Bon Jovi received the inaugural induction into the Air Canada Centre’s Hall of Fame in Toronto, selected because the New Jersey rockers have played the arena a record-breaking 17 times. No other act comes close.
The ceremony took place late afternoon on the second day of the band’s sold-out show Nov. 2. Frontman Jon Bon Jovi, keyboardist David Bryan and drummer Tito Torres came out of Gate 1 into the indoor Galleria area, which was cordoned off and surrounded by about 200 fans. The band posed in front of a pillar, at the bottom of which their star was hidden under a black cloth. Tim Leiweke, president/CEO of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment; Randy Lennox, president/CEO of Universal Music Canada; and Randy Phillips, president/CEO of AEG Live, joined them briefly when it was unveiled.
Bon Jovi didn’t say anything, just did the photo op. Jon Bon Jovi jokingly polished the star with his fist, gave a thumbs up and some waves, and then they were gone.
Manager Paul Korzilius spoke to Billboard right after the induction.
“The band’s been here 28 times since 1984,” beginning with the venerable club the El Mocambo, he said. “They played at the venue that preceded this three times [Maple Leaf Gardens]; they played twice at [CNE] Grandstand, played the Molson Amphitheatre several times, but this is their home away from home, isn’t it? 17 shows, Air Canada Centre.”
In New Jersey, their home turf, he says Bon Jovi has a high venue count but in various ones in the market. “The total count would be high, but I don’t think there’s any other place with 17 shows in one building,” Korzilius says.
The band, which has been touring for 30 years, was at the Air Canada Centre back in February at the beginning of their Bon Jovi Because We Can – The Tour, and again for the recent back-to-back shows to 17,000 to 18,000 people per night. “You get very familiar with the place,” says Korzilius, assuring no chance of a “Hello Cleveland” moment.
The band also had a banner raised inside the ACC later that evening to further commemorate the milestone. Asked how he feels about Bon Jovi getting inducted in Canada, while not yet being recognized at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and Korzilius laughs, “I’m not going to answer this question, but thank you.”
Wayne Zronik, vice-president, Live Entertainment at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, says the Hall of Fame inductions at the Air Canada Centre will be selective and special — and recognize some milestone at the arena. Bon Jovi was the obvious first choice, even though they are not Canadian.