It’s an “aha” moment I’ll never forget. It was February about 10 years ago and I was in the large sunny plaza outside the hockey rink in Tampa Florida. I was visiting a friend who lives in Florida, and the Toronto Maple Leafs were in town to play that night.
It was still hours before game time, and we saw a very happy family of four – a husband, wife and their two daughters – walking the plaza in Maple Leaf jerseys. We asked them where they were from and they said Thunder Bay. It sounded like a long hike to come for a game, but they said it was way cheaper than flying into Toronto and getting tickets for a home game.
The cost of four “cheap seat” tickets in Tampa at that time? US $11 each from the box office (they couldn’t even get Leaf tickets in Toronto from the box office). They had to fly anyway to see the game in Toronto, so the extra cost to Florida was just $150 per person. It all made perfect sense.
Escape the big city madness
If you live in the Toronto area like I do, you gain the benefit of everything a big city has to offer, but you bear the burden of a rabid sports culture that makes it difficult and expensive to see games. That’s why I love seeing my team (the Leafs) play away games in less-rabid sports towns with lots of availability.
Three reasons make it hard to resist:
- You see another city: A couple of nights in a new city makes the experience that much richer, and since most cities are south of Toronto, you’ll likely enjoy some nicer weather as well.
- You meet people: If you wear your Toronto jersey, you’ll not only meet other Toronto fans, you’ll also meet home-team-supporting locals looking to razz you into some friendly competition.
- Cost: I checked on StubHub, and the cost of a 3rd row, centre ice seat to the Leaf game against Florida in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday Dec 15, 2018 was US$235. The best you could get for the following Saturday night in Toronto was the 11th row for US$616. That savings of nearly US$800 on a pair of tickets goes a long way towards covering the cost of flights and hotels. It might not be cheaper in the end, but it’s close enough and comes with a 26 degree Celsius daytime high.
Looking for a gift idea? Take a look at your Leaf or Raptor away game schedule in 2019 and plan a short trip south. Once you get hooked, you’ll never see a home game again.
Thanks for reading!
I realize from our summer students that golf and tennis may be past their “best before date” in the sporting world. Kids today are more likely to know names like Sydney, Ronaldo, and LeBron, than Brooke Henderson and Alexander Zverev.
Not surprisingly, when it comes to attending professional sporting events live, most people think of sports like hockey, soccer, basketball and baseball (football has a place too, of course). While these can be great events, I’d argue that nothing beats the variety of experience and the excitement that golf or tennis provide when you see it live.
There are two main reasons:
- Every shot is meaningful. The beauty of pro tennis and golf is that there is always a lot on the line. In tennis, a single loss means the player is gone. You are literally watching players fight for their survival. Even in golf, players are competing over just a four-day period, with more than $1 million usually going to the winner. Does a missed shot matter during an 82-game basketball season? Usually not. But an errant shot in golf or tennis could put a player out of the tournament.
- It’s a serendipitous fan experience. With a golf or tennis tournament, your ticket gives you an opportunity to create your own experience. With tennis, you can wander to any of multiple courts in action – and in the early stages of a tournament, you’re likely to see top-ranked players on small, intimate back courts that put you just a few steps from the action. Golf is the same – no two spectators will have the same experience. You can follow a group of players around the course, or park yourself on any hole to see how multiple players approach their shots.
I don’t think there are many other sports that allow you to “stumble upon” so many unexpected moments. So, with summer here, consider taking in a live golf or tennis event.
- Men’s golf: RBC Canadian Open – July 23-29 (Glen Abbey, Oakville)
- Women’s golf: CP Women’s Open – August 20-26 (Wascana Country Club, Regina)
- Men’s tennis: Rogers Cup – August 3-12 (Aviva Centre Stadium, Toronto)
- Women’s tennis: Rogers Cup – August 3-12 (Uniprix Stadium, Montreal)
Of course, golf and tennis events in U.S. border states (such as US Open tennis in New York City in late August) can also make for a very rich experience.
Thank you for reading … have a great day!