Spin Starlets stunned Leafs’ Nation when they performed to music in Maple Leaf Square on Wednesday May 10th. Toronto’s favourite team was out of town playing Game 4 in their post season match-up with the Florida Panthers and MLSE staged a lively show for eager fans. This is typical for Away games, and every game in the post season. The Leafs won that nights’ match 2-1 to stave off elimination in the 2023 NHL Playoffs, and the Spin Starlets pacified an army of restless supporters during the game’s second period intermission.
They’re Street Performers from NorthFIRE Circus
The Spin Starlets are premier street performers from NorthFIRE Circus and just one act among many different presentations and professionals listed on site. A-list buskers to be sure, they could be among the best in Ontario. They were not at all nervous or worried about performing in front of so many people or delivering anything less than a perfect show. Maggie Haze and Darling Pink are very experienced entertainers and they made their appearance amidst a burst of smoke and bright lights after being introduced by the Master of Ceremonies. On stage, they danced to the music of Kylie Minogue and absolutely shocked the audience by being so radically different than any other act they’d seen that evening. The girls captured everyone’s hearts with their strobing light batons (Pixel Poi) and glowing hula hoops.
Spin Starlets twirled their toys to dazzle the crowd and momentarily distract them from the tension of the game. Thousands of fans made the journey downtown to be part of this excitement and share their anxiety in group chants and mantras. At this point, their heroes were down three-games-to-nothing and everyone was very aware how this could be the last game of the season.
Such a raucous street party is not unusual, but in the post season, the crowd swells to such a size the celebration requires overflow areas with their own screens. For every game and especially during the playoffs, thousands of fans wear their favourite blue and white jerseys and come together on Bremner Blvd. They went home satisfied on the Wednesday night because that game ended in victory. William Nylander opened the scoring on the power play, and Mitch Marner had the game-winner in the third period. New goalie Joseph Woll stood tall with twenty-four saves in his first career playoff start as a Maple Leaf. The Starlets were fortunate the Leafs were ahead when they went on stage because the crowd was happy and receptive. If the team were losing it’d surely be another story. Spin Starlet’s show occurred during the second intermission and was simulcast to fill big screen televisions all down the street.
Most hockey fans arrive without tickets because anyone can simply walk-in off the street and register to enter two of the three fan zones. The area closest to the stage requires special access. Depending on their status in Leafs Nation, some fans get invited to watch the game in the VIP section while other enthusiasts must content themselves with the amenities downrange. They’ll all witness the same action on-screen, but some invitees are treated to a live show and enjoy significantly more opportunities to appear on camera and win prizes. Free clothing is issued throughout the night, thrown in the air by Carleton the bear and other hockey-mad teenagers on the SWAG squad. T-shirts fall from the sky like rain.
The area up front is dominated by a 40ft jib crane on which a remote-controlled camera captures aerial shots. The VIP zone is beset with enthusiastic camera-ready patriots and youth groups which are probably hockey related show up by the van load. The stage itself is made of steel truss and grid pipe and there are whole walls of plasma screens married together with some new-age display technology.
Behind the Scenes at the MLSE Tailgate Party in Maple Leaf Square
There was a heavy police presence on Wednesday, because of what happened when the Leafs surpassed Tampa Bay in the opening round. Some fans got rowdy and one celebratory video showed a guy removing a street sign while others cheered. The visuals provoked ridicule on social media (because it happened so early in the Playoffs) and the clip worried city administrators who fear widespread destruction should the Leafs win, or dramatically lose, the Stanley Cup.
Many different types of police are visible including traffic cops and regular uniformed officers who stand in designated spots or walk about on patrols. There are also undercover police (we’re told), and bicycle cops and their Watch Commanders who sit in specially marked Supervisors’ cruisers to keep tabs on everyone. The event has its own security, Sword Protection Services, and all the buildings in the area double their night patrolmen.
Penetrating this protective onion would be impossible for anyone except the Spin Starlets. They arrived in costume with their hula hoops in hand which saves them having to explain anything. One glace at the girls in their sparkly dresses and circular props and their purpose is clear. They were ushered past all barriers and sliced right through to the heart of the operation.
The Starlets were led to the Media Zone and from there, around behind the scaffolding and racks of industrial foggers, audio speakers, and programmable light panels to the rear of the stage. They filed past hair-makeup people and countless technicians and through an electrical zone where a step-down transformer from Toronto Hydro powers the site. The cables come up from underground.
MLSE is an equal opportunity employer and hires people of different races, religions, colors, national origins, and genders. They even have a giant white bear on staff.
The teenagers backstage are the MLSE foot soldiers who dispense gifts and make visual attractions. They are all hardcore dyed-in-the-wool Leaf’s fans; that’s their only commonality.
In the photo above you can see how the helpers in the foreground are holding a giant Canadian flag. They are getting ready to release it in synchronicity so that it makes a visual display for the camera. The crowd will stretch it out over their heads, but all this must be supervised. The cameramen are getting ready, and the crane tech in the foreground has his hands up to receive the head as the camera crew needs to switch something prior to capturing this important shot.
It’s a big deal because the home team is playing in Florida which makes this a competition between nations. The flag is a visual reminder that will invoke a patriotic response. It will cheer attendees here in front of the Scotiabank Arena, but also TV viewers at home and that’s what’s really matters and why such attention is paid to these little moments. There’s a professional TV crew on site and they are making live television, sending shots from Maple Leaf Square back to their mixer to be intercut with the sports show being broadcast across North America.
Monitors backstage evidence the whole production and display the many feeds available to the technical director and switcher making live television. The big flag was unfurled and there are various angles in the coverage; somebody, somewhere is deciding what to show NHL viewers. The bandshell is made of steel truss, plastic tarps and plasma screens and backstage there are three rooms. The Starlets were contained on the south end where they chilled with the army of SWAG dispensers, while another similar sized room on the north side remained empty because there was no furniture or television feed. Directly behind the stage is another bank of monitors and chairs for the professionals who manage the show.
Young people reign supreme behind the scenes at MLSE and they’re having the time of the lives. It’s hilarious to watch them react to a goal or even a good shot on net. When Nylander scored, they jumped around like caged animals only briefly pausing to use their phones for social media updates – one starts recording and the others group together and aim their cheers at his or her device. They are fanatics, passionate about hockey and each of them probably has lots of friends and social media followers because of their unique access to official Leafs’ events. It’s conceivable their updates on Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram could impact between twenty and thirty thousand people their age and that’s a respectable audience because their demographic is the hardest to target and the least likely to watch the actual game. Many of these teens were out front when the Spin Starlets performed and so perhaps their channels carried NorthFIRE’s illuminations live across the nation.