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Maple Leaf Gardens Forum on the Future

The Future of Maple Leaf Gardens

St. Lawrence Centre Forum

April 14, 2004 – 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Jane Mallett Theatre at StLC

Free Admission

Maple Leaf Gardens has been vacant for five years, since the Air Canada Centre has opened. It was constructed in 1930 in the Art Moderne style, and remains a handsome structure which the city has designated as a building of historical and cultural merit. Several proposals have been submitted to the owners of the Gardens, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, including turning it into a supermarket or converting it to condominiums.

This public meeting will be a chance to discuss publicly the future of Maple Leaf Gardens:

Lisa Rochon: architectural critical for The Globe and Mail
Frank Mahovlich: Senator, and former player with Toronto Maple Leafs (tbc)
Dave Bidini: amateur hockey player, guitarist with Reostatics, and
author of Tropic of Hockey: My Search for the Game in Unlikely Places (tbc)
Jack Diamond: Toronto architect and planner with Diamond and
Schmitt Architects Incorporated.

Moderator: Phyllis Lambert: architect and former head of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal.

garden of evil

speaking of the Canadian Centre for Architecture..... I was there last week. Very nice building which is a new structure wrapping itself around an old mansion. There is no permanent work in the Centre. Currently there are exhibits from a few British architects - Rossi, Price, Matta-Clark and one other (forget the name). Overall, it is an interesting building, but I was hoping for more. There was no Canadian content.


Sounds very interesting. I would like to attend. (for the insiders: we can make this our first RyeUrbanist event!)

An opportunity for autograph signings for you Leaf fans out there!


Maple Leaf Gardens' hockey heritage shouldn't face elimination (Star)

Gardens' hockey heritage shouldn't face elimination


That old colour commentator Hesiod was, so far as history records, no hockey expert.

But he did know enough about life in general to have held his own with any of your modern-day analysts on the sports channels.

"Right timing is in all things the most important factor," Hesiod apparently quipped on some between-periods panel in the 8th century or so B.C.

And ain't that the truth.

It doesn't take an ancient Greek to suspect it's a master stroke of ill timing for a public forum on the future of Maple Leaf Gardens to be commencing at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts tomorrow night at about the very time the shinny sides from Toronto and Ottawa are nicely under way in Game 4 of their NHL preliminary playoff round.

If the Gardens is all but ignored nowadays while it falls ever further into decrepitude, it's hardly apt to be the cause of much attention from hockey fans when all eyes are focused on proceedings at the Corel Centre in suburban Ottawa.

Still, if the St. Lawrence event is unlikely to be a gold mine for scalpers, it is a worthwhile cause nonetheless for this city and those who care about its past.

From architects such as Jack Diamond to former Leaf star and current Senator Frank Mahovlich, who are among speakers at the forum, the Friends of Maple Leaf Gardens will be renewing efforts to safeguard the fabled building against the various sacrileges proposed for it and to ensure any future use is "appropriate to its cultural and social importance."

Maybe those who say the Gardens has no future in Toronto will be proved just as wrong as critics were almost three-quarters of a century ago who said the idea for it would never fly, that it couldn't be financed, couldn't be built on schedule, and if it was couldn't be filled.

There's actually a story from the days before the landmark arena was built that might interest the Friends of Maple Leaf Gardens and encourage their efforts to keep the building's fate in the public eye.

Back in 1930, legendary warrior-entrepreneur Conn Smythe and soldier-turned-storyteller Greg Clark were apparently on the road together with the Leafs in Montreal. Smythe owned the team, Clark was covering them for the Star, and the two were part of a group killing time in a hotel prior to a game against the Maroons.

As Smythe would recall it in his memoirs, he was beating the drums for his favourite topic — that his team needed a bigger, better rink to play in than the old arena down on Mutual Street, which held only 8,000 fans, 9,000 if you counted standees.

"As a place to go all dressed up, we don't compete with the comfort of theatres and other places where people can spend their money. ... We need at least 12,000 seats, everything new and clean, a place that people can be proud to take their wives or girlfriends to."

What he wanted was "a temple dedicated to the game."

Clark got so excited, Smythe said, that he bounded onto the back of a chair, then a table, then a bed, telling the assembled that "we had to do it, we had to get people convinced that we needed a new arena.

"Somebody else there, I think a car salesman, said we had to come up with a slogan. `That's the way you get things done today — get them saying: We have to have a new arena! We have to have a new arena!'"

The rest, as they say, is history.

Against all odds, in the teeth of a Depression, in a mere 155 days from the time shovels went in the ground, Maple Leaf Gardens was built.

Almost from the beginning, it was everything its builder and his backers dreamed it would be — an instant financial success, the hottest ticket in town, and soon almost as well-known a national symbol as Niagara Falls and the Parliament buildings.

So iconic was its status, it would have been hard for earlier generations to imagine that a public meeting would one day be held in Toronto to discuss its future, hard to imagine the shrine would have sat vacant for five years, hard to believe it would have been considered for such uses as a supermarket, a home improvement store, or condominiums.

The Gardens, to be sure, grew shabby over decades, and with the eventual revelation of some of the abuses that went on therein, its glory was tainted.

But it was for generations a symbol of national identity in a young country that didn't have many.

And as author John Bentley Mays has said, in his book Emerald City, whatever its modest architectural merits, "When you're talking about the Lourdes of hockey, it's the miracle of winning in overtime that matters to those millions of Canadians glued to their TV sets, not whether the Art Deco styling in the brickwork over the marquee is up to snuff.

"The Gardens must never go, so long as there are people alive who remember it in its most happy moments."

Now, historic designations having been won, the challenge is not so much that it doesn't go but that its place in the country's life and history be respected and preserved.

Good luck to the Friends of MLG. (Though, as Hesiod might have said, better luck next time with the scheduling.)


Re: Gardens' hockey heritage shouldn't face elimination (Sta

So Coyle suggests leaving this prime piece of real-estate as it is, a ice rink?

Nice thought, but probably not financially feasible. At least with the supermarket the structure gets saved.


Re: Gardens' hockey heritage shouldn't face elimination (Sta

I think it's financially feasible to keep MLG as an arena. The only problem is MLSE doesn't want to sell it to anybody who has the slightest chance of drawing people away from the ACC.

Eugene Melnyk, owner of the Ottawa Senators, wants to move the St. Mike's Majors to MLG for the longest time. There's also speculation that a Toronto franchise in the newly-resurrected World Hockey Association will want to use MLG as a home. There's plenty of bidders out there if MLSE is willing to let MLG stay as an arena.

Admiral Beez

Re: Gardens' hockey heritage shouldn't face elimination (Sta

"There's plenty of bidders out there if MLSE is willing to let MLG stay as an arena."

But they arn't willing, they never have been willing, and never will be. Let's drop the hope of keep ice at MLGs, it's private property, let them do what they want with it. Otherwise, we must all demand that Miller and/or McGuinty buy MLGs and turn it over to public use.


Nothing seems to be progressing @ Maple Leaf Gardens since the final word was given that it would be converted to a Real Canadian Superstore.

A friend who lives nearby told me that there were structural problems with converting it so Loblaws is apparently out of the deal.


The structural problems have been known for a long time, long before Loblaws signed the dotted line. Apparently, Penequity backed out of the original deal to redevelop the building once it was discovered that the tiers of seating were holding up the exterior walls. Loblaws may have its reasons for going slow, or for even backing out, but I'd be surprised if it was related to structural problems that ought to have been known before they made the deal.


Maybe the building itself will guarantee that it is always used as an arena. :)


Literature for the Met condos now indicates that the store will open in 2008, so that must be the earliest that they are planning to open.


Cool, hope thats the plan Archivistower :)
Thanks for the info.


Real Canadian Superstore banners are still posted on the south and east sides of the building closest to Church Street. Hopefully that is a good sign too, no pun...


MLG is on my usual early afternoon route with my dog and I still see very little ever happening there, but there is good news directly from Real Canadian Superstore -

Hello xxx,

Thank you for taking the time to write to us.

This location is scheduled to open September 2007.


Real Canadian Superstore
Customer Relations

Loblaws Companies