Date: 25th - 27th August, 2017
Location: Hall F, Enercare Center, 100 Princes' Blvd #1, Toronto, ON M6K 3C3, Canada
Photos: Joe Ciaravino, Steve Martin & CNE

Pinball At The Ex!

Since 1879 the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE, or just ‘The Ex’) has been entertaining Canadians young and old.  The annual summer fair is held in Toronto on the Exhibition grounds, and it has grown to become the largest fair in Canada and one of the largest in North America. Attendance for the 18-day fair is approximately 1.5 million guests.

The 90th anniversary of the CNE gates
The 90th anniversary of the CNE gates

Over the years the fair has played host to countless competitions.  Everything from speed typing in the 1930s to Best Tea Cozy (1935), to a Mend-Your-Sock competition in 1949. It was inevitable that one day a pinball competition would come to The Ex.

The event was held in Hall F of the Enercare Center (large building on left)
The event was held in Hall F of the Enercare Center (large building on left)

There has been a history of pinball at The CNE over the years – for many years there were arcades set-up on the midway among the rides.  Unfortunately, for the last few years it’s been hard to find a single machine at the CNE.

For the 2017 edition of the Canadian National Exhibition they added a new attraction: The Gaming Garage. The Gaming Garage featured an e-Sport tournament, tabletop games, gaming demonstrations, free play pinball and a pinball tournament.

The trophies
The trophies

The tournament was organized on behalf of the CNE by Steve Martin (City Pinball) and Eddie D’Orazio (Durham Amateur Pinball League).  The games were supplied by: Robyn Harrison and Cabin Fever; Dan Beeson; Eddie D’Orazio and The Durham Amateur Pinball League; and Jerry Power and Player One Amusement Group.

Best of all, the tournament was free with admission for all CNE guests. You read that correctly – FREE!

The entrance to The Gaming Garage
The entrance to The Gaming Garage
The free play area
The free play area
Tournament games
Tournament games
E-sports, vendors and more free play pinball
E-sports, vendors and more free play pinball

A $19 (US$15.50/€12.90/£11.40) admission to the CNE buys a lot of fun.  There were multiple live music stages (Steppenwolf played the night of the playoffs!), an Aerial Acrobatics & Ice Show, Parkour demonstrations, a Wakeboard Championship, celebrity chefs, a Mardi Gras parade and more.

Trampo Wall performance just outside the building
Trampo Wall performance just outside the building

Every pinball event needs food, and there is no shortage of it at the CNE.  Not only is there a whole building just for food, there were vendors throughout the building, a ‘Ribfest’ by the Bandshell and out on the midway there was the usual assortment of carnival foods.  Luckily for us, the pinball event was on the same weekend as Food Truck Frenzy & Craft Beer Fest!

Food Truck Frenzy
Food Truck Frenzy
Food Truck Frenzy
Food Truck Frenzy

The format for the pinball tournament was a limited ‘Herb’ style format.  Each player received 20 entries, with each entry representing one game on a qualifying machine. Players were not able to purchase additional tickets. The available qualifying bank consisted of ten pinball machines drawn from all eras. The sum of the points from the player’s best scores on six games were used to rank players throughout the qualifying portion of the tournament.

The qualifying period took place on Friday and Saturday.  The top 24 won free admission to return to the CNE on Sunday to compete for the championship.  At stake was a top prize of $750 (US$610/€510/£450), second prize of $250 (US$204/€170/£150), plus other items donated by Stern, Pinball Life, Pinball Arcade, Cabin Fever and Drop Target.

By Saturday night 155 people had qualified by playing a minimum six games (over 200 registered).  Fifty were ranked players. While the majority were new to competitive pinball, we saw some good players and it was great to see their enthusiasm and effort. Many expressed interest in doing this again.

The top 24 as the playoffs started
The top 24 as the playoffs started

The playoffs were action-packed.  It was great to watch as Ian Harrower started seeded in 22nd place but worked his way through each round to take the title!  Amazingly it could have been over for Ian in the first round, but he was saved when another player tilted their bonus away.

Champion, Ian Harrower
Champion, Ian Harrower
The winners: Jeff Teolis (3rd), Ian Harrower (1st), Jack Tadman
The winners: Jeff Teolis (3rd), Ian Harrower (1st), Jack Tadman (2nd) & Brian Trenholm (4th)

The final standings:

1 Ian Harrower

2 Jack Tadman

3 Jeff Teolis

4 Brian Trenholm

5 Eddie D’Orazio

6 Pete Nicholls

7 Michael Savage

8 Barry Brdar

9 Zeus Manolis

10 John Zaharatos

11 Joe Ciaravino

11 Tyson Asher

13 Jeff Borg

14 Matt Faulkner

14 Walt Morose

16 Jason McKay

17 D’Arcy Mosher

18 Maurice Pelletier

19 Dan Beeson

19 Les Kowal

21 Alex Harrison

21 Stefan Pyndiura

21 Shawn Lee

24 Steve Martin


One of the main goals of this event was to promote pinball to the public at large.  With thousands of people passing through the Gaming Garage, we had the chance to show people that pinball is alive!  New machines were on display and guests got to see a real pinball tournament in action.  We had the chance to talk to people about leagues and give out information on where to play pinball in the city.

It was very rewarding to see kids getting to play pinball for the first time.  Parents had commented that the kids had been drawn into the hall for the video games, but after they gave pinball a try, they couldn’t stop at just one game!  The free play area was busy all day long and there were always more guests lining-up to play.

The machines were busy non-stop
The machines were busy non-stop

Hopefully we’ve turned on a new generation to the world of pinball. The crowds were quite enthusiastic and were asking for us to return again next year.

Thanks to Michael Strathmore and the whole team at the CNE who gave us a great space to play.  And of course a special thanks to all the volunteers who helped keep the tournament running and the machines humming.

Eddie, Kim and Barry tuning up early in the morning
Eddie, Kim and Barry tuning up early in the morning

The ten tournament games were:

  • Dialed In
  • Wizard of Oz
  • Batman 66
  • Jungle Queen
  • Aerosmith
  • Star Wars (new Stern)
  • F-14
  • Ghostbusters
  • Volcano
  • Corvette
Tournament games
Tournament games

The machines in the Free Play Area were:

  • Six Million Dollar Man
  • Terminator 2
  • World Cup Soccer
  • Roller Coaster Tycoon
  • Baywatch
  • Socerer
  • The Shadow
  • Austin Powers
  • Metallica
  • Checkpoint
  • Robo-War
  • Whirlwind
  • Attack From Mars
  • Big Buck Hunter
  • AC/DC
  • Evel Knievel

And finally, no trip to the CNE is complete without these:

Tiny Tom donuts … a CNE tradition!
Tiny Tom donuts … a CNE tradition!
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