After spending a number of weeks hosting preseason skate sessions between a pair of arenas, the Toronto Six announced on Thursday morning a facility partnership with Canlan Ice Sports. Canlan, which is based in North York, also plays as home to the OUA’s York Lions.
The announcement is the latest development since the Six unveiled their team jerseys and logo. Those of course join in their success of signing 18 players for the upcoming season.
With arenas across the GTA, Toronto will call the York facility home in the city’s north end at Jane St. and Steeles Ave. West. The facility, based near Pioneer Village, is just off the campus of York University. With that being the case, Canlan, as stated by the press release, will also be used as their primary practice facility.
Taking a deeper look now at Canlan, the facility, home to OUA hockey, consists of six ice sheets, five of NHL stature. Along with those, it has an Olympic sized rink, which holds a capacity of 1,200 in spectators. While the 2020-21 season won’t begin until January due to COVID-19, their home will serve familiar territory for York Lions graduate and Six defensemen, Kristen Barbara.
Barbara spent five years with the program before making her debut in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. While it will feel as though she walked back in time, the same might just be said for Erin Locke if and when she is signed.
In a statement from Digit Murphy, Toronto Six President, with regards to the facility, she said of the reason it was chosen, “Our first priority in a home rink was finding somewhere fans across Toronto and the GTA could come to see the Six play. Canlan is in an accessible location with all the amenities we could’ve asked for and we can’t wait to step on the ice of our new arena and for the puck to drop signalling the start of season six.”
Speaking of player amenities, the Six will have designated locker rooms built out for the team ahead of puck drop in January. Now, in an effort to break down this decision, one may look objectively at the numerous factors.
For starters, given the unlikely circumstances that OUA hockey returns to full play this season, the Six chose Canlan Ice Sports as home and will play host to ten games there on consecutive weekends. One big conflict of choosing Canlan was that one of York’s teams is home each weekend for homestands.
With the Lions known to play night games on Saturday’s followed by matinee matches on Sunday’s, this would have caused a schedule blip which the team and Canlan would have had to negotiate with U SPORTS. This of course being the case given that both currently hold leases to the arena.
Let’s now take a look at the positive aspects of choosing Canlan for the players. Right off the bat, the arena has an off ice training facility which measures at approximately 4,000 square feet. This will be available to players both during their practice sessions and prior to games.
While this factor marks a piece of their history, it appears as if the Toronto Six are the league’s first team to play on an Olympic ice surface. In doing so, this gives them the advantage with a wider ice sheet to throw opponents off their game. While the Buffalo Beauts have the Olympic option in Amherst, the team doesn’t use it to hold games on or practices. Perhaps something to watch for come season six in the new year.
While on and off ice factors are just as equally important, let’s take a look now at what makes Canlan appealing off the ice. Aside from their physical training facility, the spectator space of 1,200 offers individual seats from the front to the back. Speaking of the ice sheet’s capacity, it is equal to Tria Rink, which is based in Saint Paul, home of the Minnesota Whitecaps.
Looking at more offered amenities, for the fans, found right on the concourse is an indoor concession area with Wild Wing and Pizzaville. This being another drawing point from a fan perspective as I was told by someone familiar that the bar and grill faces over the rink.
In addition to what’s found on the upper level, Canlan Ice Sports offers meeting/conference rooms and a full service Sports-Shop for all apparel and merchandise needs. That includes an amenity for the players with on-site skate sharpening, contouring and repair.
Speaking of which, other benefits offered by Canlan were described to The Puck Authority as being “quality.” Let’s take a look at why that might be. When The Puck Authority first checked in on July 31st, at the summer’s halfway point, a source had said the team was in talks with Scotiabank Pond to possibly play there. While nothing was set in stone, The Puck Authority learned that they “seemed to be the front runner.”
So that takes us to 57 Carl Hall Road. Much like Canlan Ice Sports, Scotiabank Pond offers several NHL ice sheets. However, unlike the hockey club’s new home, Scotiabank’s featured rink seats a smaller capacity at 1,000 spectators. Now with a general outlook, let’s see what’s on site in terms of amenities.
For starters, if you take a look behind the ice sheets, Scotiabank has 24 locker rooms, all up-to-date and of NHL stature. More specifically, each room is well equipped with individual showers and in-floor heating. Another noticeable offering is Toronto Fits, which is an in-house sports injury clinic.
While that lays the groundwork for the differences, let’s take a look now at their many similarities. A must have for every arena, the Pond has a Full Service Pro Shop with ExpertSkate Sharpening. As well, it has an off-ice training facility accessible to players for both cardio and weight lifting.
Let’s now shift our attention to the spectators. Right off the bat, for the enjoyment of ticket holders, the arena has a full service licensed bar and restaurant. With so many close comparisons, it lies right over the ice so attendees don’t miss a beat.
For those who want to watch from the stands, alike Canlan Ice Sports, there’s an indoor concession area. Speaking of the stands, the same concept applies with individual seating. Now for the noticeable draw-ins.
Unlike Toronto’s new chosen home, for those who opt to stay put in their seats, the fans are well taken care of from start to end with in-floor heating. Another one, if you will, though one might question the design and structure, is that the restaurant that operates within is both extra spacious and has an outdoor patio.
While that may sound unusual and unique, a lot is the same when you look at the bigger picture. In part, that may be the case as Canlan last saw an update back in 2017. With the Six playing at the home of YorkU, it’s worth noting that Scotiabank Pond is home to the OJHL’s Jr. Canadiens.
Had Toronto signed a deal with Scotiabank, assumption is there would have been no schedule conflicts with the OJHL on one sheet and the Six on another. Much like the current situation, that would have meant no dates of concern to worry or stress about.
Speaking with a source shortly after, The Puck Authority was told that one detail that attracted Toronto Six management in choosing of home arena was Canlan’s promise to have a custom dressing room implemented for the hockey club. While we were then told that details are unclear, the source said, “we’re getting something pretty special for the girls.”
Speaking of something special, the Toronto Six will get a taste of that themselves. The same rink has previously been the stage for Team Canada’s National Junior and World Championship Men’s and Women’s teams.
In a statement from Dani Rylan Kearney, founder and commissioner of the NWHL, she said of the agreement shortly after, “In 6 months, the Toronto Six got an awesome all-female leadership group, a brand, unis, a roster filled with great hockey players, and now a venue! For all their accomplishments in a challenging climate, huge respect to the NWHL’s first team in Canada!”
As for the thoughts of Joey St-Aubin, President and CEO of Canlan Ice Sports Corp., he said of the facility’s newest tenant, “We are excited that our York (Toronto) location was chosen as the host facility for the Toronto Six. Canlan is committed to growing Women’s hockey through innovative instructional programs, leagues, tournaments, sport-related experiences, and partnerships. We are looking forward to working closely with the club’s ownership and management to bring a whole new dynamic to the sport here in Toronto.”
Toronto held their first full team practice on Tuesday evening since having been established. The skate was run by Mandy Cronin with no head coach or assistants yet hired. With the roster sitting tight at 18, The Puck Authority was told by a source that not much is happening with regards to future signings. The latest debuts include Shiann Darkangelo, Kelly Babstock, Sarah Steele, Samantha Ridgewell and Elaine Chuli.