Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Day At The Players

Yesterday I headed down to Maple Leaf Gardens (It might be known as the Mattamy Athletic Centre, but it will always be MLG) to take in the Players’ Championship and, I have to say, I was blown away. Herewith my thoughts on the last big event on the curling calendar:

The new arena at Maple Leaf Gardens is nothing short of amazing. How they managed to build a rink on the third floor of a building that didn’t have a third floor is stunning and a reason why I’m not an engineer. What remains is the old MLG ceiling, familiar to anyone who watched a game there – minus the banners of course.
It’s bright and open and has seating for about 2,500, a perfect size for this type of event. There was beer for sale although there was no real patch, just an area at the top of the rink where you could drink.
About the only downside for curling was the lack of end seating – the vast majority of the seats are on the side.

Here’s where I was surprised, in a good way. Everyone likes to slag Toronto for, well, for just about everything, and it’s certainly never thought of as a curling town. Rogers went out on a limb, perhaps naively, by holding the crown jewel of the Grand Slam at the Gardens but the crowds have been solid. I’d say that yesterday afternoon there were about 2,000 people in the building. Now I realize that’s not exactly Brier-like, but for a GSOC event in April, it was pretty good. I heard Friday evening’s gathering was similar. It bodes well for anyone wanting to have a big curling event in this city (hello Warren Hansen?)

The curlers I talked to loved having this event in Toronto for a number of reasons. First off, the facility was given a big thumbs up. The ice was good, the lighting was good, and it was within walking distance to the hotel. There was also the cool factor of playing in such a historic building.
But the players also loved being in Toronto, where there was so much to do outside of curling. Players went to Jays games, Leaf games, went shopping (Not to be sexist but I heard that answer from every one of the women I talked to), went to the theatre and were generally enjoying themselves, often times bringing their families along.
The other thing I heard was that a great many of the teams had sponsors with offices based in Toronto whom they were able to bring out to games, something they don’t get to do too often.

With the help of Rogers, there was a huge push of getting players into the public eye be it on radio or TV. Glenn Howard, Kevin Martin and Brad Jacobs were all front and centre, something that probably wouldn’t have happened if this was in some smaller centre. It was a big bonus for the Slam even if non-Rogers media largely ignored the event.

The Future
Next year, the Players Championship heads to Summerside, PEI, as a sort of make-good for the debacle that was last year. After that, however, it appears there is a push to try and make Toronto the permanent home of the Players. With the support of the curlers and just about everyone else, look for this to happen.

Seems like this edition of the Players Championship was a hit on every level. Congrats, Toronto. 

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