History is not a word that is often associated with Toronto’s South Core district.
Sure, the area bordered by Front Street and the lake was for a long time employed as the location of the railway lands, but the South Core community that many now call home is a relatively modern phenomenon.
The towering condominiums, the thriving bar-and-restaurant scene, the tourist traps funneling people from out of town down to the lake; all of them byproducts of the last 30 years of planning and development.
And like it or not, beginning Wednesday night, each and every person connected with the South Core has a front-row seat to watch history unfold.
It might not be the triumphant sort of history that was on display throughout much of May and June as the Toronto Raptors upset the establishment to win the franchise’s first NBA title, but it will be historic nonetheless.
Entering their 103rd season, the recent rise of the Toronto Maple Leafs within the rank and file of the National Hockey League has been as swift as any of the construction projects dotted around the South Core.
And just in case anyone had failed to notice the hype building around the team, the Leafs are set to unveil a brand-new (meaning bigger and louder) Jumbotron on the Bremner Boulevard side of their Scotiabank Arena home just before opening faceoff.
So provided the likes of Auston Matthews and John Tavares perform to the level of the $11-million-plus each is getting paid, South Core residents can look forward another long summer of boisterous viewing parties, snarling traffic jams and streets strewn with garbage. That’s if the Boston Bruins let the Leafs escape from the first round this season.
Much like a noisy neighbour, Scotiabank Arena and Leafs seem desperate for attention. While the Buds’ former arena, Maple Leaf Gardens, stood like a stately home on Carlton Street, calm, reserved and oozing class, their current abode doubles as a homing beacon with its four searchlights lighting up the sky on game nights.
And like dealing with any noisy neighbour, dealing with the Leafs requires some special planning. For starters, don’t even think about driving a car around the South Core when the Leafs are playing at home. With police out in force to direct traffic, even a quick trip around the block can become a two-hour tour de force.
For residents who like to eat and drink at any of the many fine establishments in the area, again, special arrangements must be made on game days. By the conclusion of the Raptors’ playoff run in June, it was standing room only at many of the bars surrounding Scotiabank Arena, sometimes four or five hours before the games began.
One can only imagine what the lineups and wait times will be like if by some stretch of the imagination the Maple Leafs reach the Stanley Cup final. That’s why it pays to get to know some of the friendly bar and wait staff now.
Drop in on a quiet Monday night, get to know them and, most importantly, tip them well. Come June, that kind of advance planning will pay off in spades.