Maple Leaf Gardens

A touch more hockey then – the grand old game. I was reminded recently in discussion about the only NHL game I ever went to in Toronto – at the much lauded old Maple Leaf Gardens in the season when the Toronto Maple Leafs were about to vacate the ice there for the very last time. It was something of a pilgrimage then, one reason being that the old Nottingham rink I used to visit for hockey was built on a scaled down plan of the old Canadian arena. MPG, apart from hosting hockey for decades also saw the likes of artists as disparate as The Beatles and Tiny Tim appear there.

Everyone knows the heritage of the Leafs and of what I once heard called ‘the most important building in Canada’ and I really wanted to get there before the story was over and book closed on the glorious and historic ‘Carlton Street Cash Counter’.

Toronto were playing expansionists Nashville Predators but as always there was a good crowd assembled on Carlton Street before the game as we left our restaurant. What did strike me was how passive the Leafs fans were. I’ll state straight away that I’m a Montreal supporter without further ado but the two other Habs supporters and one Edmonton supporter I visited with couldn’t get over the difference in atmosphere between MLG and the (then) Molson Centre in Montreal where we had been two days previously. The Leafs fans were so reticent we even got together a cheer for them! Even if it was slightly ironic.

Glory Days

Another noticeable thing was how many people hung around on the concourse, chatting and drinking etc. after the period had begin – like they could hardly be bothered with the hockey. I’ve never seen this in such numbers in any Canadian rink. The seemed pretty blase about the actual game but rather it was just part of their Saturday night social scene. This was in stark contrast to Montreal where the noise and excitement generated was far higher on that occasion and the support more urgent.

It appeared to me at that time that Montreal was still very much a ‘hockey town’ whilst Toronto had other sporting interests on it’s mind – at least more readily. A great experience however, one to tick off on the ‘things I need to do once’ list and a venerable old part of Canadian hockey and indeed history.

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