Today, Maple Leaf Gardens (‘the Gardens’) turns 82 years old. It opened November 12th, 1931 as the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey team. The Maple Leafs would go on to win the Stanley Cup in their first season at the Gardens. The Gardens was designated a heritage building in 1991, and as a National Historic Site in 2007.
The Gardens would serve as the home of the Maple Leafs until February 1999, and was also the home to the Toronto Marboros (1931-89), the Toronto Huskies of the Basketball Association of America (1946-47), the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association (1974-76), Buffalo Braves of the National Basketball Association (1971-75), the Toronto Raptors (1997-99) of the National Basketball Association, the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors of the Ontario Hockey League (1997-2000), and the Toronto Rock (1999-2000) just to name a few.
The Gardens was also home to many wrestling events, promoted by Maple Leaf Wrestling, and later the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment.) The Gardens also hosted many concerts, and boxing events – most famously involving Muhammad Ali in 1966.
The Gardens was built in 1931, during the height of the Great Depression for $1.5 million dollars. It was completed in six months. The Maple Leafs would lose their first game at the Gardens to the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 2-1. The Maple Leafs would continue to be the primary user of the Gardens until they moved to the Air Canada Centre in February 1999. The Gardens would be the home of the Maple Leafs for all but two of their Stanley Cup victories.
The Gardens also played host to game 2 of the Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union. Canada won the game 4-1 and would go on to win the Summit Series in eight games.
The Gardens would host Stanley Cup games on 19 different occasions, including 11 series were the Maple Leafs would go onto win the Stanley Cup. The Gardens would host the All-Star game on seven occasions: 1947, 1949, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1968. The 1947 All-Star game was the first N.H.L. All-Star game. The Gardens would also host a benefit All-Star game in 1934 in honour of Maple Leafs’ player Ace Bailey who had suffered a career ending injury earlier in the season.
The Gardens was sold to Loblaws would go on to purchase the Gardens from Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (the company that owns the Maple Leafs) in 2004. Loblaws worked with Ryerson University and now the Gardens serves as a grocery store operated by Loblaws and as an athletic centre for Ryerson, known as Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens.
The Gardens is part of Canada’s heritage, and let’s celebrate that. Happy Birthday Gardens!