Memories of Attending Games at Maple Leaf Gardens

St. Louis Blues v Toronto Maple Leafs
St. Louis Blues v Toronto Maple Leafs / Graig Abel/GettyImages
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Memories of Maple Leaf Gardens

The Tickets

One of the few positives to cheering for a perennial loser during the 1980’s was that it was possible to get tickets.  No, not at the box office, the games were all sold out back then too.  And no, not online, computers were still something you saw only when watching the Jetsons cartoons on Saturday morning.

To get tickets, you had to brave the crowds and the unsavoury side of downtown Toronto at night, and make a deal with a scalper.

There’s still the odd in-person scalper wandering outside of Scotiabank Arena, but it ain’t like it used to be.  Anyone who ever attended a Toronto Maple Leafs at the Gardens will forever recall the feeling of walking the scalper gauntlet just to get into the building.

Dozens of aggressive middle-aged dudes getting right in your face with “You need tickets buddy?”, “Who needs tickets?”  “Who’s selling?”  Although ticket scalping was illegal, the police mostly left the scalpers alone, but occasionally they would try to run a sting.

This resulted in a verbal dance between scalper and customer.  “You want tickets, buddy?” Sure, whatta you got?  “What do you want?” Got any reds? Scalper then pulls out his deck of printed tickets, fans through them, and finds an appropriate pair. He looks at you silently, careful not to name his price, ever, lest the customer be a cop. 

Then you make him an offer.  He laughs at you, insults you, says he has a family to support, etc.  You start to walk away, he calls you back, you increase your offer slightly, and the dance continues.  You eventually come to terms with him or one of his colleagues, make the exchange, and head happily inside the arena.  I was in high school or college at the time, and learned more about negotiating outside Maple Leaf Gardens than I ever did in school.