Maple Leaf Gardens in 2012

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Aug. 30) – I was thinking on Wednesday about the last time I saw a hockey rink in Maple Leaf Gardens. It was clearly after the final Leafs game – a 6-2 loss to Chicago on Feb. 13, 1999 – and likely sometime during the 1999-2000 NHL season.

When the Air Canada Centre, in its first year, was busy with a concert or some other function, Leafs would occasionally practice at the Gardens – brilliant TV lights shining from a girder above the west seats; the place looking exactly as it had on countless game nights. I often kick myself for not having the foresight to record those workouts under Pat Quinn with still photographs or a videocam. Once or twice, I went up to the second level of the arena and watched from the season tickets my dad’s accounting firm owned in the 1960’s and early-70’s: west Reds, Sec. 46, Row M, Seats 11 and 12. With the cavernous building empty, I would look around and remember sitting in that very spot on numerous occasions, including the night Punch Imlach was fired by Leafs owner Stafford Smythe after a Stanley Cup quarterfinal sweep by Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and the Boston Bruins in April 1969.

As such, it had to be more than 12 years between hockey engagements at the Grand ol’ Lady on Carlton Street. And that’s why it was so meaningful to attend a reception, on Wednesday, outlining activities for the 40th anniversary of Team Canada 1972 and the iconic, legendary eight-game showdown with the former Soviet Union.

The reception (photographs below) was held in a lounge overlooking the new ice surface at Maple Leaf Gardens – now part of the Mattamy Athletic Centre of Ryerson University. Mattamy Home Ice, where the Ryerson Rams will play hockey games, is a 2,620-seat arena that was constructed – remarkably – on the fourth level of the Gardens: roughly where the Green and Grey seats met in the old building. The enormous, domed canopy is therefore much closer to the seating area than it used to be; its steel girders and support columns providing a cathedral-like setting. You can see it here:

MY PHOTO (ABOVE) OF MATTAMY HOME ICE – THE NEW HOCKEY ARENA ON THE FOURTH LEVEL OF MAPLE LEAF GARDENS, SITUATED JUST BENEATH THE  BUILDING’S CAVERNOUS DOME. SPACE DIFFERENTIAL IS APPARENT WHEN VIEWING PHOTO (BELOW) TAKEN FROM GROUND LEVEL PRIOR TO THE GARDENS’ MASSIVE RENOVATION.

THE FAMILIAR, DOMED-CEILING OF MAPLE LEAF GARDENS (ABOVE AND BELOW) – BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE WITH A FRESH COAT OF LIGHT-GREY PAINT.

GRAND OPENING OF THE HANDSOME, NEW ARENA IS SLATED FOR SEP. 6-9. FIRST HOCKEY GAME PITS RYERSON AGAINST THE UNIVERSITY OF ONTARIO INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY ON SEP. 8. THERE IS A FREE PUBLIC/COMMUNITY SKATE ON SEP. 9 FROM 1-2:30 P.M. THEREAFTER, THE RINK WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR RENT AT $300/HOUR DURING PRIME TIME AND $192/HOUR AFTER 11 P.M. 

WONDER IF THE ICE WILL HOLD UP BETTER THAN AT THE OLD GARDENS?

FOR A COMPARISON TO THE OLD BUILDING, THE RINK-LENGTH BAND OF LIGHTS THAT WERE INSTALLED TO ACCOMMODATE COLOR-TV IN 1966 HUNG FROM THE GIRDER (ABOVE AND BELOW) THAT NOW HOLDS THE FIRST LEVEL OF LIGHTING – DIRECTLY OVER-TOP THE TWO ROWS OF YELLOW SEATS. THE OLD LIGHTS WERE HIGH ABOVE THE PENALTY BOX.

RYERSON UNIVERSITY, WHICH CO-PURCHASED MAPLE LEAF GARDENS WITH THE LOBLAW COMPANY, HAS TAKEN OVER THE BUILDING’S INTERIOR (ABOVE). MATTAMY HOME ICE IS ON THE FOURTH LEVEL WHILE A LARGE GYMNASIUM AND BASKETBALL COURT (ALONG WITH WEIGHT/FITNESS ROOM) OCCUPIES THE SECOND FLOOR. THANKFULLY, RYERSON HAS CHOSEN NOT TO IGNORE THE GARDENS LEGACY – THUS A WALL-MOUNTED ROW OF ORIGINAL RED SEATS (BELOW) FROM THE HISTORIC ARENA. 

RYERSON BASKETBALL COURT ON SECOND LEVEL OF MAPLE LEAF GARDENS.

TEAM CANADA 1972 RECEPTION

BALL-CAP (ABOVE) COMMEMORATING THE 40th ANNIVERSARY OF TEAM CANADA 1972, WHICH FAMOUSLY (AND NARROWLY) CONQUERED THE RUSSIANS IN AN EIGHT-GAME SERIES.

ATTENDING THE PRESS RECEPTION WERE THREE MEMBERS OF THE ’72 SQUAD – LEFT-TO-RIGHT (ABOVE): MARCEL DIONNE, BILL WHITE AND RON ELLIS. CORRESPONDING PHOTOS FROM THE SUMMIT SERIES 40 YEARS AGO ARE BELOW.

            

CHOSEN BY THE TEAM AFTER HIS ROOKIE NHL SEASON WITH DETROIT, MARCEL DIONNE DID NOT SUIT UP FOR CANADA. HE WENT ON TO A BRILLIANT CAREER, MOSTLY WITH THE LOS ANGELES KINGS, AND IS STILL RANKED FIFTH ALL-TIME IN LEAGUE SCORING WITH 1,771 POINTS – BEHIND ONLY WAYNE GRETZKY, MARK MESSIER, GORDIE HOWE AND RON FRANCIS. DIONNE, NOW 61, IS AMONG SIX PLAYERS (WITH GRETZKY, HOWE, PHIL ESPOSITO, BRETT HULL AND MIKE GARTNER) TO SCORE MORE THAN 700 CAREER GOALS. BILL WHITE CAME INTO THE NHL WITH EXPANSION AND PLAYED ALL 74 GAMES FOR LOS ANGELES IN 1967-68. HE WAS TRADED TO CHICAGO IN FEBRUARY 1970, WHEREUPON HE FORMED A TERRIFIC DEFENSE PARTNERSHIP WITH PAT STAPLETON (ALSO A MEMBER OF THE SUMMIT SERIES TEAM). WHITE TURNED 73 LAST SUNDAY. RON ELLIS IS MOST-FAMILIAR TO HOCKEY FANS IN TORONTO, HAVING PLAYED HIS ENTIRE 15-YEAR CAREER AS A RIGHT-WINGER WITH THE MAPLE LEAFS. NOW 67, ELLIS STILL RANKS SIXTH IN ALL-TIME LEAFS SCORING AND WAS A MEMBER OF THE 1967 STANLEY CUP TEAM. IN 1972, HE SKATED AGAINST THE RUSSIANS ON A FORMIDABLE UNIT WITH BOBBY CLARKE AND PAUL HENDERSON.

SADLY, HENDERSON COULD NOT ATTEND THE MEDIA RECEPTION ON WEDNESDAY. THE MAN THAT SCORED THE SERIES-WINNING GOAL IN MOSCOW WITH 34 SECONDS LEFT IN THE FINALE IS BATTLING CANCER AND WAS ILL FROM THE SIDE-EFFECTS OF MEDICATION.

MY LONG-TIME PAL AND FORMER SPORTSNET-590 COLLEAGUE, ROGER LAJOIE, EMCEED THE MEDIA GATHERING (TOP-LEFT) AND HAS CO-AUTHORED AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY WITH PAUL HENDERSON. THE GOAL OF MY LIFE (BOTTOM-LEFT) WILL BE RELEASED ON SEP. 11. PROLIFIC HOCKEY AUTHOR ANDREW PODNIEKS HAS PROVIDED TEXT FOR A BRILLIANT, COFFEE-TABLE COMMEMORATION OF THE 1972 SERIES (BOTTOM-RIGHT). IT GOES ON SALE SEP. 4. 

DIONNE, WHITE AND ELLIS LISTEN TO ROGER LAJOIE (ABOVE) AND THE POPULAR EX-LEAF ADDRESSES THE MEDIA GATHERING (BELOW) WITH HIS TYPICAL ENTHUSIASM. 

THE ALWAYS-EFFUSIVE DIONNE PROMPTS A CHUCKLE FROM WHITE AND ELLIS (ABOVE); WHITE (BELOW) DISCUSSES WHY HENDERSON SHOULD BE IN THE HOCKEY HALL OF FAME.

ELLIS SPEAKS TO TV REPORTERS AFTER THE RECEPTION (ABOVE) AND THE TEAM CANADA TRIO MOVES INTO ARENA SEATS (BELOW) FOR SUBSEQUENT PHOTOS.

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. ENTREPRENEUR PETER JENSEN CAME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR A PAIR OF WINES DEDICATED TO THE 40th ANNIVERSARY OF TEAM CANADA 1972 – A CABERNET SAUVIGNON-MERLOT (ABOVE) AND A SAUVIGNON BLANC (INFORMATION BELOW). LOG ONTO TeamCanada72wine.com FOR FURTHER DETAILS.

      

TEAM CANADA ’72 MERCHANDISE CAN BE VIEWED (ABOVE) AT heritagehockey.com AND PURCHASED THROUGH THE BRADFORD EXCHANGE [1-800-265-1021].

GALA DINNER

TO CULMINATE AND HIGHLIGHT THE ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, THE TEAM CANADA ’72 GALA DINNER WILL BE HELD AT THE FAIRMONT ROYAL YORK HERE IN TORONTO ON SEP. 28 – FORTY YEARS TO THE DAY PAUL HENDERSON SCORED HIS LEGENDARY, SERIES-WINNING GOAL. ALL LIVING MEMBERS OF THE ’72 CANADIAN TEAM WILL BE ON HAND, INCLUDING THE IMMORTAL BOBBY ORR, WHOSE CHRONIC KNEE AILMENT KEPT HIM OUT OF THE EIGHT-GAME SUMMIT SERIES. GUESTS WILL BE TREATED TO A SIT-DOWN DINNER WITH MORE THAN 700 ATTENDEES. FOR INFORMATION ABOUT SPONSORSHIP AND TICKET SALES, CONTACT JENNIFER BASSETT OF BASSETT EVENTS AT (416)966-4660.

JENNIFER’S EMAIL IS jbassett@bassettevents.ca.

 

THE GRAND OL’ LADY AT CHURCH AND CARLTON

MAPLE LEAF GARDENS (ABOVE AND BELOW) ON AN SENSATIONAL LATE-SUMMER AFTERNOON.

THE GARDENS IS CONSIDERED A “CHURCH” BY SENTIMENTAL HOCKEY FANS, THOUGH VICTIMS OF A PEDOPHILE RING THAT OPERATED WITHIN ITS WALLS FOR MANY YEARS MUST NEVER BE FORGOTTEN. ONCE A THRIVING BUSINESS ON HOCKEY NIGHTS, THE OLD Le BARON STEAKHOUSE AT CHURCH AND WOOD ST. (TOP-RIGHT) IS NOW A RESTAURANT/BAR.

NEW WINDOWS HAVE BEEN INSTALLED AT THE GARDENS, INCLUDING THESE (ABOVE) ON THE EAST FACADE; THE YELLOW BRICKS (BELOW) HAVEN’T BEEN DISTURBED FOR 81 YEARS – OR SINCE THE GARDENS WAS BUILT IN 1930 AND 1931.

 

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