BY LINDA LUONG
Die-hard fans of Canada’s favourite pastime might say there are actually five seasons in our country: spring, summer, fall, winter and hockey. The latter was tragically delayed this year, but on January 12, after 119 nail-biting days, a deal between owners and players was reached to end the NHL’s frustrating lockout. And so our city’s beloved (though sometimes hapless) Maple Leafs have dutifully returned to the ice. If you can’t get tickets to seem them play live, these Toronto sports bars near the Air Canada Centre offer ample screens for catching all the action with fellow fans.
CASEY’S GRILL AND BAR
Grab a seat in the bar area to ensure prime viewing at this Canadian chain. Family-friendly and economical, the restaurant offers daily deals like $4 drinks on Thursdays and $25 ribs on Fridays. Even if the big game falls on another night you won’t be disappointed, thanks to regular offerings like pulled pork on flatbread, jambalya, fish and chips, half-pound burgers and wings with barbecue sauces like apple-beer and Jack Daniels and Budweiser.
HARBOUR SPORTS GRILL
Settle in at a booth or table, on the cozy couches and club chairs, or at the bar, to watch everything from hockey to cricket to fishing on 40 HD screens. For sustenance, sip on 13 varieties of beer and tuck into the signature homemade pizzas—try the prime rib or Canadian meat lover’s—and burgers like the Jack Daniels gourmet burger, which is a half-pound patty topped with jalapeno jack cheese, sautéed mushrooms, bacon and Jack Daniels honey barbecue sauce.
HOOPS SPORTS BAR AND GRILL
Don’t let the name or the basketball-hoop logo fool you. Though it’s definitely a great place for watching Toronto Raptors games, there’s more to this sports bar than jump shots and slam dunks. A 10.5-foot-wide infinite plasma TV holds centre court for major sporting events, while smaller screens arrayed throughout the room—there are even private screens in the booths—provide the ultimate viewing experience. The menu is a slam dunk of pub favourites like burgers, nachos, poutine, pizza, chili bowls, and wings with 15 sauce options, including barbecue, chipotle, Thai, Cajun butter and even curry. A kids menu is also on offer for junior fans.
KI MODERN JAPANESE + BAR
Who says that game-time fare needs to be greasy and served with a side of fries in a plastic basket? Not the folks at this upscale Financial District restaurant, which offers a special menu on nights of Toronto Maple Leafs home games. Catch the boys in blue and white on the ice from two big screens in the cocktail bar while savouring the likes of smoked bacon tempura, duck confit tacos or sake-cured salmon tartare washed down with a pint of Sapporo.
MEATING AT THE BOTTOM LINE
Former Edmonton Oilers goalie Wayne Cowley is behind this sports bar-meets steakhouse fittingly located next to the Hockey Hall of Fame. A dozen televisions are situated both in the bar and dining room, ensuring you don’t miss a single slap shot. Though there are wings, pizza and fish and chips on the menu, more elevated offerings include spicy tuna tartare, Brazilian beef, a seared tuna club and rigatoni Bolognese.
REAL SPORTS BAR AND GRILL
ESPN named this venue the number one sports bar in North America. High accolades indeed, but they’re befitting of a destination that features 39-foot-wide big screen along with 199 additional HD televisions, ensuring that if there’s a sporting event on anywhere in the world, it can be seen here. And of course there’s proper sustenance for all those periods, quarters and innings (and overtime, too!), like 14 types of wings, 11 burgers, five gourmet hot dogs and beer from more than 100 taps.
The Great One’s eponymous restaurant is an obvious destination for catching the game. Kitted out with personal memorabilia from the former Edmonton Oilers and L.A. Kings star, the sports bar also boasts 20 HD televisions for all the puck action. A varied menu includes nods to Canada and hockey itself—from the Great Canadian Poutine to the “99″ Prime Rib Burger and “99″ Double Chocolate Puck for dessert. Even Grandma Gretzky is honoured in servings of meatloaf and perogies inspired by her original recipe. Don’t forget to make a pit stop at the 99 Tuck Shop for hats, T-shirts, hoodies and even glassware bearing the Gretzky logo.