Maple Leaf Gardens...awesomeProbably one of the best features of this week's Players' Championship being held at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, is the fact that it's being held at the former Maple Leaf Gardens.
As a kid growing up in southwestern Ontario, MLG was my mecca. I watched it on television every Saturday night and couldn't wait until my first trip.
The building had so much history. Not just the hockey, but boxing, basketball, lacrosse, concerts and the political conventions.
I used to do a lot of work at Queens Park in the 1990s and I would park my car near Maple Leaf Gardens and then walk the five minutes over to the provincial buildings. I remember seeing Mats Sundin and other Leafs walking down the street. I could've parked at lots closer to Queens Park, but it was always a thrill to walk past MLG.
Things like school, sports and other activities got in the way and I didn't make my first trip to MLG until the Leafs' last season in the building. They were set to move over to the Air Canada Centre and I really wanted to make one last journey to see the Gardens before it closed. I knew if I didn't get a chance to see a hockey game before it closed in a few weeks it would be a huge regret.
I wrangled some tickets for January 4, 1999. The tickets were for standing room, but I was happy to just be the building. A couple things about the building stood out:
One: It was a cozy building. I remember my brother and I wanted to see the Gardens, so we walked around. We took a left and a right and then went down a small hallway, past a security guard and then next thing I know we're standing on the Maple Leafs bench--about five minutes before the game started. Not wanted to get kicked out, we quickly soaked everything in and then turned around.
Two: In the third period a pair of fans sitting in the Reds left and signaled that we could take their seats. I am about 5'10 and my brother is 6'1, but it felt like we Toronto Raptors sitting in those seats. Not a lot of leg-room.
Three: I should mention that my lovely wife allowed me to go to the game, especially since she was 8-months pregnant with our first child. I really wanted to go and knew it was now or never.
I was glad to hear that Ryerson was able to revitalize MLG, especially since it looked like the arena could've fallen to the wreckers ball.
As Don Landry points out (or more specifically Glenn Howard) it's still Maple Leaf Gardens.