When Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment launched the first viewing party in Maple Leafs Square in 2013, it gave birth to a new tradition. One that Toronto fans passionately rallied behind.
This year marked the first time that both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors were in the playoffs in the same year, so MLSE had their hands full planning both parties. Anyone who has not made the trip down during the playoffs will learn that they are missing the biggest party in the city.
Steve “Dangle” Glynn has participated in the festivities at Maple Leafs Square both in the crowd and as the host of the Leafs tailgate party. His first-time hosting gave him an new appreciation for the atmosphere created by the crowd.
“I think you get to see more people and how they act,” said Glynn. “They’re pretty crazy and can turn on a dime. Getting them to cheer was easy, but during a couple of the contests they booed a couple of contestants pretty bad. [But] everyone was there for a good time and to support the Leafs.”
So why do thousands of fans stand for hours—sometimes in the rain or colder temperatures—to watch the game when they can just go to a bar or stay in the comfort of their own home?
“Don’t get me wrong, going to bar is fun, but the atmosphere at Jurassic park is on another level,” said Nicolas Di Marco, who has been to Jurassic Park on numerous occasions. “Even if you don’t know everyone there, everyone is friendly to talk to and you are all there to cheer on your favourite team together. Plus it’s really cool how they have the DJ playing music and throwing out t-shirts.”
Broadcasters have taken advantage of the scene created by fans at the square, especially when the crowd erupts for a Leafs goal or when a big play is made by the Raptors. It makes for great shots to air live. Those reactions have also gotten the attention from players on the Leafs and the Raptors.
Every fan wishes they were inside watching the game, but with the high price of tickets, most have to settle for other alternatives. This is where MLSE has been successful. They’ve created a dynamic atmosphere and made it accessible to everyone by not charging for admission.
Di Marco is sure that the outside crowd believes it is more intense than the fans inside the stadium.
“I’ve been in the ACC for many raptors games, being in the square definitely rivals the atmosphere and intensity of being inside the arena,” he said. “It is a perfect extension to the ACC because you still get the hardcore and casual fans together, no matter the weather, to support the Raptors.”
Although fans will have to wait until at least next year before they can pack the square again, there is no doubt that they will come out in full force to support their team.