Bud-free ACC Rocks

JASON TCHIR, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

The Toronto Maple who? "The Leafs? Never heard of them," joked Toronto Rock fan Lisa Miller, 25, who was at the Air Canada Centre for her team's National Lacrosse League home opener last night. "If it's not lacrosse, it ain't a sport."

More than 17,000 people took over the Leafs' home turf to watch the Rock beat the Minnesota Swarm, 19-15.

Some, like Brampton's Jim Jickels, were looking for a Buds substitute.

"This is our first game ever. There's no hockey so there's nothing better to do," joked Jickels, who has Leafs season's tickets with wife Lise. "But really, I don't miss NHL hockey that much. I got my hockey fix from watching the juniors."

For Toronto's Steve Fiore, 40, the game was a chance to bring his 9-year-old son down for a live game at the Hangar.

"And frankly, when hockey's on it's too expensive," Fiore said. "I'd be watching the NHL at home."

DIE-HARD LEAFS FAN

While Fiore is a die-hard Leafs fan, he said he hasn't really missed the game as much as he thought he would.

"Life goes on. You get busy doing other things," he said. "But I'll be there as soon as they start again."

Fan Doug Howie -- who became a lacrosse fan after he won tickets to a game three years ago -- said he'd take lacrosse over hockey any day.

"It's a really fast game and I like that it's nowhere near as violent as hockey," said Howie, a staffer at Centennial College.

"Every time I've seen a player get hurt in a (lacrosse) game, he's back on before the end of the game. When someone's hurt in a hockey game, they're off for weeks."

BUSINESSES MISS CROWDS

The Rock games are also a boon to businesses who are missing the crowds who'd come out for Buds games.

"It's just nice to see a sport back here. We don't get these kinds of crowds at Raptors games," said Jessica Steiner, who works at a Centre Sports kiosk in the ACC.

The Rock boosted business at Front Street's Loose Moose bar and grill, staff there said.

"Business right now is just as good as when there was hockey, if not better," said a manager, who wasn't allowed to give his name.

And the Front St. East Side Mario's was packed.

"It's hard to tell if it's because of The Rock, because there was also a big monster truck show at SkyDome," Mario's manager Blair Miller said.

Miller said he misses the rush of thirsty fans who would show up before and after games.

"But it would only be maybe three hours -- it would be dead during the game," he said. "Still, business is business."


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