15 Years Already

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Feb. 13) – To begin, let us wish Mats Sundin a happy 43rd birthday – the all-time Maple Leafs scoring leader, born in 1971, enjoying retirement at his palatial dwelling in Stockholm.

Proving again that time appears to speed up as you get older, it is remarkable to comprehend that 15 years ago tonight – on Sundin’s 28th birthday – hockey was last played at Maple Leaf Gardens. The game between Toronto and Chicago is not a pleasant memory for fans of the Blue and White, as the Blackhawks (and ex-Leaf Doug Gilmour) romped, 6-2. The event, however, is seared in the consciousness of those fortunate to have attended (among them, yours truly), and the millions across our land that watched on Hockey Night In Canada.      

I covered the game in my role as Maple Leafs beat-reporter forThe FAN-590, Canada’s first all-sports radio station (into its seventh year at the time). While making certain – before I left home that night – to put a videotape in my VHS machine and record the CBC telecast, I also took along to the Gardens, for posterity, my SONY Videocam. I transferred the VHS tape onto a Compact Disc several years ago (even C-D’s are now becoming obsolete) and I had a look at the 15-minute recording yesterday in my apartment. The video was shot in standard definition (high-def TV was still half-a-decade in the future) and it did not have the clarity of today’s equipment. It was, however, clear enough for me to “lift” 60 images, which I share with you now for the first time.

Of course, no story about Maple Leaf Gardens is complete without mention of the innocent young boys and men that were sexually abused within its walls. Above all else, we remember them today.

I TOOK THE SUBWAY 15 YEARS AGO TONIGHT AND EXITED AT COLLEGE ST. STATION. THE GARDENS’ YELLOW-BRICK FACADE HAS ALWAYS BEEN UNMISTAKABLE.

THE GARDENS WAS ADVERTISING ICE RENTAL AS FANS LINED UP OUTSIDE THE MAIN ENTRANCE ON CARLTON STREET – WAITING FOR THE DOORS TO OPEN.

MAPLE LEAFS DIRECTOR OF MEDIA RELATIONS PAT PARK (HE’S STILL GOING STRONG) WAS AT THE PRESS ENTRANCE OFF CHURCH STREET FOR REPORTERS THAT HAD ANY QUESTIONS. I WALKED INTO A CORRIDOR ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE BUILDING JUST AFTER 3:30 P.M. AS A REHEARSAL FOR THE PRE-GAME FESTIVITY WAS TAKING PLACE.

DURING REHEARSAL, FLOOD-LIGHTS ILLUMINATE GARDENS FLOOR – IMAGE, TOP-LEFT, TAKEN FROM ZAMBONI GATE IN NORTH END OF THE ARENA.

THE LATE STOMPIN’ TOM CONNORS REHEARSES “THE HOCKEY SONG” (TOP-LEFT) IN FRONT OF NORTH-END SEATS. STOMPIN’ TOM DIED MAR. 6, 2013.

FROM VISITORS’ BENCH AT ICE LEVEL, THE NORTH-END GOLDS, REDS AND MEZZANINE BLUES. GOLDS AND REDS (TOP-RIGHT) WERE MOST EXPENSIVE SEATS AT THE GARDENS.

CATWALK TO PRESS BOX IN NORTHEAST CORNER OF BUILDING. GARDENS’ SECURITY PERSONNEL AT ENTRANCE TO THE BOX HIGH ABOVE ICE ON EAST SIDE.

PRESS BOX CHAIRS AND TABLE WITH VIEW OF CENTER-ICE.

PRESS ROW AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS – MY OLD PAL, CHRIS MAYBERRY, ON HAND EARLY FILING REPORTS FOR THE CANADIAN PRESS WIRE SERVICE.

SOUTH SEATS FROM ABOVE AND RIGHT ARM OF LONG-TIME GARDENS (AND AIR CANADA CENTRE) ORGANIST JIMMY HOLMSTROM FROM PERCH IN NORTHEAST CORNER.

VIEW OF WEST-SIDE SEATS AND ICE SURFACE FROM PRESS BOX.

THAT’S 40-YEAR-OLD ME (SANS GOATEE) YUKKING IT UP WITH CAM COLE (MUSTACHE) OF THE NATIONAL POST AND ALAN ADAMS, THEN OF TORONTO STAR.

ME AND SMILIN’ CHRIS MAYBERRY IN PRESS BOX WHILE MAPLE LEAFS AND CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS COME ONTO THE ICE FOR PRE-GAME WARM-UP.

STEVE THOMAS (32), GARRY VALK (10) AND KRIS KING (12) STAND NEAR CENTER-ICE DURING WARM-UP WHILE EX-LEAF DOUG GILMOUR LIMBERS UP FOR CHICAGO.

THE LATE ALEXANDER KARPOVSTEV (52) WALKS IN FRONT OF TEAMMATE SERGEI BEREZIN (94) FROM DRESSING ROOM TO THE ICE FOR PRE-GAME CEREMONY. KARPOVSTEV WAS AMONG THOSE KILLED IN THE LOKOMOTIV-YAROSLAVL PLANE CRASH OF SEP. 7, 2011. THE KONTINENTAL HOCKEY LEAGUE TEAM WAS DEPARTING FOR ITS SEASON OPENER IN RUSSIA.

THEY PLAYED AGAINST ONE ANOTHER IN THE FIRST-EVER HOCKEY GAME AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS: CHICAGO vs. TORONTO ON NOV. 12, 1931. FORMER LEAFS DEFENSEMAN RED HORNER (RIGHT) GREETS HAROLD (MUSH) MARCH, WHO SCORED THE FIRST GOAL IN GARDENS HISTORY. BOTH MEN HAVE SINCE PASSED: MARCH AT 93 ON JAN. 9, 2002; HORNER AT 95 ON APR. 27, 2005.

FORMER LEAF TEAMMATES MATS SUNDIN AND DOUG GILMOUR TAKE PART IN CEREMONIAL FACE-OFF WITH HORNER AND MARCH PRIOR TO THE GAME.

VETERAN REFEREE BILL McCREARY DROPS PUCK BETWEEN GILMOUR AND SUNDIN FOR THE LAST OPENING FACE-OFF IN MAPLE LEAF GARDENS.

FROM HIS WINDOW ENCLAVE ABOVE MEZZANINE SEATS IN NORTHWEST CORNER, LONG-TIME PUBLIC-ADDRESS ANNOUNCER PAUL MORRIS CALLS OUT “LAST MINUTE OF PLAY” FOR THE FINAL TIME IN ARENA HISTORY.

GARDENS’ SCORE-CLOCK ABOVE CENTER-ICE SPELLS OUT THE CARNAGE FROM TORONTO PERSPECTIVE AS LEAFS GATHER AROUND LOSING GOALIE CURTIS JOSEPH.

JUBILANT BLACKHAWKS CELEBRATE LOP-SIDED VICTORY WHILE LEAFS CAPTAIN MATS SUNDIN SKATES OFF GARDENS ICE FOR THE LAST TIME.

VETERAN REPORTER DAVE QUINN OF CFRB RADIO HAS SOMETHING TO SAY AS DOUG GILMOUR LEAVES ICE AT NORTH END AFTER SECOND-STAR SELECTION.

OUT OF TOWN SCORES ON MEZZANINE FACADE AT NORTH END OF THE GARDENS: FLORIDA AT MONTREAL AND WASHINGTON AT OTTAWA (TOP); EDMONTON AT ST. LOUIS AND NEW YORK ISLANDERS AT BUFFALO (BOTTOM).

ROSIE DiMANNO TALKS SHOP AFTER GAME WITH THE LATE, GREAT TORONTO STAR COLUMNIST JIM PROUDFOOT (LEFT). ORGANIST JIMMY HOLMSTROM (RIGHT) IN FRONT OF A YOUNG(ER) MARTINE GAILLARD – NOW TV ANCHOR AT SPORTSNET; THEN THE GARDENS’ INTERMISSION HOSTESS.

CREWS PREPARE CENTER-ICE CARPET FOR POST-GAME CEREMONY WHILE EX-LEAF EDDIE SHACK CARRIES THE OLD PORTABLE ZAMBONI AROUND GARDENS ICE.

ICE-LEVEL CORRIDOR ON EAST SIDE OF GARDENS WITH MAPLE LEAFS DRESSING ROOM TO THE LEFT. COACH PAT QUINN, WEARING HIS OLD NO. 23 JERSEY, MEETS REPORTERS IN PRESS LOUNGE ALONG SAME CORRIDOR.

MATS SUNDIN STILL HAD COPIOUS FEATHERS AT 28 YEARS OF AGE AS HE AND FELLOW SWEDE BORJE SALMING ADDRESS MEDIA AFTER GAME IN LEAF DRESSING ROOM.

THE AFTERMATH: FANS LINGER IN THE GARDENS FOLLOWING POST-GAME CEREMONY AS WORKERS CLEAR THE ICE OF CARPETING.

ALWAYS AVAILABLE TO SHAKE HANDS AND SIGN AUTOGRAPHS, MAPLE LEAFS LEGENDARY GOALIE JOHNNY BOWER – THEN 74 – GREETS FANS IN EAST-SIDE GOLDS.

MY PROGRAM (ABOVE) AND MEDIA PASS (BELOW) FROM 15 YEARS AGO TONIGHT.

LINE-UPS ON FRONT PAGE OF MEDIA NOTES.

SCORE-SHEET FROM 6-2 CHICAGO VICTORY OVER MAPLE LEAFS. THE LATE BOB PROBERT SCORED FINAL GARDENS’ GOAL. DEREK KING HAD LEAFS’ LAST GOAL.

PRESS BOX SEATING CHART FOR FINAL GARDENS HOCKEY GAME. I WAS IN SEAT 67 (BELOW) – PERHAPS A REMINDER OF YEAR LEAFS LAST WON THE STANLEY CUP.

          

THANKS FOR THE HOCKEY MEMORIES, INDEED.

EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

TWITTER: BERGER_BYTES

FACEBOOK/LINKEDIN: HOWARD BERGER [TORONTO ON]

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.