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The next stop for the Toronto Marlies on the trek to the Calder Cup was the Oklahoma City Barons. The Barons are the Edmonton farm team, who after drafting first overall the last two years, should be pretty good. Fortunately for Toronto, the only name I recognize on the team is Magnus Paajarvi who played on the NHL club for awhile; a lot of the top prospects for Edmonton are actually playing int he NHL (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall).

I bought tickets for game 5, which was the most convenient as it was on a Friday evening. It is possible that the game wouldn’t happen, if one of the teams swept the series, but fortunately both teams won at least one game and I didn’t get a refund. Even more fortunately, the Marlies were up 3-1 in the series and could close out the conference finals at home.

I also wanted to get tickets near the middle of the arena. Being at the end boards is exciting, but you can’t really see the play down the ice. This time, I got tickets right behind the penalty box (actually, when I got there, I was kind of disappointed because I expected to be on the home/visitor bench side).

Even though these seats are harder to get (“best available” sells these first), I don’t think it was an improvement. It’s not as exciting (there aren’t that enough hits or water bottle slams) and it’s actually difficult to see the play along the near boards. You also end up looking through two panes of glass. You do get kind of close to the players:

Now on to the game – the Marlies started strong scoring a PP goal early in the game. The first half of the first period was exciting with lots of end-to-end rushes. I guess the players started getting a bit tired and slowed the pace down in the last half of the first and second period. OKC tied it up at the end of second on a bad luck scramble play.

The Marlies got the go-ahead after Gysbers scored on a shot from the point which I think the Edmonton goalie should have had (although I’m not going to complain) – he wasn’t screened and it wasn’t tipped. Frattin added his second goal of the night with an empty netter where he slid into the goal and then promptly removed himself from the game.

This was the conference final which means that the Marlies and their next opponent will be playing for the Calder Cup. Norfolk has apparently been very good this year (well OKC was better than the Marlies as well), but hopefully we can win it all.

The Calder

While the Toronto Maple Leafs did poorly this year, the Toronto Marlies have been doing pretty well! In fact, we ended up first in our division, second in our conference and third in the league. How could our farm team be doing so well when our NHL team is so poor? Well Brian Burke has been actively improving our prospect pool over the last few years through trades (Jake Gardiner, Carter Ashton, Joe Colborne), the draft (Matt Frattin, Nazem Kadri, Jerry D’Amigo), and signing free agents from the NCAA (Ben Scrivens, and in the NHL: Tyler Bozak, Jonas Gustavsson). We’ve actually attracted many goaltending prospects because of our goaltending coach as budding goalies have signed specifically in Toronto to become the next JS Giguere (when he was good).

Due to the Marlies’ finish, they are expected to make a deep push into the playoffs for the Calder Cup. I was originally thinking of getting some later round tickets, but ended up buying tickets for Game 1 of round 2 because I was able to get rink side seats! This was my first time at a playoff game, but not the first time I’ve been to a Marlies game, or the first time I sat rinkside; but it was still exciting being so close to the action – it felt closer than watching the Leafs.

The game started off well for the Marlies as we had the majority of the puck possession in the first period. However, we couldn’t generate a lot of shots or chances. The Heat had more in that category and ended up with a 1-0 lead. I’d chalk that up to sweeping the first round series and being off for a week. The second was no better though, and we ended that with a 2-0 deficit. We started our comeback when Frattin scored a flukey (or highly skilled tip) goal; but that’s as far as we got with the Heat scoring an empty netter for a 3-1 win and a 1-0 lead in the series.

We sat in the Leafs’ defensive end around the boards. It wasn’t the greatest because the Leafs controlled most of the play in the first and the third (and was thus at the other end of the ice). There weren’t as many scrums or hits in the corners as I thought there would be, and the ref sometimes stood in front of us. But nevertheless, the seats were affordable and we got to see a couple of this season’s Leafs (and hopefully some of next year’s too).

Here’s the game recap. If you watch the video, you can catch glimpses of us – we’re sitting right above the G in the GFL ad on the corner boards (but the ad is on both sides – so we’re on the side without the red seats). I think the best shot of us is on the replay of the empty net goal, around 5:25.

Surprisingly, I’ve never been to a Raptors game before even though I grew up in their demographic (i.e., asian, 20s) when they were good. To be honest, while I did watch basketball in the past, it just wasn’t as interesting as hockey so I never pursued it as a spectator (and you can’t really say it’s because the Raptors weren’t very good because, well, look at the Leafs).

This all changed this week when I went to not one, not three, but exactly two games! Why did I go to two? well I had a group discount that eliminated the fees (take that Ticketmaster), and because the Raptors have been doing so poorly at selling out, I received two free tickets for buying >2 tickets as part of the discount. Good deal, I love free tickets!

It was good for the Raptors because they ended up winning both games that I watched. The first was a Sunday evening versus the Washington Wizards which was great because I at least knew a player on their team (John Wall). The game wasn’t very close (Raptors were leading by 15 in the 4th quarter) but the Wizards made it interesting in the last minutes by coming within 3. It was also entertaining because there were several alley-oops! I don’t think crowd yelling DEFENSE had any effect really. The Raptors ended up winning 99-92.

I also went to the game after that, and it wasn’t so good because the Raptors were playing the Bobcats and I knew exactly 0 people from that team. I think the most interesting thing that evening was a TV timeout game where two people tied together via a bungee cord had to reach opposite ends of the court. The game itself should have been more interesting because the Bobcats were within 1 point in the dying minutes, but I just have no compelling in the sport. In any case, the Raptors won 97-82 for their first two game winning streak at home since 2010. I think they need to pay me to be their good luck charm in the future.

It’s only December, but believe it or not, we have already been skating three times this winter! Well the first time we went, it wasn’t winter yet, but it was indoors at the ACC so there was ice. We went again last weekend, to a nearby arena . The arena was already packed with kids, seems like we are a bit snow in starting to skate this year!

Finally, this weekend, we tried an outdoor skating trail in Etobicoke. We’ve gone to another skating trail in the past, up in Richmond Hill and that was pretty cool. It is different skating outdoors on a trail, because the ground is not inherently flat (although they try to make it flat, but it’s more difficult than a rink). You sometimes have to do a bit of work because the trail goes slightly uphill, or you might start going downhill (a bit).

The one in Samuel Smith Ice Trail in Etobicoke. It seems more flat, and a bit longer than the one at Richmond Green. There’s also a little bridge that you have to go over, which is kind of dangerous because if you fall approaching the bridge, you either hit the concrete railing on the bridge, or if you are lucky and miss that, then you plunge into the river!

Before going to the TSO last Saturday, we stopped by Fusia Dog (pronounced Fuschia – it would have been MUCH easier to pronounce if they spelled it correctly!) for a gourmet hot dog. The hot dogs at this place is in the style of Japa Dog although it’s not specifically in a Japanese style. They use a variety of other trendy words like healthy, kosher, local, etc to describe their dogs.

There is a lot of choice, and all of them not too conventional so we tried the safe choice, the aptly named “Fusia Dog” for $6.95:

It was a hot dog in a wrap, with Horseradish sauce, daikon, and cucumber. It sounds strange but it works quite well! While waiting, we also received a sample of their Power Slaw. Although it looks weird with all sorts of different ingredients which might seem to taste bad (like cauliflower etc), it again worked well together and I wouldn’t mind eating it as a real salad. This is an interesting place and we’ll head down and try another one of their dogs next time.

Here is a problem with the TTC:

The 68 Warden (north of Steeles) is supposed to come every 20 minute or so, and should be spaced accordingly. Except, in real life, due to the riders or the drivers or traffic, it doesn’t happen that way! In this case, 40 minutes worth of buses going south are now approaching the same stop, and the next bus is 50 minutes away (instead of 20 minutes). Or at least that’s what they say, who knows if the next northbound bus is actually going to go north of Steeles?

Why are there 6 northbound Warden buses around 401?

VIVA typically doesn’t have this problem. Sure their drivers make $7 less per hour than TTC drivers, but maybe it’s because YRT invests those $7 into other job roles that make sure their buses are on time!

Every year in October, the employees at work spend a couple of weeks on a campaign called ECF (I think it stands for Employee Contribution Fund) where we contribute to various charities. The “closing ceremonies” (I think the Canadian GM said a few words, but not to everyone) was a family skate at the Air Canada Centre.

I recall that they had it before, but this was the first time that we actually went. You pay $5 per person and you get to skate for about 45 minutes on the ice. For that price, you also get 2 slices of Pizza Pizza pizza and a drink, so it’s a pretty good deal! You also got entered into a draw for a Lenovo laptop, but I don’t know if that’s a one-time thing.

Skating on the ACC ice surface is pretty exciting, because I see it all the time on the TV. They had all the markings on the ice, including the Ford, RONA, and the centre ice logos. Strangely, they had repeating Metro (the grocery store) logo on the boards. I’ve seen an IBM ad on the boards during the game, so I was surprised that that wasn’t up; but maybe Metro paid to advertise during the open practice the next day (I did see the IBM ad on TV on Saturday night).

What is even more neat is that you can go around the benches and penalty box. I was even able to pretend I’m Glenn Healy and stand between the benches! There’s actually no glass (except behind me) so you can hear both benches (and you have to be paying attention to the game in case the puck, sticks, or players come flying at you.

There was actually a guy (working for ACC I suppose) whose job it was to make sure the penalty box doors were closed. You could go in (and of course lots of people did for fun and to take photos), but you had to make sure to slam it shut, which he made sure you knew or did for you. I guess he had to be hired for liability reasons.

We had exclusive use of the ACC for our corporate event, and there were only so many of us, so they had a very skeleton staff. We were able to walk around a lot of the areas, so after we finished skating we went to explore a bit. We saw where they stored the Zambonis and saw some other NHL-specific rooms (well only their doors since we couldn’t get in).

We were also able to walk around underneath the Platinum seats, and saw all the rooms where all the people sitting in the Platinums go for food and drinks between periods!

The Raptors’ practice court was also open to us and we went in to take a look.

They had the court open the entire night, so I guess you could have just shot some hoops instead of skating. I’m not a big basketball fan so this was not as interesting to me, but they had a gym (you can see the windows of the gym) and also framed versions of all their jerseys. Overall, I would say this was a really good deal to be able to go to these places, skate, and receive food/drink for only $5!

Ever since grade 8, I’ve relied on public transit in some capacity or another (although I do take long breaks awake when I have a personal car). I can only remember a transit strike affecting me once, which was back when I was in high school and I ended up riding my bike to school instead. The current YRT strike is the second time.

In reality, there is no large affect for this strike on me, I am fortunate that my work is supplied by both TTC and YRT/VIVA so I can switch over to using the TTC. Of course there is a lot of little frustrations and changes:

  • Did you know that you have to add 10¢ on top of your “extra fare” north of Steeles now? This is to match YRT prices (with the side effect that you can use YRT tickets as the extra fare). I wonder if that will increase to an extra 30¢ when YRT raises its fares in the new year
  • YRT asked TTC (or so TTC says) to change the frequency of the Warden bus from ~15 minutes to ~20 minutes. At the same time, YRT decreased the VIVA Pink frequency from 10-12 minutes to 15+ minutes. I wonder if they want to prevent people from switching to TTC?
  • I have to pay almost 2X per week to get to work now. If I take VIVA, that’s $26/wk and now it’s $50+/wk
  • The cost per day is $10.20, which is a lot of tokens and dimes to stock up on (20 tokens and 10 dimes a week). After doing that for a week, I just ended up buying a GTA pass for $52/wk
  • TTC drivers have much less skill than VIVA drivers. A lot of TTC drivers jerk their buses a lot, either to accelerate or brake, so the ride is uncomfortable and bumpy. I’ve only noticed once or twice on VIVA.
  • The last strike (in 2008) lasted two weeks. This one feels like it will last much longer, because there aren’t any talks or negotiations scheduled! It’s almost like they will be off the job indefinitely. That is frustrating, but what can you do? They have a monopoly and there is no real alternative.

Pauline has always wanted to go to North 44, the restaurant by Mark McEwan near Yonge/Eglinton. North 44 has appeared on Winter/Summerlicious a couple of times, but we never ended up going then. When we did want to go, it didn’t participate in those events. Well, we decided to forgo the waiting and just visit it at a normal time.

(Pan seared Quebec foie gras with toasted brioche, braised leeks, spiced apple, praline and chocolate reduction)

We shared the foie gras to start. It was a bit different in that the edges were “glazed” (?) and had a strong duck flavor. Being of Chinese origin, it strongly hinted of Chinese duck; but of course once you got past the edges, the foie gras was smooth. I’m not sure whether my background influenced my taste, or whether the style of the restaurant was just a mixture of various cultures. The butter for the bread also had a Middle Eastern taste and the walls were decorated in a Japanese style amidst the otherwise non-denominational decor.

For my main, I had the special, which from my memory was a 6oz Beef Tenderloin with truffle risotto done medium. It was not bad, and actually came medium (well I would certainly hope so at this quality). With this I had a glass of Arresti Cabernet Sauvignon “Estate Selection” 2009, Curico Valley, Chile.

Pauline ordered the scallops which were also fine. The ravioli was a bit of a disappointment as there wasn’t much ox tail flavour – or again we could be conditioned by over-flavouring of the tomato sauce from the typical HK ox tail dish. She had a glass of Cave Spring Riesling 2009, Niagara as well.

(Seared sea scallops with oxtail ravioli, sunchoke puree, and crispy celery hearts)

While this dinner was not bad, and the quality was certainly “fine dining”, I don’t think it was special. Actually dinner at North 44 reminds me a lot of Coldplay, good but forgettable. I’d probably try another one of Toronto’s fine restaurants instead of visiting here again.

I went to my second Toronto FC earlier this month because there was a deal to get $19 tickets. Not too cheap, but what convinced me is because that was the full price; there weren’t any taxes or Ticketmaster fees (even though you buy through TM). So it ended up being $38 for two tickets and then $10 for parking, not too bad!

I actually had a hard time getting tickets, because I wanted to get a group of tickets together, but by the time I went to buy, all I could find were pairs! It seemed like the game would be sold out, but when we got there it turned to not be the case.

The game is part of the CONCACAF tournament. I don’t know what that means, but it’s not part of the regular MLS season. Perhaps it’s for that reason that not a lot of people care/showed up and also why they charged a cheaper price. They might have also not played their regulars, but seeing as I’m not really a fan, I don’t really know!

In the end the Toronto FC beat the Tauro FC (whose uniform made them look like referees) by a goal. The goal was quite spectacular as the corner kick ball was juggled by 3 heads before beating the goal keeper.

The game got interesting in the second half as the play got chippy and Tauros FC seemed to start diving. The referee ended up giving Tauros FC 4 yellow cards in the half, and one to the TFC! It was exciting until the end because Tauros FC had a free kick from the top of the penalty area in injury time, but luckily they couldn’t score and Toronto won!

Earlier this year, York Regional Transit finally joined the 21st century and implemented an electronic fare system. That might sound tragic, but the TTC has yet to implement the same system! Meanwhile if you head over to London or HK or Tokyo, everyone is using their transit cards to ride their system and buy snacks etc. I can only say that it is about time!

Even now, it’s only partially implemented. If I were to ride on a TTC bus, I would have to use a token. If I were to go to some less-frequented subway stations, I would need to use a token too! I can probably pay for parking or buy from Tim Hortons with it in 2050 or so.

I’m sure there was a lot of politics behind this, but my user impression is that it just doesn’t work well. I wanted to get a Presto Card, but I couldn’t even buy one! I tried the local store that sold transit tickets and they didn’t sell them (with no plan to get them). I’ve seen booths at Richmond Hill Centre selling the cards, but why would I want to get off the bus to buy one? I was finally able to get one by filling out a form on their website, paying $16 by credit card and receiving it in the mail 5 days later. Yay I finally simplified my life right?

Wait – you can’t use it yet though. First, you have to make sure your card is registered on their website. Since I bought my card online, I had to complete the registration process before they would mail me my generic card (they could have at least printed my name on it!). If you were to buy your card elsewhere, you would need to register online first!

Wait – still not done. After you have a card, you need to activate your card. You click a button on the website and are told that your card will be activated “within 24 hours” and then you must use your card within 7 days! Why are there these restrictions? Why doesn’t my card come pre-activated even though I specifically ordered it from their website?

So in all, it takes me 6 days to get my Presto card and have it working. Good thing I’m not a tourist to the city! An e-fare system isn’t bleeding or even cutting edge. It can’t be that hard to design so that it is simple to use.

I can’t wait until I have to reload my card, hopefully that will be straightforward.

After seeing Captain America, we went to Southern Accent for dinner. I chose this place after looking through the Summerlicious restaurants, because there was an affordable $25 dinner here. Although apparently they have prix fixe menus through the year at around the same price, so it’s not necessary to go during Summerlicious.

Southern Accent is a southern restaurant, with New Orleans and cajun-style food; and a place that I didn’t know existed in Toronto if not for Summerlicious; so the program works, although even if I had known of this place, I don’t know if I would have bothered to try it out if not for Summerlicious (and its $25 menu). The restaurant is in a house in Mirvish village and you eat in one of the various rooms of the house. We were in a freaky room with many paintings of a blue dog at the back of the house.

For starters we tried the Kick Ass Alligator (alligator in picante creole sauce served with hush puppies) and the soup of the day. I forget exactly what the soup was, but it was a weird combination of things including yogurt. The alligator was spicy, and actually worked well with the yogurt soup to temper things. I had read somewhere (when I was a child) that alligator tastes like chicken. The sauce was too spicy so I couldn’t tell what it tasted like, but the texture definitely was like chicken.

For mains we had the Canal St Creole Jambalaya (A highly seasoned rice combination of chicken, smoked ham, andouille sausage, rice and tomatoes, served on top of seared collard greens with garlic grilled tiger shrimp and Creole sauce) and the Lafayette Shrimp Étoufée (Black tiger shrimps smothered in a spiced rich deep-amber seafood reduction sauce, served with cumin basmati rice and a side of grilled asparagus

Dessert for me was the Pavlova (Aussie style meringue served with fresh fruit and fresh cream) and homemade vanilla bean ice cream. I was waiting for the ice cream for the entire dinner because there was not enough air condition/air flow in the restaurant!

Overall I thought it was good value for $25, and it’s a change from the usual Italian/French/Canadian dining options that are available in the city.

In a Canada Day weekend tradition (as it has been two years in a row), I went to catch a baseball game. Last year I saw one at Yankees stadium but seeing as we didn’t go anywhere this year, I saw one at the Roger’s Centre Skydome.

Well we kind of went because we haven’t gone to a game in awhile, it was a nice day, and tickets are cheap. We just showed up at the gate and bought tickets for the 500 sections ($16), sitting behind the foul pole in right field. I think we were closer to CN Tower than the field.

The game was part of Roy Halliday’s visit to Toronto, although he didn’t pitch in the game (he would pitch the next day). I saw more Halliday Phillies’ jerseys than his jersey from Toronto! It wasn’t an exciting game, but we got to see two home runs – the second was a two-run shot by Jose Bautista to give Toronto the lead in the 7th inning! Unfortunately, our reliever could not hold the lead in the 9th and we ended up losing.

Apprently, the crowd likes to cheer on Bautista by singing the Montreal Canadiens’ Olé Olé Olé to José José José.

Going to the baseball game is not always about seeing the game itself. Beforehand, there was a street festival to celebrate Canada Day. They had activities for kids and gave out some freebies like flags and giant fingers (I don’t know what these things are actually called). The first 10k fans also received a free t-shirt, but we didn’t make it for the promo.

With all the fanfare, there were over 45,000 fans at the game! That’s pretty close to a sell-out.

This past weekend, we went to the Scadding Court community centre in downtown Toronto, to visit their swimming pool, to do some fishing! Yes, fishing in a swimming pool!

It’s a bit weird, and I suppose targeted for kids (although there were a bunch of people like us – people who were to lazy to buy our own rods and get out of the city). The supplied the rods and worms, and you had a whole swimming pool of fish to catch (well that was the theory at least, but by the time we went in the middle of the day, many of the fish had already made a mistake and were caught).

We didn’t have much luck for a long time, which is pretty sad because this is unlike fishing in that you can actually SEE the fish before you catch it, and can cast your bait close to it. I had a bite from a very small fish, but couldn’t figure out which way to reel in my line at the spur of the moment. Pauline had a bite too, but the crafty rainbow trout was able to eat the bait and not the hook!

As we were just about the leave though, I had a moment of inspiration luck and caught one!

Last year (last April I think??), I took a energy usage pledge to save on electricity, and the incentive was that you would get free tickets to a Marlies game. I forgot about it for awhile but then in January they actually sent me the tickets! I signed up for the last game of the season, which was on Sunday, hoping that the Marlies would be in a fight for the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Marlies are just like their parent team and finished on the outside looking in. It ended up being a meaningless game for both teams.

Our free seats were not bad, they were in the “lower bowl” although it was fairly high up. There’s no second level at Ricoh Coliseum so they weren’t great by any means (although much better visibility than our Leafs’ seats earlier this year), but there were plenty of empty seats and few security guards so we could have moved lower if we cared too.

I caught a glimpse of the Marlies game the Saturday prior on CBC and it was pretty exciting. The defense in the AHL isn’t as good so there were a lot of odd-man rushes and end-to-end play. The game we went too wasn’t as exciting, but Toronto scored 6 goals so we had a lot of opportunity to cheer! Although we were sitting in the Abbotsford end, so we only saw Toronto score one of the goals (a nice backhand by Gregg McKegg on the powerplay in the second).

I have been following the Leafs closely this year, so I’m actually familiar with their personnel:

  • I was disappointed that Kadri did not play as he’s been with the Leafs for a few weeks
  • I was surprised the Joe Colborne (acquired in the Kaberle trade) played since he played his first NHL game on Saturday vs Montreal
  • Jake Gardiner (acquired in the Beauchemin trade) play, and he played a heck of a lot – like half the game
  • Jerry D’Amigo didn’t seem to do much, but I guessed him incorrectly in the Marlies’ Facebook photo challenge
  • Marcel Muller scored a hat trick, with his last goal coming 20s left in the game. He was so happy with that goal.
  • Jussi Rynnas played in net
  • Andrew Crescenzi played on the first line (but was he just called up from the OHL?) and tried to make an impression – mostly in the opponents and the boards. But this guy is huge, he looks much larger than the 6’5″ Colborne.
  • Christian Hanson also started on the first line
  • I think Greg McKegg (draft pick from 2010) was just called up and played in his first AHL game too
  • Jeff Finger was scratched. That’s hilarious, he was demoted from the NHL due to his large contract and now he’s scratched in the AHL because the youngsters need a chance to play.
  • Luca Caputi (acquired in the Ponikarovsky trade last year) was a healthy scratch

As it was the last game of the season, it was fan appreciation day too. Everyone received a photo of the team on entry and they gave out a lot of t-shirts (during the game, and the players threw some out afterwards). We weren’t lucky enough to get any though.

Earlier last week, I found out about a contest that Torontoist was running in conjunction with Virgin America (these are the people that operate an airline). They were offering a contest to win some flights to SF by submitting a 3-day vacation itinerary with the hottest underground spots in Toronto. The flights didn’t catch my eye, but there 4 secondary prizes of tickets to a Broken Social Scene concert, so I figured why not and entered.

Guess what? I didn’t win. But that’s not what this blog is about. I filled out a itinerary. I didn’t spend a lot of effort doing it, and just put a bunch of common 2nd tier tourist attracitions plus a couple of suggestions from my own Visiting Toronto blog. I thought that it was going to be a lottery; but after I received an email saying that my entry was now online. I read a bit more about the contest.

It wasn’t a lottery, which was sad because there were only 17 total applicants! It was one of those new grassroots promotions where you have to fan things on Facebook. There goes my chance at winning! But then I read a bit more and found out that the 4 consolation prizes were for 12 tickets to a private BSS concert + 2 return tickets to SF + 2 nights stay at what looks like a boutique hotel + $100 GC to a restaurant + 2 SF City passes. The value was over $6000!

If that was the consolation prize, what the heck was the grand prize? Well it’s basically 5x the consolation prizes. The 10 concert tickets + 10 return tickets to SF + 5 rooms in the hotel for a night. That’s a crazy grand prize, and if I knew about it earlier I would have actually tried harder in the contest.

The winning person only had less than 800 fans. If you had 9 friends advertise on Facebook to try and help you win this contest, and they all got 100 fans for you, you can reward all of them with a trip! I suspect that Virgin America didn’t expect to spend $30,000 on a promotion and only have 17 people enter though.

Last Friday, we went to our very first Leafs game at the ACC! It’s still incredibly difficult to get (affordable?) Leafs tickets without winning or being given them, but I was able to get a presale password for preseason tickets, and we decided on seeing the 2009 Stanley Cup Finalist Flyers play. Unfortunately, it was nothing like the last Leafs game we went to in Buffalo where we sat rink side. In fact, it was the polar opposite because even though I ended up buying tickets 3 tiers from the cheapest, we were in the highest row in the ACC! How does that work??

As it was a preseason game, the Leafs didn’t start their full lineup (here’s the TML lineup for that game). But we were lucky in that they started their top 2 lines, 4 of their defensemen and their #1 goaltender. I have no idea who Philly started because I don’t recognize their numbers. The Leafs started out strong in the first, and had a 3-1 lead in the third period. Then the Flyers scored two quick goals in the last 10 minutes to tie it up. In OT, Kessel seemed to score the game winner, but it was called back for unknown reasons, so it ended up going to a shoot out. This was a home-and-home against the Flyers, and the first game also went to a SO (an 11 round one in which the Leafs won). No such luck on this night though, as the Leafs ended up losing.

Maybe it was the preseason, but there wasn’t a lot of atmosphere watching the game live at the ACC. It was only exciting when the Leafs scored, there was no tension or anticipation otherwise. I think it’s a better experience watching hockey at home with HD, especially because there is something to do during the TV timeouts. Plus, you’ll be able to watch games in 3D soon!

When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:

The last few years has seen the return of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ as an anthem. Some attribute it to being played on The Sorpranos, or maybe it was the dance version they started playing on the radio, or maybe it was a Rock Band effect. In any case, it has been a huge and recognizable hit in the last few years and is the hook to get you see Rock of Ages.

Rock of Ages is a musical featuring rock music from the 80s. The story is about a small town girl and a city boy born in Detroit. Basically the lyrics to DSB. It’s a love story set in LA where both of them try to make it big, but of course there is adversity that prevents them from being together or being successful. The draw is for the audience to hear the music of their younger years as part of the story (instead of custom pieces like other theatre shows).

I think I was a little too young as I didn’t recognize a lot of the music (and it doesn’t help that I didn’t really listen to rock). But the show was still lively, exciting and funny. The plot is easily understandable but not really that complex, so it is not as engrossing or heart-tugging as Les Miserables. In fact, I think the plot threads are too quickly and neatly tied up at the end. But Don’t Stop Believin’ at the very end more than makes up for it and leaves you in a good mood for the rest of the night.

Lexus put on an event over the weekend to promote their upcoming hybrid, the CT 200h (I think that’s the right combination of letters). It was held at the Distillery District and featured free concerts by a few somewhat known bands.

I didn’t hear about the event until Friday morning on the radio, when they said that The Stills will be performing for free. I never got around to seeing The Stills in concert, so we went down to see them.

There was conflicting information as to whether they started at 7PM or 8PM. So we arrived around 7:30 which ended up being halfway through their set. The played maybe 7 songs after we arrived, none of which I heard of before! Then I realized, that I learned about them and listened to their debut album way back in 2005. That was 5 years ago! And at that time, their album was already 2 years old! I haven’t listened to their newer albums, so it’s no surprise that I didn’t know their songs.

I think the event was lame. The crowd on Friday night was pretty sparse (although maybe Lexus expected a higher conversion rate from the more upscale audience). The Stills had no energy, and seemed to be just phoning it in. Lexus put together a couple of booths with information about their new car. Their hook was that you could win a new iPad, by playing a couple of activities on iPads. The activities were VERY lame. On one, you could superimpose your mugshot on a picture of the car. On another, you could sketch out a path within Toronto you wanted to travel upon, and a third one you could watch videos of the car in action.

Perhaps Lexus wasn’t expecting a technically savant crowd, and expected that the audience would be impressed by the use of an iPad. For me, the apps showed a lack of thought in creating an engaging activity that I would spread the word about. Although, in retrospect I guess they succeed since they get my criticism.

I’m not a big fan of Rihanna or Ke$ha , but when I saw a deal for $19.11 tickets to their show, I bought them anyways! Rihanna is an A-Lister right now (either her or Beyonce would be my pick for the most popular female artist right now) and Ke$ha is quite popular too, so to see both of them for not-yet-made-it-big indie prices is a RFD Hot Deal steal.

My $20 got me lawn seats. It didn’t rain, but they were very very far away (and we were at the front of the lawn too). You can’t make out anyone on the stage so you had to watch the screens. I don’t know if I would go to see another concert from the lawn at the Molson Amphitheatre again. But I can’t complain too much about tickets that cost less than parking…

Ke$ha was the opener, and even though she has blown up the charts this year, it felt like she was just your typical opener. We arrived a bit late so didn’t get to hear Blah Blah Blah, but the crowd only really got into it when she sang Your Love Is My Drug and Tik Tok.

And when I say get into it, I mean REALLY get into it. The crowd was about 95% white teen girls who would do a group karaoke whenever there was a song they knew the words too. They did this throughout the concert, and because we were so far away, the crowd singing constantly drowned out Rihanna/Ke$ha. I don’t know if that is conducive for the atmosphere though, on the one hand it is fun from a mob mentality point of view, but from where I was I couldn’t see or hear what was going on!

Rihanna actually has a lot of hits and she ran through them. I never realized, but she has a lot of songs where she only carries the melody and a male rapper does the rest (i.e., Umbrella, Run This Town, Hate That I Love You, Live Your Life, Love The Way You Lie) so she only sang bits and pieces of those songs. The best part of the concert I think was a medley she strung together with Love The Way You Lie, a cover of B.o.B.’s Airplanes (singing Hayley William’s part) and then Hate That I Love You. I was disappointed she didn’t cover Oasis’ Wonderwall for us though.

When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:

It seems like all the TV shows nowadays are crime or hospital dramas. There are two Canadian cop shows that are on now, Flashpoint and Rookie Blue. I’m not really interested in Flashpoint, but watched an episode of Rookie Blue. It’s pretty obvious from the settings and conversations (wedding in Rosedale etc) that Rookie Blue is situated in Toronto!

What is strange is that I watched Rookie Blue on an American channel, ABC! Apparently Rookie Blue has been too (although it doesn’t seem that interesting to me). Wow, Toronto will be famous, just like Seattle in Grey’s Anatomy.

It felt like a lot of stuff happened in June, but it was mostly things that affected Toronto or the world rather than me personally.

First there was the BP Oil spill, which actually happened in May, but the incompetence continued into June. BP struggled with trying to stop the leak using a variety of methods, and there was a few weeks of coverage about that. That news slowly died down, without much conclusion, because the World Cup started in the middle of the month.

As Toronto is such a multicultural city, the flags started appearing on cars, and news coverage talked about both the event and about Torontonians watching the event. In June, there were a few upsets, with 2006 finalists Italy and France not making the knockout round. The World Cup also had a few controversies, first with the official Adidas ball acting a bit differently in the South African altitude, and second because the South African population blow Vuvuzelas incessantly throughout every game!

The end of June means that we’re getting close to moving, I spent some time this month packing and didn’t get out too much. Although, there was one weekend (19th-20th) where it was crazy busy in Toronto. There was the Dragonboat festival, free NXNE concerts, and the Toronto Island Concert (headlined by BSS and Pavement) at Centre Island. You could tell who was going to which pretty easily in the morning, all the people wearing sunglasses (when it was overcast) were going to the concert! There was also the KISS92.5 WHAMBAM at the Molson Ampitheatre, Luminato’s closing weekend (and 1000 Tastes of Toronto), the Much MMVAs AND half of downtown was blocked by G20 preparations.

Speaking of the G20, there was a lot of paranoia and preparation for the G8 and G20 summits, but being a suburbian, I wasn’t really affected. My drive in on Friday was a bit slower (since they closed the ramp to the 427 South), but we didn’t plan on going downtown and missed all the action. There was a lot of protesters and some violence, and a lot of arrests. Some of those arrests were from a hush-hush new law that granted police powers to arrest basically anyone on the spot. Unfortunately, the law turned out to not even exist! I think we’ll be hearing more about the G20 fallout and the law in July.

The more exciting thing for me was the earthquake! This was the first time I felt one (in Toronto or elsewhere). Too bad I missed out checking in on Foursquare at that time, otherwise I would’ve gotten my swarm badges too!

Apparently, we didn’t go to Luminato last year. I guess it wasn’t that interesting. I looked at this year’s schedule and it wasn’t engaging either, and didn’t have concrete plans of going. But we ended up going to various things on the closing weekend since we were downtown already.

The first place we went to was the Wish Come True Festival at the Bay Adelaide centre. From the website and description, we thought this would be a large exhibit of various cute things. But it turned out to be only one big “star burst” thing:

On Saturday, we headed to Queen’s Park for Luminato’s closing ceremonies. They had more of the Wish Come True Festival things scattered around Queen’s Park! Much better than the Bay Adelaide centre.

Also on location was the 1000 Tastes of Toronto and various premium restaurants from Toronto. We arrived after having dinner so didn’t partake. They had some interesting displays though, like this roast pig

It sure is unlike Chinese BBQ.

Telus was also sponsoring ecocab by giving free cab rides to various destinations around downtown.

we rode the ecocab for a quick loop around the U of T campus since we had parked close by. We were one of the last people to get a ride and by then a lot of the bikes had run out of batteries. We actually had to get out at one point so the bike could make it up the hill!