The Air Canada Centre provides a giant screen outside the venue
A Lustful Search:
Hockey and WiFi in Toronto
Story and Photos by Gary Singh
am one of those rapscallions who turn sour when yet another billion-dollar
hotel has the belligerent audacity to charge everyone $15 a day for
internet access in each of its newly-remodeled rooms. I
cant tell you how much time Ive wasted futzing around with
Rube Goldberg $15-a-day accounts while going from hotel to hotel on
the road. I mean, why is it that one can find a roadside Cozy 8 in the
middle of suburban wasteland America with complimentary Internet in
every single room, while so many upscale accommodations refuse to incorporate
Some hotels provide complimentary WiFi, while others
This is why I fell in lust with Hotel Le Germain Maple
Leaf Square during a recent spree through Toronto. Lust at first sight.
It was the Internet access. Thats rightfree. A new hotel
with complimentary access everywhere. It was lust at first walk-through.
In fact, I didnt even stay the night.
Situated right down the street from and overlooking
the Air Canada Centrehome of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey teamLe
Germain challenges one to simplify the amount of verbs any public relations
hotshot might use to drive the dialog forward. The property offers,
provides, presents, supplies, bestows, portrays, reveals, imparts, conveys
and delivers. You betcha.
If one is here on business, a room might even include
a desk flanking the entire 20-foot length of a window overlooking the
street below. That means loads of workspace and plenty of room for spreading
out piles of paperwork.
Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square.
The meeting rooms are named after hockey terminology:
The Defense Zone, The Neutral Zone, The Penalty Box. For that last one,
I asked General Manager Paul de La Durantaye if I could rent the Penalty
Box for two minutes or five minutes. He said theyd work on in
View of the Air Canada Centre from the window of
the Penalty Box meeting room at Le Germain.
Of course, theres already another Le Germain in
a different section of Toronto, on Mercer Street, around the corner
from a zillion theaters, and down the block from Wayne Gretzys
Restaurant, which just happens to be on Blue Jays Way. Sports town,
you ask? Huzzah!
At this older Le Germain, I experienced an exclusively
Toronto menu at the hotels Victor restaurant, where one can order
any number of specific dishes from specific ethnic neighborhoods throughout
the cityall served family style, intending to be shared. One dish
is $14 CDN while seven combined dishes total $79 CDN. Toronto describes
itself as a beautifully convoluted and sprawled out mosaic of every
ethnicity imaginable, so the idea makes sense. Items included Albacore
Tuna Crudo from College Street in Little Italy, Berkshire Pork Souvlaki
from Greek Town and Pickled Fish with Beetroot Horseradish from the
Polish and Eastern European parts of Roncesvalles. I went for a plate
of spiced goat kabob representing the Little India section of Gerrard
Street East, as well as a roasted acorn squash salad with walnuts and
blue cheese from Torontos celebrated St. Lawrence Market. What
I then sunk deeply into the lobby area, an earthy welcoming
milieu where one can lounge and choose from a wall of books, floor to
ceiling. Plus theres a free coffee-and-espresso machine, andYeah!a
free computer with free internet access, 24/7. Other than that, it was
unconditional lust. Again, I didnt even stay the night.
Back at Maple Leaf Square, the Vancouver Canucks were
in town and since every game at the Air Canada Centre sells out, a huge
screen sits above the main entrance. Anyone can watch the hockey game
from outside in the street and complain about Torontos team, which
they do even when the Leafs win.
Street view of the giant screen outside Air Canada
Whats more, situated next door to Hotel Le Germain
and across the street from the Air Canada Centre, one finds Real Sports,
a 25,000-square-foot multistory sports bar with 199 screens, including
a beautifully ridiculous 39-foot HD screen, the largest indoor one of
its kind in North America. There exists no better place in Toronto to
wolf down a peabacon sandwich while watching 14 different games simultaneously.
Real Sports, voted Best Sports Bar in North America
Elite booths at Real Sports come with beer
taps at each table
The main space features an 80-foot bar resembling a
sheet of ice when lit. The upper floor overlooks the main space and
includes a golf simulator, three private suites and the Pitch Bar, which
looks like a soccer field. Special booths even come equipped with beer
taps at each table. In a recent article, The Globe and Mail compared
the entire facility to the NORAD Command Center, which pretty much sums
it up. There are screens everywhere, even above the urinals in the mens
bathrooms. Everything is operated from the equivalent of a DJ booth,
where employees toil away at the controls like royalty.
I walked into a chaotic scene, with even a few sporadic
Vancouver jerseys buried amidst the throngs of Maple Leaf regalia. Toronto
lost that match in the third period, unfortunately for them, which led
to even more grumbling from the local fans, who seemed to be calling
for coach Ron Wilsons head before the game even started.
After lusting over free Internet connections at
Le Germain Maple Leaf Square, my quick spree through a tiny portion
of Toronto was complete. I will now seek, perhaps in vain, to find another
hotel just like her.
The new Ritz-Carlton in Toronto will be impeccable,
but will it offer complimentary Internet?