TORONTO The Centennial Classic looks like it will be a sellout by the time the puck drops New Year’s Day, but it sure hasn’t been easy.
And I don’t think anybody associated with the outdoor game thought it would be, either.
No, in fact, the NHL while deliberating more than a year ago Toronto’s request to honor its Centennial year as a franchise by hosting a Jan. 1 outdoor game was concerned to some degree about the saturated sports calendar in Canada’s largest city.
Toronto also hosted the World Cup of Hockey in September, a CFL Grey Cup in November and the world junior hockey tournament, which is playing out right now (and in front of small crowds). That’s not to mention that the Raptors went to the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals last spring and remain a hot ticket this season, the Blue Jays made the MLB playoffs again in the fall and sold tickets through the (retractable) roof, and Toronto FC reached the MLS Cup final for the first time in franchise history.
That’s a lot of entertainment dollars being stretched around, even for one of the world’s most affluent sports markets.
Just take this week: Team USA takes on Team Canada at Air Canada Centre in the world junior round robin in their traditional New Year’s Eve game Saturday before the Detroit Red Wings jerseys and Toronto Maple Leafs jerseys hook up in the Centennial Classic the next day at BMO Field.
Is a family of four really going to attend both events on back to back days? Maybe, but it’ll cost them.
As of Thursday afternoon, tickets still were available both in the official and secondary markets for the Centennial Classic, but the league of course was confident it likely would sell out. “It’s a real testament to the love this market cheap authentic nhl jerseys has for hockey that, despite everything else going on, this game is going to be a sellout. The Leafs jerseys’ organization assured us it would be, and it’s clear they recognize the passion of their fan base.”
The event might have sold a little better and quicker had the ticket prices not been so high: The cheapest ticket officially is $129 Canadian (US$95) and ranges up to $399 Canadian (US$295), plus applicable taxes.
It might be that savvy Toronto sports fans are waiting for prices on the secondary market to come down.
The savior of the event might be the host team itself. The young, rebuilding Leafs jerseys are playing some of their most exciting hockey in years. Long suffering fans are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel thanks to cheap Auston Matthews jersey, Mitch Marner, cheap William Nylander jersey Co.
This is anecdotal at best, but in my own social circle of friends, people in their 40s and 50s mostly, the excitement about the Leafs jerseys has grown dramatically this season after a decade of frustration. My pals are watching Leafs jerseys games with the kind of genuine interest I haven’t seen in a long time.
In the end, perhaps the biggest knock on the Centennial Classic is that the outdoor rematch comes three years after an unreal event at the Big House in Ann Arbour, Michigan, where more than 100,000 fans (half of them Leafs jerseys fans) saw Toronto edge Detroit 3 2 in the best NHL outdoor spectacle I’ve been to. And I’ve covered many of them.
It’s safe to say the 39,000 seat BMO Field carries that same vibe. But how many stadiums compare to the Big House?
Perhaps Matthews, though, will make this one memorable too. The great players have the knack for doing just that. For those fans willing to fork out big money to see it Sunday, perhaps they’ll deem it indeed worth it.