Maple Leaf Gardens - What Has Become of It?

By: Leaftech

For over 60 years, Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto was synonymous with hockey in Canada. Whether you loved the Toronto Maple Leafs or lived in another area of our vast and great nation and therefore despised them, you definitely knew where the Leafs played their home games. Maple Leaf Gardens had much the same connotations and power as New York City's Madison Square Gardens; everyone knew about the arena, and everyone knew which team played there. Not only that, but the building itself was kind of a sacrosanct tribute to the nation's favourite sport.

Hockey, like many other sports, saw a shift in the perception of arenas in the 1990s. Dozens of new teams had been added to the National Hockey League since the Leafs first moved into Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931, and part of the stipulations for most (particularly in the expansion crazy '90s) was the building of a state of the art arena for the team to practice in and play their home games.

Another sad part of the old arenas is that in many cases they were difficult and costly to repair, and like Mellon arena in Pittsburgh and arenas in other cities it was more cost effective to build a new, sponsored stadium than to fix up the old ones. Along with the hunger of many cities to host multiple sport franchises in the same location, these factors spelled the end of the Maple Leaf era in the gardens.

Air Canada came to an agreement with the Toronto Maple Leaf and Raptor management and built the modern arena in which both teams play today. The Leafs themselves played their last game in the Gardens in February of 1999.

Today many people still remember Maple Leaf Gardens with a certain degree of fondness, although most will agree that the new facilities of the Air Canada Centre are more amenable. Still, as Canadians we are attached to our historical icons, and most people wonder what is happening with MLG today.

Actually, most would probably assume that the Gardens are still being used in some capacity as an arena, as this would seem to make sense. However, the management at Maple Leaf Entertainment, which owns the rights to the building and the property, has refused to let the arena be used for sports purposes.

It was announced in 2003 that the building had been sold to food giant Loblaws, who plan to renovate the building and turn it into a Real Canadian Superstore. Many are in agreement that this is a sad and somewhat inappropriate end to the history of a true Canadian landmark, whether or not you have ever cheered on the Buds. It seems as though even Loblaws may agree, as little has been done so far in converting the building.

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