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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

Canlan Ice Sports York - York Lions

Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey.

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

Canlan Ice Sports York

989 Murray Ross Parkway

Toronto, ON M3J 3M4

Year Opened: 1996

Capacity: 1,200

The Lion’s (Ice) Den

In 1959 York University was established in what was then North York, Ontario. A lot has changed since then. York opened their Keele Campus in 1965, which is now the main campus. The hockey team hit the ice for the first time in 1970 under the moniker York Yeomen. Also since then, York has ballooned to an enrollment of over 55,000 students making it the third largest university in Canada. North York has since been amalgamated to become part of Toronto. The Yeomen, named after the famous British guards the Yeomen Warders, commonly known as Beefeaters, were very successful early on, winning four Queen’s Cups before 2003 as well as three University Cups as National Champions.

Changes continued for York. In 1996, York moved to the new Beatrice Ice Gardens on campus. The Ice Gardens replaced the York Ice Palace, which was built in 1968. The Beatrice Ice Gardens have been home to numerous events, including various NHL training camps. In 2003, in an effort to de-gender their sports teams, the era of the York Yeomen and Yeowomen ended and York rebranded all of its athletic programs as the York Lions. The arena was purchased by Canlan Ice Sports in 2007 and renamed Canlan Ice Sports York. The facility houses five NHL sized hockey rinks and an Olympic Sized ice surface where the Lions play. Success for the Lions continued with two more Queen’s Cups after 2003. At a capacity of 1,200, Canlan is the perfect size for an OUA hockey venue and provides a solid experience for university hockey fans.

Food & Beverage 4

Supporting six ice surfaces in a busy hockey city like Toronto definitely has its advantages. The concession options at Canlan Ice Sports is much better than many other OUA hockey venues. In the bustling main concourse, there are two main concession areas to go along with a plethora of vending machines. The Pizzaville stand provides a wide variety of pizza options and not just the standard cheese or pepperoni slices. The other main concession stand is a Wild Wing Express stand, which ironically does not serve chicken wings. However, hot dogs, chips, candy and a variety of baked goods are on the menu. Coffee, hot chocolate and a variety of Coca-cola products are available soft drinks. For those that feel disappointment for the lack of chicken wings on the menu, fear not! Upstairs from the main concourse is a full-fledged and fully licensed Wild Wing restaurant. The is the perfect pre- and post- game spot, especially since other spots in the neighbourhood require a drive to get to. The opportunity to see the ice from Wild Wing is also there.

Atmosphere 3

Canlan Ice Sports is a huge hockey complex, as one would expect with six ice surfaces. The exterior is definitely out of the eighties with not a terrible amount of consideration to the outside aesthetics. The flat roof, concrete walls and lack of windows give Canlan more of a warehouse look to it than a hockey arena. The main entrance is fairly nondescript and is nothing if not functional. Once inside, patrons will probably notice the bustling nature of a very busy facility. Concession stands, vending machines, pro shop and custom t-shirt stands are all found in the concourses which has that distinct aroma of used hockey equipment. York fans will need to head to the right upon entry to Rink 1 Centre, which is the home ice for the Lions. The York logo medallion and advertising outside the main arena, along with the York painted doors are all helpful to give the arena a little bit of a home feel.

Inside the home arena, it is a fairly generic setup. The ice surface is oriented from east to west and the entire grandstand is on the north side. The south side does offer some media risers if need be, but the student-led media production takes place from behind the grandstand. Twelve rows of blue, plastic, stadium-style seats make up the seating area and are more than adequate for a league that does have some pretty uncomfortable venues. The west side wall above the ice surface has the score clock, which is very simple and only offers goals, period, time, penalties and shots. However, unfortunately, the shots are not tracked, which would be welcomed by most fans. To the right of the score clock hangers the retired number 18 of Mark Cross for the Lions. Cross was a member of the York Lions from 2011 to 2016 and went on to continue his hockey career as an assistant coach with the Humboldt Broncos and was killed in the infamous bus crash in Saskatchewan in April of 2018.

York retired his number in 2018. Unfortunately, other than Mark Cross’ retired number, there is very little in the arena to scream out home to the Lions. There is some signage, but what is really lacking is any sort of acknowledgement of the six Queen’s Cups and three University Cups York has captured. A program this decorated absolutely must put up some banners at the very least.

The gameday production is a simple, student-led affair. Students are at the door past the main doors to welcome fans with a smile and free programs and other promotional items. The Public Address announcer for the 2019-2020 season is female, which is fairly unusual in the hockey world. She does a very good job, but is hampered by the extremely outdated audio system at Canlan as well as the terrible acoustics of the building. There is little in the way of sound absorbing material around the arena and the sound bounces all over the place. Most of the announcements and music are at a volume that is way too loud and therefore everything is difficult to understand and enjoy.

Neighbourhood 3

Canlan Ice Sports is located at the north end of the York University Keele Campus. The campus itself is located at the northern border of the City of Toronto. The campus is fairly huge and as a result walkable options for pre and post game meals are few and far between. However, a five to ten minute car ride will produce some rewards. Heading on Steeles Ave east towards Dufferin will produces some decent spots. Montana’s, Max’s and Cora are recognizable chain restaurants around that area. Some more unique spots include La Risata, Cuscatian, Hoops, and Randy’s Sports Bar and Restaurant.

The north end of the city is not a terrible spot to be with regards to other entertainment options. Heading just north of Steeles will bring fans to the City of Vaughan. Here Vaughan Mills Shopping Centre can be found with a whole host of shops and restaurants. Also, a little further north will bring fans to Toronto’s premier amusement park, Canada’s Wonderland. Of course, the opportunity to head downtown with all of the options, is, of course, a fantastic idea.

Other sporting options on campus include a full complement of athletic teams that is fielded by York. The football Lions play at Alumni Field @ York Stadium and the basketball Lions play at the Tait McKenzie Centre, both of which are within walking distance of Canlan. The Canadian Premier Soccer League has a presence at York Lions Stadium with the York 9. The university also hosts some of Canada’s premier tennis events at the nearby Aviva Centre. Downtown Toronto offers a massive number of sporting options. USports is well represented with the Toronto Varsity Blues (football, basketball, hockey) and Ryerson Rams (basketball, hockey). Of course the most famous Toronto teams are also found downtown. These include the Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Rock, Toronto Argonauts, Toronto FC, Toronto Marlies and Toronto Arrows.

Fans looking for a spot to stay near the York campus are also in luck. The Best Western and Staybridge Suites are close by and great options.

Fans 3

Although York only attracts a couple hundred fans per game, they have an advantage over many other programs. The small capacity of Canlan makes the building seem far more full than it really is. Games against Ryerson and Toronto have the opportunity to attract more fans, however, York students seem to be more likely to travel downtown to their opponents rather than the opposite. That being said, the odd acoustics for the arena carries over to the crowd, which also sounds larger than it really is.

Access 4

Getting to Canlan Ice Sports, for the most part, is not too difficult. Located on the Keele Campus of York University, along with the other sport facilities, Canlan is located close to major streets and major highways. The campus is located near the Black Creek and Jane and Finch neighbourhoods of Toronto, south of highway 407 and east of highway 400. The northern border of the campus is Steeles Ave. Unfortunately, Steeles and highway 400 are among the busiest spots in all of Toronto. Travelling a short distance can take a very long time, especially on a Friday. Coming from out of town may require taking highway 407, which is an expensive toll road, rather than taking highway 401 and 400. The Pioneer Village stop on the TTC subway has been completed and access to the university is much easier than it has been in the past. GO Transit, York Region Transit and Brampton Transit also have presences on campus and may be options depending on the point of origin. Fans should check out the Toronto Transit Commission, GO Transit, York Region Transit and Brampton Transit websites for fares, schedules and maps.

For fans that are driving to campus, there is plenty of parking available near the athletic facilities. Lots may be attended, but parking for Canlan Ice Sports should be free of charge. The ticketing area is a temporary table in front of Rink 1 Centre and credit and debit options are available. Getting around Canlan is not too difficult depending on how many other teams and games are at the complex and there are plenty of washroom facilities available for patrons.

Return on Investment 4

Canadian University hockey offers a great return for a very small investment. Tickets for Lions hockey run between $7.50 and $10. Seniors, alumni and non-York students receive the discount. Children thirteen and under and York students are free of charge. The gameday production is simple, yet effective and the product on the ice is strong. York can be counted on to provide a good team in most years and the opportunity to really hear the sounds of the game up close are worth the very minimal investment.

Extras 3

An extra mark for the Lions honouring of former hockey player and Humboldt Broncos assistant coach, the late Mark Cross.

An extra mark for the success that the Yeomen and Lions have found on the ice with 6 Queen’s Cups and 3 University Cup championships.

An extra mark for the local rivalries that York has with the Ryerson Rams and University of Toronto Varsity Blues.

Final Thoughts

Taking in a York Lions hockey game is a great way to get the most out of your sporting dollar. The Canlan Ice Sports York facility is appropriately sized for university hockey and offers a good experience. The bonus of having so many eating options in the facility doesn’t hurt either. Take some time when in the area and check out the Lions’ (Ice) Den.

Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9 and on Instagram.

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