All Photos Property of Jeff Veillette / TheLeafsNation.com
When gossip started coming about that there was a rink on top of a downtown skyscraper in Toronto, I was a little surprised. Not that the rink was shocking, but more so that people found it mysterious. Molson Canadian, after all, had been running a commercial for months displaying that they would be building a rooftop rink somewhere. It played so often, in fact, that I began to get jealous of the people who were going up.
Suddenly an email popped up in my inbox, asking me if I wanted to play some pickup hockey. From a person, I had never spoken with before. Normally this would be weird and creepy, but given the circumstances, I had to say yes.
There isn’t a place in Canada to play on a skyscraper that’s better suited than Toronto. That’s not even “centre of the universe” speak; we just have more and taller towers here. In this case, Molson didn’t go all out and attempt to play this on one of the mega-towers like First Canadian Place or Scotia Plaza, but instead opted for a still reasonably tall structure in the Richmond-Adelaide Centre. The RAC is 340 feet tall, which puts it out of the top 50 in the city, but is still the most unique spot for a rink that I’ve ever seen in this city.
The building is pretty inconspicuous, at the surface, particularly because it’s still being used as an office tower at the same time. As I walked up to the building, I had a business lady see my stick and immediately express jealousy; showing that not even its regular tenants had access. We walked up to a small table, confirmed our names on the sheet, and were led to a lounge upstairs where we had a selection of food and beer at our disposal.
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) January 20, 2016
I’m a pretty competitive person, so when I go to play any sport, I like to win. With that said, as good as my ball hockey-taught hands are, I’ve “taught myself” how to skate in recent years, which means absolutely awful. Like, awful to the point where I can’t avoid oncoming traffic and typically end up on the ground with Clarkson-esque frequency during traffic. To offset that, I brought a ringer with me; Marlies goaltender Garret Sparks.
Sparks may have been more excited about the chance to play, though he did so as a forward. This may be a surprise to those who have watched him stop pucks as a pro, but Sparks spends summers playing left wing for Lemonhead HC, a high-level men’s league team in Chicago. “I just love hockey, in any way that I can get it,” Sparks said of his alternate position. “I want to be the best I can at every position, so any opportunity I get to skate out and work on my skills I’ll take advantage of.”
In this case, he came out to play hours after getting off a plane from St. John’s, and was probably the best player out there. In a game of “posts are goals”, he was dangling out everybody and was going post and in with more shots than he wasn’t, something that would be a nightmare in his day job. As for myself, I was satisfied with having a meaningful touch of the puck.
Playing on the top of a building is a cool experience. Being able to see the downtown core at eye level rather than craning your neck up is awesome enough as it is; doing while on skates with a puck on your stick is something else. The rink was a little on the small side, designed more for 3-on-3, but that made for more laps and made the two hours feel more meaningful.
A bunch of familiar faces came out to play, which was cool, but the unfamiliar ones, in some cases, brought even better stories. For example, two members of the band Monster Truck came out. It turns out that they’re genuinely huge hockey fans, and when Righteous Smoke was made the Marlies’ goal song a few years back, they saw it as a huge honour. Seeing Jeremy from HowToHockey run through his recording process was impressive in its own right, and hearing Patrick (@MTLDriveFor25)’s perspectives on social media were a game changer; certainly more than I was when I had the puck.
Overall, this is one of those experiences that I won’t soon forget and an opportunity that I’m super grateful for. A huge thank you is in order to the fine folks at Molson Canadian for reaching out to me, and to the audience on here that tolerates me just enough to give me enough relevance to get cool emails.
If you want to play on the rink, there’s still some time to do so. Molson has two methods of entry available to the public; a sweepstakes, and a traditional booking. If you wanted to skip the lines, it costs $2000 for a group of 20 to rent the ice for an hour and a half. Otherwise, let them know what you do for hockey and you might be selected to make the trip up! All the details are available on their website.