Maple Leaf Gardens deserves
Conn Smythe must be spinning in his grave.
The former coach, general manager and owner of
the Toronto Maple Leafs single-handedly made the team into what
it is today. He took a team which in 1927 was on the brink of moving
to Philadelphia and transformed them into one of the most storied
franchises in sports.
One of the first and most important moves he made
was giving the Leafs a new home. In 1931 at the height of the Depression
he had Maple Leaf Gardens built in six months -the team stayed there
Now it looks as though that historic building
and home of the Leafs for seven decades is going to become a grocery
Last week, the building was sold to the Loblaws grocery store chain,
who plan to turn it into a grocery store with no plans of maintaining
the ice surface or the arena seating. They do, however, plan to
keep the original facade of the building, but that's not nearly
Maple Leaf Gardens is one of the most historic
and well-known sports facilities in the world. Aside from being
the home of the Leafs, it has seen the likes of The Beatles, Elvis
Presley and Muhammed Ali -it was also the site of the first-ever
NBA game. Now centre ice will become the produce section.
Loblaws should be ashamed of itself, as should
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment for selling Maple Leaf Gardens
to investors who have evil plans for it. In 2005 the new store will
open with only a symbolic wall to show the history of the building
and a small store selling Leafs memorabilia.
This sale should enrage more than just dedicated
Leafs fans. Anyone who is a hockey fan or has any respect for history
should be just as mad.
As a Leafs fan, I am required to hate the Montreal
Canadiens, but if the Montreal Forum was sold to K-Mart and all
of Martha Stewart's crap was being sold within those historic walls,
I would be just as pissed off.
I don't know exactly what should be done with
the Gardens but I know this isn't it. MLSE had been looking for
a buyer who would keep the original ice surface and create a 2,000
seat arena to be used as a practice facility, with the rest of the
building to be used at their discretion.
With time running out on Maple Leaf Gardens there
are only two things left to do for those of us who don't want to
see it go.
Start by boycotting Loblaws. Never shop there again. I know there
is a big one at Masonville, which is handy, but make the trip down
to Valu-Mart at Oxford and Richmond St.'s and support a much less
Second, start buying lottery tickets. If just
a few of us could get a big enough jackpot we could outbid Loblaws
and ensure the integrity of Maple Leaf Gardens remains intact forever.