I am thinking about planning a trip to the HHOF in the spring. How much time should I plan on spending there and should I do a guided tour or just wonder around. Any tips would be appreciated along with were to stay and what else we should see/do in the area.
You'll have fun. Toronto is a city with a lot to do in that area as well, so you won't be bored. Close to the HHOF is the CN Tower, the Air Canada Centre and the Rogers Center (depending what time of year you go determines what sport is playing).
As for inside, if you want to be very precise and read everything you can easily make a 9-5 day out of it. You won't need two days there. Bring a camera to make sure you get a picture of the Stanley Cup too.
Personally I think the difference between the HHOF and the Baseball HOF is that the Baseball one is in Cooperstown, NY and there is a lot more nostalgia to it. The whole town seems to revolve around the BHOF and there isn't a lot of interactive things to do in there but you can "feel" the history more than in the HHOF. The HHOF does have its history and such, but there is an entire interactive section to it and the HHOF is located downtown Toronto in a mall. The location doesn't have the aura of the Baseball one but it still does the trick. You'll FEEL hockey when you are in there, that's for sure.
Memories based on a trip made more than 10 yrs. ago, but...
... if you love hockey, there's enough for you to spend the day. The entire day. You might be able to plan your trip around a question-and-answer session with one of the Legends (if they still do that). We didn't plan it- but serendipitously, there was one such event on the day we visited- featuring Red Kelly.
Have a look at which players get the "shrines" (big, glass-enclosed squares featuring multiple artifacts), which players get the "locker-columns," and which players get the plaques. Take a listen to broadcast voices of yesteryear like Foster Hewitt, and whoever is your old-time local favorite (if applicable- mine was Lloyd Pettit).
Since you care enough to post on a hockey-forum, I'm sure you'll have no problem finding the things that'll interest you the most.
As for what to do while about town- I'm not the best person to ask, since my visit was so long ago, and city-scenes can be mutable. And (I just noticed) there's no 'Visitor's Guide to Toronto" thread on the Leafs sub-board?! Shame on you, Leafs fans!
Plan 6 to 8 hours at the Hockey Hall of Fame building, Leave anyone at the hotel who is uncomfortable at such prospects. (I learned my lesson the first time I went with my wife in 1996; the third time I went was bliss, single and unhurried years later).
Get up one one morning with NOTHING else on your agenda for the day than the Hall. Then you spend exactly however long you feel like in the shrine to hockey's history and you'll will never forget it.
One of the few other places I have spent countless hours is the dinosaur museum in Drumheller, Alberta and the Emily Carr art museum in Victoria, B.C.
Some things in life should NOT be rushed. Decide for yourself when the time comes whether the HHOF is one of them: certainly don't let some half-interested sidekick decide the matter.
Words of wisdom you could follow or be doomed to repeat the ignoring of...
I went a long time ago (and might be going again soon) but I don't remember any need for a guided tour. I'm sure that the guides have interesting things to say, but if you know hockey it's all pretty self-explanatory.
I don't think there is a guided tour. You should go early in the day if possible and try to go on a weekday. That way it's less crowded though the crowd isn't much of a problem unless you want your picture taken with a cup or play one of those stupid games they've designed for kids.
I like the place because I like hockey history and I like the potential of the place but I foudn the execution in some parts is poor. You have to remember that their main demographic is casual fans of hockey history rather than people who really want the hardcore experience. The hockey card section was the most disappointing for me. I put a review of it somewhere, here it is:
This is the most fun I've ever had at any type of tourist attraction and I think the same would apply to many other hockey fans. As a fan of hockey history, it's even better but I will be a bit critical in my review because it has more potential. However don't take my criticism too seriously because as I said, it's from that of a hockey history fan but overall this place is great especially for younger hockey fans.
Tips: We took so many pictures that our camera's battery ran out and we took more with a phone. I'd recommend taking a spare camera battery or second camera if you have one. Also check their website in advance for promos and a map/info of the displays they have to ensure that you don't forget to visit any display while you are there. They stamp your hand so you can go out for food and come back in (there's also a vending machine). The entrance is in the basement of Brookfield Place and there' also a food court outside as well as a connection from the Underground Path to Union Station. The HOF is a bit of a maze due to the design and hard to go from A-Z through the displays but it's not that big so you can circle it two or three times to make sure you see what you wanna see. The trophy room where the Cup (and the old original Cup bowl) is on the top floor so impossible to miss that one. The computer touch screens in that hall show the location of where each players plaque is if you would like to get your picture taken beside it. You can take your camera and take pictures of the cup or with the cup. I recommend going early and getting there by 10-11 AM on a weekday to ensure you can get the pictures you want without too large a crowd. I also recommend getting a picture in the re-created dressing room, you can sit behind the goalie pads of Roy or Dryden. A couple major trophies...the Memorial Cup (CHL) and Calder Cup (AHL) are not located in the great hall but in the main floor around the middle.
When they moved to this venue in 1993, I wish they had picked a bigger one and anticipated this because the Hall as a result is a bit crowded and tonnes of important info isn't missing though they did a good job of packing a tonne in there. The Upper Deck Collector's Corner was most disappointing because of how small it was and the content of hockey cards was poor. They were mostly common base cards without any limited or pre-50s or rare cards in there and they were mostly random outside of a few displays of Hart trophy winners etc. The interactive portion might be good for kids but I find it distracting and it takes space which should be devoted to more NHL history which brings me to my next problem. The HOF does a poor job of catering to its locale which is mostly NHL fans and much of that being Leafs fans. The recreated dressing room they have is a Habs one and there's no major Leafs-centric display though there was a Bower and Irvine Bailey display and a small one for the 60s dynasty. They also devote too much space to obscure international IIHF tournaments and jerseys which could be used to better cover pre-1950s NHL history. I also got annoyed at how almost every display was behind glass outside of the Habs dressing room....the interactive portions are nice but it would be better to actually touch some stuff. The Spirit of Hockey gift shop is overpriced but that's to be expected. Getting a t-shirt or something small from there is fine but I don't recommend buying memorabilia or a jersey from there since you'll find the same for cheaper elsewhere. However my main problem is with how the HOF presents its information. Visually it all looks beautiful but there are better ways to teach the game's history than short paragraph blurbs next to memorabilia much of which is insignificant. Hockey's narrative from the beginning to now is very interesting and they could do a better job of covering hockey from the 1800s to now excluding a few detailed small-print paragraphcs which most people don't read. Seeing the progression of how the game changed visually with coverage of some important events would be nicer than having past/present mixed in with no order as is the current case. There were not really any employees who were talking about the displays or sharing any info to the people walking around. Also a bit annoying how it closes by 5 or 6 PM...that's kinda early.