October 28, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 32  

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Maple Leaf Gardens deserves better

Ian Denomme

Sports Editor

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 until 1999.

Now it looks as though that historic building and home of the Leafs for seven decades is going to become a grocery store.
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 enough.

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 evil company.

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.




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