by Adam Becker
“Man do I hate Mondays!” that seems to be a general conscious for the starting day of any given week. “Not me, I love Mondays!” is my usual response, followed by a perplexed look on the face of whoever I happen to be talking to. Why do I like Monday’s? Because I’m a member of the Toronto Pinball League and we play every Monday pretty much fifty two weeks out of the year. Who wouldn’t like Mondays when you had an evening of pinball to look forward to?
The Toronto Pinball League was started back in 1996 by Eugene Gershtein. Eugene at the time was attending shows in the US and enjoying the hobby at home but wanted something more. After hearing about the BAPA and thinking it would be great to have a league in Toronto he started to form up the basis for the league. But at the time his local social network only included two other people interested if forming a league so it didn’t seem viable.
A few weeks after returning from the inaugural Pinball Fantasy show in Vegas during July of 1996, Eugene met Sarah Brown at a local arcade. Sarah shared the same passion for pinball that Eugene did and the topic of a Pinball League in Toronto came up. With now 4 people it seemed like a good base in which to start a league. The first season ran 17 weeks which saw attendance of only fourteen people over the seventeen weeks with really only a core of about five to six people showing up week after week.
Since that first season back in 1996, TOPL has grown and changed quite a bit to its current state. We now see an average of twenty two people a night on any given week and we’ve shortened the seasons from seventeen to fifteen. Eugene moved to California and ironically now helps run the BAPA and Sarah has since opened up her own family fun center called In Play in a town north of Toronto. The league has broken up its leadership into three parts. president, treasurer, score keeper.
At any given league night, we set up everyone in to groups of three or four. We play on four different machines that are either voted on or chosen at random. Points are given out based on score, so first place would get four points and last place would get one point. Over the four machines the maximum point value anyone can get is sixteen and the lowest point value is four. We total up the points accumulated over the fifteen weeks and the person with the most points is crowned our season champion.
Playoffs are then held at the first weekend after the end of a season, even people who haven’t participated in the league can partake in. We have two divisions our A or open division for our more skilled players and a B division for our less skilled players giving them a chance to duke it out amongst themselves.
We also try and keep things interesting for members by giving out awards for the most improved player and the player with the most high scores at the end of a season.
TOPL has grown to be more then a league in that we are also a close group of friends. We’ve managed to organize a great group of people that come from all different walks of life and all different skill levels from the highly competitive to the casual player, all with one common interest: a love for the silver ball. We even make a point of trying to organize groups of us to attend shows down in the US and participate in tournaments all around North America.
TOPL has become the heart of the pinball community in Toronto. As a league we’ve helped organize local shows such as the Toronto Gameroom show, helped run tournaments such as the Canadian Pinball Championship and Toronto Pinball Championship.
All in all I have to go back to my original statement; Monday’s are my favorite day of the week. The league is over fifteen years old and if I have anything to say about it will be around for another fifteen and then some. So if you ever find yourself in the Toronto, Ontario area and need you Pinball fix, you can be sure that if it’s a Monday, the league will be playing somewhere and you are more then welcome to share in the passion.