hockey history themselves, and there’s one place to fully appreciate it.

While the Air Canada Centre has only been the home to the Toronto Maple Leafs since 1999, there’s still an excitement in the air right before the puck drops.

The arena went dark and the Canadian National Anthem began. The crowd roared in pride. A Canadian flag was passed through the stands.

The puck dropped and play began against an Original Six rival, the Detroit Red Wings. There’s something about an Original Six matchup that makes the game all the more exciting.

The Leafs struck twice in the first seven minutes of the game. The fans erupted each time the horn rang.

This arena didn’t need a mascot banging on a drum to encourage fan excitement. Every close Detroit goal was accompanied by a sigh of relief. Every remarkable save from Frederik Andersen was rewarded with giant cheers.

The Maple Leafs ended up victorious at the end of regulation, 3-2. Experiencing a live Toronto win felt slightly eerie. This team has such a deep history of unprecedented success. The team has struggled since the beginning of the century, but with new additions like Tyler Bozak, James Van Riemsdyk, Frederik Andersen and Auston Matthews, Toronto may be able to get back in the role of being a real force on the ice.

Toronto is full of hockey history and great experiences in general. It’s a lively city full of interesting people and great food. If you’re a hockey fan and you haven’t been there already, you need to head there soon.

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