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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Leafs Fan Fest Was Certainly Not Fun Fest

If I had to choose three words to describe my trip on Saturday to the Toronto Maple Leafs fan fest the best words would be; lines, disorganization and more lines. What started out as a simple attempt to thank the fans and bring them more access to the team, ended with many fans being turned off of the organization.

Many fans left the event disgruntled, tired and frustrated after standing in lines for hours on hours on hours and receiving poor treatment from many of the staff.

Normally I wouldn't venture anywhere near an event like this, but since I had never been to a "fan fest" of sorts and a good friend asked me to attend with them, we bought into the Leafs advertisement hook, line and sinker. To say we left disappointed would be an understatement.

I'll go into some detail into what our crazy day at the event looked like.

We kicked off our day at the Air Canada Centre around 10:30 in the morning. We immediately went to
Crazy packed activities section. 
check out the new and improved Real Sports, which was awesome. However, the store was extremely busy and we had to stand around for several minutes waiting for someone to help us.

Once someone finally realized we needed help, they were perfectly helpful and my friend was able to place her jersey order. They told us to come back in an hour and half, so we decided to go check out the autograph line.

There were lines of people everywhere, most of whom had no idea what they were lined up for, but we scooted around them and made our way to the 300 level where the autographs were going down. We expected lines of course, but nothing like what we were met with.

There were waves of people lined up everywhere and it took awhile before we were pointed in the general direction toward the end of the line. We walked for a good 10-15 minutes finding absolutely no end to any line on either side of the building. The line seemed to go on forever and when we heard someone say the wait time was going to be 3.5 hours, we hightailed it out of there.

Getting player autographs was cool and all but not worth spending the entire day trapped in line while likely missing the time slot of the player who's autograph you seek. We made our way down to the Maple Leafs dressing room tour a highlight both my friend and I were excited to do.

Once we got down to the ice level where it was being held, we found our way to the tunnel where the Leafs dressing room was located. Once again we were met with a big line. "How bad can it be?" we thought as we walked towards the end of the line which once again seemed to stretch on forever. When the end was finally in sight we asked a staff if this was the line we were looking for and if we could join it at the end. He looked at us and rudely said "no, come back at 1."

Disappointed we went into the fan interaction zone which was located right on the ice rink. People were packed in the little space like sardines and you could barely move a muscle. People were taking pictures all over and lines stretched everywhere. Once again you couldn't tell which line was for what event and people were complaining about the hour long wait times.

We then ventured into the crowded and disorganized Leafs equipment sale before hitting up the visitors dressing room tour. The visitors dressing room tour was pretty cool and a rare activity that didn't have a crazy line, in fact there wasn't a line at all. It was really fun and I got to put on a pair of pads in Carey Price's stall which was really cool.

Side note, as a big Ryan Miller fan there is a good chance he sits where I got to sit today which is super cool.

We then headed for the second best part of the day, lunch. For once the Leafs delivered on their
promise with reasonably priced food items. Seeing much cheaper and affordable prices on the concessions was truly great, I'll try to remember those when I pay regular price during the season.

After a great and relaxing lunch we went to go check on my friends jersey since they told us it would be ready in an hour and a half. We stood at the pick-up desk for 10 minutes before someone noticed us. When the guy came over he looked at the ticket, shook his head and walked away. No mention of how much longer or anything.

Once again disappointed we chilled in the stands for a bit before heading back to the dressing room tour. We asked what we needed to do to get in and they told us to just find the end of the line, so we did. Once we were at the end of the line we tried to join it but got yelled at by security who told us we needed a bracelet.

We had no clue where these bracelets were and had just swam through a massive mob of people trying to meet Dave Nonis in a crowded hallway, the proposition of going back was not one we enjoyed. The security guard pointed back toward the crowd and we got pretty annoyed. Thankfully the bracelets weren't far away and we didn't have to brace the mob again.

They let our group into the line at roughly 12:50 and we got into the dressing room in roughly 35 minutes. The line went really quick and we were super excited to finally see into the dressing room.  Being able to film and capture photos throughout the tour was even better.

The only downside to the tour was the massive roped off section that severely limited movement. I get not stepping on the Leafs logo, that's a sacred tradition, but getting yelled at for even having a toe on the edge of the big blue carpet? That's a bit much. Never the less the dressing room tour was awesome and really lived up to the advertisement and excitement.

I then went to pick-up a Nikolai Kulemin jersey before we once again went to check on my friends jersey order. Finally around 2 the jersey was ready and she was ecstatic, Real Sports did an awesome job on her first Leafs jersey.

We then headed to the drop the puck station which was an absolute disaster. We started on the 100 level concourse, worked our way down the stairs to the ice surface and waited in three different rows on the ice. For context, I sent a text in the 2nd row on the ice at 3:30 and we didn't finish the puck
I touched the ice!
dropping station till 4:10.

The camera kept breaking, "too many photos" they said, so everyone had to get photo's taken on their phones which was a major hassle. I mean can't a corporation as big as MLSE afford a back-up camera or more memory cards or an extra battery?

After that my friend was fed up and demanded we leave, I wanted to do more stations but the long lines drove both of us away and we left before 4:30. We left tired, frustrated and disappointed, the only comment I could muster was "glad we didn't pay the full $60 for that."

Now before you accuse me of ragging on the event too much, let me just say this. Toronto Maple Leafs fan fest had the potential to be a FANTASTIC event. Unfortunately poor planning, little to no direction, hours on hours of waiting in lines to be turned away and some grumpy staff is a recipe for disaster. I also understand it was the first year for the event but come on.

They were expecting roughly 40,000 people over the weekend but the organization for an event that large was not there. It's not like a normal hockey game where everyone has a general idea of where they're going and an idea of what to expect. No one knew where to go or what to expect and no one was there to help. Whether expecting 40,000 or 10,000 the organization should have been better.

I missed tons of events/activities today, simply because I didn't know where they were located. On twitter there was talk about a fan guide that could be picked up, but I never saw one being offered anywhere.

Now I don't have a big issue with waiting in line, when it's worth the wait. The biggest issue I had was with the autograph line. Let's say you're lining up for Phil Kessel who's signing period is on from 2-3, if you're in line for 3 hours and you line-up at let's say 1, by the time you reach the front Kessel will be long gone. Heck I heard from people who were in line upwards of 4.5 hours only to be turned away. One guy claimed he was told the wait line was at least 6 hours for an autograph! By the time that guy reaches the front the guy he's looking for is long gone.

The simplest lesson that can be learned is that not everyone can embark on a place at once with the
same goal, it just doesn't work. Next time perhaps tickets to a specific player at a specific time or even spreading out the autograph sessions to different areas might be better.

There needed to be more communication, clearer direction and shorter lines. Not to mention they ran out of their free popcorn!

I only got to do two events today, some didn't even get to do that. All in all Toronto Maple Leafs fan fest was not as advertised and left more people with a sour taste in their mouths. Like I said above, it could have been awesome, but some more planning would have gone a long way.

Here are some tweets that sum up both the event and this article.


Sorry MLSE, Fan Fest was a joke for the fans and the ones who got it the worst were the kids who were so excited to meet their hero's but got screwed over. On the plus side I did get a cool fan band bracelet that I didn't use once at the actual event.