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Gary: Air Canada Centre, Toronto

the giant screen outside the Air Canada Centre, Toronto
The Air Canada Centre provides a giant screen outside the venue

A Lustful Search:
Hockey and WiFi in Toronto

Story and Photos by Gary Singh

am one of those rapscallions who turn sour when yet another billion-dollar hotel has the belligerent audacity to charge everyone $15 a day for internet access in each of its “newly-remodeled” rooms. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted futzing around with Rube Goldberg $15-a-day accounts while going from hotel to hotel on the road. I mean, why is it that one can find a roadside Cozy 8 in the middle of suburban wasteland America with complimentary Internet in every single room, while so many upscale accommodations refuse to incorporate such simplicity?

laptop and cup of coffee: complimentary WiFi services at the Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square
Some hotels provide complimentary WiFi, while others don’t.

This is why I fell in lust with Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square during a recent spree through Toronto. Lust at first sight. It was the Internet access. That’s right—free. A new hotel with complimentary access everywhere. It was lust at first walk-through. In fact, I didn’t even stay the night.

Situated right down the street from and overlooking the Air Canada Centre—home of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team—Le Germain challenges one to simplify the amount of verbs any public relations hotshot might use to drive the dialog forward. The property offers, provides, presents, supplies, bestows, portrays, reveals, imparts, conveys and delivers. You betcha.

If one is here on business, a room might even include a desk flanking the entire 20-foot length of a window overlooking the street below. That means loads of workspace and plenty of room for spreading out piles of paperwork.

a room at the Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square
Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square.

The meeting rooms are named after hockey terminology: The Defense Zone, The Neutral Zone, The Penalty Box. For that last one, I asked General Manager Paul de La Durantaye if I could rent the Penalty Box for two minutes or five minutes. He said they’d work on in it.

view of the Air Canada Centre from the Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square
View of the Air Canada Centre from the window of the “Penalty Box” meeting room at Le Germain.

Of course, there’s already another Le Germain in a different section of Toronto, on Mercer Street, around the corner from a zillion theaters, and down the block from Wayne Gretzy’s Restaurant, which just happens to be on Blue Jays Way. Sports town, you ask? Huzzah!

spiced goat kabob, nan bread and roasted acorn squash salad with walnuts and blue cheese

At this older Le Germain, I experienced an exclusively Toronto menu at the hotel’s Victor restaurant, where one can order any number of specific dishes from specific ethnic neighborhoods throughout the city—all served family style, intending to be shared. One dish is $14 CDN while seven combined dishes total $79 CDN. Toronto describes itself as a beautifully convoluted and sprawled out mosaic of every ethnicity imaginable, so the idea makes sense. Items included Albacore Tuna Crudo from College Street in Little Italy, Berkshire Pork Souvlaki from Greek Town and Pickled Fish with Beetroot Horseradish from the Polish and Eastern European parts of Roncesvalles. I went for a plate of spiced goat kabob representing the Little India section of Gerrard Street East, as well as a roasted acorn squash salad with walnuts and blue cheese from Toronto’s celebrated St. Lawrence Market. What a concept.

I then sunk deeply into the lobby area, an earthy welcoming milieu where one can lounge and choose from a wall of books, floor to ceiling. Plus there’s a free coffee-and-espresso machine, and—Yeah!—a free computer with free internet access, 24/7. Other than that, it was unconditional lust. Again, I didn’t even stay the night.

Back at Maple Leaf Square, the Vancouver Canucks were in town and since every game at the Air Canada Centre sells out, a huge screen sits above the main entrance. Anyone can watch the hockey game from outside in the street and complain about Toronto’s team, which they do even when the Leafs win.

street view of giant screen outside the Air Canada Centre
Street view of the giant screen outside Air Canada Centre.

What’s more, situated next door to Hotel Le Germain and across the street from the Air Canada Centre, one finds Real Sports, a 25,000-square-foot multistory sports bar with 199 screens, including a beautifully ridiculous 39-foot HD screen, the largest indoor one of its kind in North America. There exists no better place in Toronto to wolf down a peabacon sandwich while watching 14 different games simultaneously.

39-foot HD screen at Real Sports
Real Sports, voted Best Sports Bar in North America by ESPN.

beer taps at each table, the Elite booths at Real Sports
Elite booths at Real Sports come with beer taps at each table

The main space features an 80-foot bar resembling a sheet of ice when lit. The upper floor overlooks the main space and includes a golf simulator, three private suites and the Pitch Bar, which looks like a soccer field. Special booths even come equipped with beer taps at each table. In a recent article, The Globe and Mail compared the entire facility to the NORAD Command Center, which pretty much sums it up. There are screens everywhere, even above the urinals in the men’s bathrooms. Everything is operated from the equivalent of a DJ booth, where employees toil away at the controls like royalty.

I walked into a chaotic scene, with even a few sporadic Vancouver jerseys buried amidst the throngs of Maple Leaf regalia. Toronto lost that match in the third period, unfortunately for them, which led to even more grumbling from the local fans, who seemed to be calling for coach Ron Wilson’s head before the game even started.

After lusting over free Internet connections at Le Germain Maple Leaf Square, my quick spree through a tiny portion of Toronto was complete. I will now seek, perhaps in vain, to find another hotel just like her.

a model of the new Ritz-Carlton in Toronto
The new Ritz-Carlton in Toronto will be impeccable,
but will it offer complimentary Internet?

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Let Gary know what you think about his traveling adventure.

* * * * *

Your tea adventures are especially interesting because I've always associated tea with British etiquette or a bevy of women wearing dainty victorian costumes and sipping tea with their little pinky sticking out. To see Tea from a man's perspective brings new light in a man's psyche. I've been among the many silent admirers of your writings for a long time here at Traveling Boy. Thanks for your very interesting perspectives about your travels. Keep it up! --- Rodger, B. of Whittier, CA, USA

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sunset at Galway Bay

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As we dropped down to 25,000 feet I saw one of the most extraordinary panoramas I'd ever been lucky enough to witness. The majesty of it all and the stunning vistas that lay below and before me were spectacular. It was as beautiful as spring's first rose, and it made me understand why so many pilots on commercial jetliners love their job; they get to see so many awe-inspiring sights from the cockpit. My view was that of a vast vista of the Pacific.

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aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

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dressed-up for the Mardi Gras
The Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras in Lake Charles, the second largest in Louisiana, does not need parents there to avert their children’s eyes. This is family entertainment and children are very much part of it. The main office of the Lake Charles CVB has costumes from last year’s Mardi Gras but it also has figures to fascinate little ones from country boys fishing for their dinner to alligators who have already fed and are rubbing their stomachs.

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Cedar Hill: Frederick Douglass' Home is as Imposing as the Man who Lived There

Cedar Hill, Washington DC
Having recently received a misguided shout-out from the president during Black History Month – Frederick Douglass has done an amazing job... – it seems a good time to revisit the cultural icon's legitimate place in history. And a visit to his home in Washington, DC – surely a place the current president might want to consider visiting himself – would be a good place to start.

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