The NLL Experience: Buffalo vs. Toronto Part II

This is part II of a short series comparing the lacrosse experience in Buffalo and Toronto. Part I was my own observations. This second one contains other people’s comments as well as a summary.

As I mentioned in the previous article, I have never been harassed in any way wearing my Rock jersey in Buffalo, and none of my Bandit-supporting friends have had bad experiences in Toronto. But unfortunately, that’s not true for everyone.

A player’s wife told me a story of when she was cheering for her husband (who played for the visiting team) while in Toronto a couple of years ago. Her husband had been hurt and was down on the floor, but she didn’t know how bad it was. The woman behind her was shouting things like “get up you f**king pussy”. The player’s wife was there with their toddler who was already upset that daddy was hurt. She turned around and politely informed the screaming lady that it was her husband who was hurt and that their child is quite upset, and asked her to stop. The lady simply told her AND her crying child to f**k off. Nobody around her said a word to this obnoxious woman.

She acknowledged to me that this was a rare incident and that not all Rock fans are like that, but she hasn’t been back to a Rock game since and it’s hard to blame her. Not only am I shocked at the douchebag who yelled at her and her child, but I’m surprised that other fans around her didn’t step up and tell this lady to STFU.

Air Canada Centre

A few thoughts from other fans:

@TimNThen: “Probably biased, but Buffalo is better. Swennie is more into it. More basic fan interactive. Have had probs with Rock fans.”

@hardison34: “Rock season tic holder. Buffalo is what Rock games were like at Maple Leaf Gardens. Very envious. Rock lost 7000 fans somehow!”

@hardison34: “By the way, Bruce Barker has been increasingly repetitive and annoying. Toronto..do you want another,always when opp. has ball”

[GP: I figure this is because after the goal there’s a faceoff, and Toronto usually loses those. So by the time Barker has finished announcing the goal and asks “Do you want another?”, the opponents already have the ball. This has been much better this year, thanks to Brad Kri.]

@kevinmad: “not a fan of either team, but have been to both. Toronto was a awesome experience with great fans. Buffalo not so much #khawks”

[GP: The lone dissenting opinion.]

Steve Lorimer: “Buffalo atmosphere is way better! Probably because they’re owned and operated under NHL ownership! Toronto rock should be too! There’s more fans in Buffalo and most people are covered head to toe in bandits clothing! The announcer is even better! What’s he got? NOTHING! Toronto has nothing! Gotta change things around here but fans doesn’t want or like idea if mlse owns the rock…”

[GP: I’m not sure I agree with MLSE owning the Rock being a good thing, but that’s a whole ‘nother article…]

Extras

I said in Part I that I wasn’t going to look at food or ticket prices, but I will mention them briefly. Not only are the tickets cheaper in Buffalo but the outdoor parking lot right next to the arena is $10 – parking that close to the ACC would be $20 at least. There’s a parking garage connected to the FNC which is a little more expensive ($15 I think, still not terrible) but it’s a nightmare to get out of after the game. We walk the three minutes past it to the outdoor lot and we’re generally on the expressway in no more than ten minutes. Five minutes after that, we’re at the border.

The food and beer options are different but I can’t really compare them. When I’m at games, I rarely buy anything more than a Coke Zero (or a Diet Coke in Buffalo since they don’t have Coke Zero Sad smile), and maybe popcorn if my kids are there and hungry. Depending on timing we sometimes get dinner at the arena, and usually opt for a pizza slice or hot dog; we don’t get the more expensive pulled pork sandwich or beef on a weck. Thus I can’t compare the food quality in the two arenas other than to say the popcorn is comparable.

One other issue in Buffalo (other than the Diet Coke fiasco): my younger son isn’t a big fan of soft drinks but the only other option we could find for him was water or unsweetened iced tea. Did you know: it’s a scientific fact that you can’t add sugar to unsweetened iced tea and make it taste good.

Conclusion

Of the people I talked to, just one person preferred the Toronto experience to Buffalo, and it wasn’t me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Rock and have no plans to stop going to Rock games. For me, the game is the main thing and the atmosphere is fine. But I do love going to games in Buffalo. The game is still the main thing for me but it’s just so much fun – it feels like Toronto did in the early 2000’s when we were getting 17,000+ to every game. But even then, 10,000 fans in Buffalo were louder than 17,000 in Toronto.

I wish I could point to something and say “Hey Jamie Dawick, here are a couple of things you could do to bump attendance and improve the game experience!” Because you know, he probably hasn’t had teams of people looking into that for years. Also, what might work in Buffalo might not in Toronto, and vice versa. But as long as the Coke Zero is available, you’re on the right track.

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