While we’re a long five months now from puck drop for the inaugural debut of the Toronto Six, the newest expansion team has started taking shape with a roster built up to date of 18 players. While the work is ongoing behind the scenes, fans are getting their first looks as players arrive to take part in team skates.
With that being said, as part of the announcement made on Thursday morning, the NWHL said that that the league’s six teams will continue their focus on enhanced opportunities. That includes player development which is currently running despite a later puck drop. The press release also stated that these camps will include optional on-ice practices and off-ice training starting Sept. 21st.
As first reported by Cindy Caron, that was the date established that training camps would open to prepare for the season. Now, that date has been pushed back, meaning full team practices will start October 19th.
With flexibility considered here, some players started off early, taking full advantage of took advantage of every chance they can get. Going as far back as Saturday, small groups had started tricking in to start forming team chemistry while also shaking off rust. This included Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Breanne Wilson-Bennett, Taylor Woods and Natalie Marcuzzi.
Fast forward to Monday morning, the team announced their 18th signing in Mackenzie MacNeil after GamerDoc leaked it. On Thursday, at Scotiabank Pond, the Richmond Hill native suited up with the Six. The forward was one of seven players, joined by one of her own in Goose Bay native Amy Curlew.
What became a point of focus, however, was not just the skill level on the ice, but much more the choice of ice the Six held their practice on. I say this in knowing that the hockey club has spent the last week renting ice sheets to practice on. However, it was the name of the rink, Scotiabank Pond, that stole the attention despite the action on the ice.
If we look back to May 23rd, a source said to The Puck Authority that the Toronto Six were closing in on an arena. Not only that, but we also learnt that the league’s sixth team preferred several locations in both Vaughan and North York. Having been told at the time that a deal was close for a place to call home, speculation began as to where that could be with minimal options for the team to lock in on.
Naturally, that got me thinking as to how many options are realistic. With that being said, let’s take a dive through them before discussing the latest. Marking them off by pro standards, I narrowed the list down to Scotiabank Pond, Al Palladini Community Centre and Hebert Carnegie Arena. Another possibility is Canlan Ice Sports, however, that’s where things get a bit tricky.
Let’s start there. Canlan Ice Sports at York University would be a solid option for the Toronto Six, however, logistics would have to be negotiated given that the facility is very rarely vacant. The reason for that is because it’s primarily the home of the OUA’s York Lions. That said, this is a double-edged sword as the Vaughan based arena includes six regulation sized ice pads. Adding to the end of the spectators, the facility also includes an overall viewing capacity of 1,200 seats.
The only issue would be scheduling to make sure their schedule doesn’t clash with the Lions. If you take a look at Maple Leaf Gardens, now Mattamy Athletic Centre and home to the Rams, this would see more than one obstacle given that the school holds exams on the ice surface.
As such, this would conflict with the postseason as a result of writing times as well as rink maintenance. The task, if it were being considered, would be overwhelming with little time to complete it. Next on the list is Scotiabank Pond which has multiple benefits that would suit a pro team. For starters, the facility, based in North York, includes four NHL-size ice sheets with limited seating availability.
The in-rink capacity ranges anywhere from 500-1000 seats. While that’s a huge bonus for the public, the Pond offers staff and players a variety of studios for both cardio and weight training. Given that the rink holds four ice pads, the conflicts could be fewer than most with four different games going on at one time. What’s also unique about the Pond is that the facilities include NHL-styled dressing rooms which makes for a total of 150,000 square feet.
For the purpose of viewer attraction, the Pond has a functional restaurant as well as a patio to take in the action from. Currently, the Pond is home to the Jr. Canadiens in the OJHL. All in all, this is a more likely option than Herbert Carnegie which is old and outdated. Speaking of which, that’s where we look next, also based in North York.
Herbert Carnegie Arena was built in 1967, opening its doors as North York Centennial Centre in which stayed until May, 2001. Renaming the arena to Herbert Carnegie, it bears the name to an important figure. Today, it hosts the GTHL and was previously home to the OHL’s Toronto Marlboros.
Along with junior hockey, this past year, Herbert Carnegie Arena opened its doors for the PWHPA’s Dream Gap Tour. It did so, much like CanIan Ice Sports, this allowing both arenas to host women’s pro hockey. The two are on opposite ends as Herbert Carnegie is close to Pioneer Village.
The good thing in that for the fans is that it’s right on the subway line and close to the bus terminal. Much like Canlan and Scotiabank, Herbert Carnegie Arena does hold a capacity of 1,000 spectators. It would, however, need major upgrades if considered an option to house the cities newest franchise.
Last, but certainly not least, Al Palladini Arena in Woodbridge, Ontario. Al Palladini Arena first opened its doors in 1981. At the time, it was known as West Vaughan before it was renamed in honour of a politician. In 2001, the arena was established along with the completion of the fitness centre’s expansion.
Today, it hosts the Toronto Marlboros and North York Rangers of the GTHL. Hosting junior hockey frequently, the facility allows for it on regulation-size ice. Not only that, but the building plays host to exhibitions and tournaments, including those that are sanctioned by Hockey Canada. With a full lower bowl for seating, this makes it a candidate to host women’s pro hockey.
Much like Herbert Carnegie, Al Palladini is convenient for spectators as it’s right on the subway line and close to the bus terminal depending on travel needs. With some touch ups just given its age, this arena could become pro standard, thus being a candidate to host women’s pro hockey.
Taking all this into consideration, the final selections can’t be easy to make. However, while running with that thought, one satisfies all perks of both players and fans. As such, adding further to that note, The Puck Authority has learned that the Toronto Six have engaged in discussion with Scotiabank Pond. While keeping all options open, the source said that pen has not been put to paper yet, but Scotiabank Pond seems to be the front runner.
Now, five months out from first puck drop, it’s too soon to say with absolutely certainty that they’ll call the Pond home. Given the economic impact the city has taken from COVID-19, getting bookings in order may take some time, thus being a while longer until a deal gets done.
With all that to be said, the only thing I’ll say is that the facilities and NHL ice sheets make the Pond a no-brainer. For now, only time will tell until the league makes history on Canada soil.