Maple Leaf Gardens is located at 50 Carlton St (at Church St on the northwest corner), in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood of downtown Toronto.
Architecture of Maple Leaf Gardens
Known as one of the “cathedrals of hockey,” this landmark was built in 1931 by Toronto Maple Leaf’s owner, Conn Smythe. He hired the Montreal-based architectural firm of Ross & Macdonald as well as associate architects Mackenzie Waters and Jack Ryrie to design the building. Constructed during the Great Depression, the rectangular-shaped structure took a record-breaking five months and 12 days to build at a cost of $1.5 million (1931 value).
The 6-storey arena had seating for over 12,400 spectators. A combination of Art Moderne and Art Deco styles, The Gardens are clad in yellow brick with stone trim and banding. The landmark features stepped corners and a metal sash and is crowned with a great dome and lantern. The massive arched ceiling rises 15 stories in the centre. A steel truss system supports the domed roof on four comer piers, giving spectators unobstructed views without interior column supports.
Other architectural elements of the historic structure include vertical strip windows with stone spandrels, simple geometric shapes carved into stone, three flagpoles at the roofline and the iconic “MAPLE LEAF GARDENS” marquee.
The Toronto Maple Leafs
The Gardens was home to the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1931 to 1999. They won 11 of their 13 Stanley Cups there. The first and last games played there were against the Chicago Blackhawks. It was also where “Hockey Night in Canada” with Foster Hewitt began. The feisty Harold Ballard was once the owner of the Leafs and Maple Leaf Gardens.
The Leafs and the Stanley Cup
The Toronto Maple Leafs won their last Stanley Cup at The Gardens on May 2, 1967. The final series was against the Montreal Canadiens. It was the last season with the Original Six.
- Toronto won the series in the 6th game with a score of 3:1
- Ron Ellis scored the first goal for the Leafs
- Jim Pappin scored the second game-winning goal
- George Armstrong scored the third goal in an empty-net
- Terry Sawchuk was in goal and had 41 shots on goal
- Dave Keon won the Conn Smythe Trophy
- The average age of the Toronto team was 31
- Johnny Bower was 42 years old when he won his 4th and final Stanley Cup
- Dick Duff scored the single goal for Montreal
Toronto Captain: George Armstrong
Toronto Coach: Punch Imlach
Toronto Players included: George Armstrong, Bob Pulford (A), Allan Stanley (A), Bob Baun, Johnny Bower, Brian Conacher, Ron Ellis, Larry Hillman, Tim Horton, Larry Jeffrey, Red Kelly, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Jim Pappin, Marcel Pronovost, Terry Sawchuk, Eddie Shack, Pete Stemkowski, Mike Walton, Aut Erickson, Milan Marcetta
Montreal Captain: Jean Béliveau
Montreal Coach: Toe Blake
Montreal Players included: Ralph Backstrom, Dave Balon, Jean Béliveau, Yvan Cournoyer, Dick Duff, John Ferguson, Terry Harper, Ted Harris, Jacques Laperriere, Claude Larose, Claude Provost, Henri Richard, Jimmy Roberts, Leon Rochefort, Bobby Rouseau, Jean-Guy Talbot, Gilles Tremblay, JC Tremblay, Rogie Vachon, Gump Worsley
Concerts & Events at The Gardens
The National Historic Site of Canada wasn’t just for hockey. It was also home to other sporting events like boxing (including 1966 the 15-round match between Muhammed Ali and George Chuvalo), ice skating, wrestling and basketball, as well as concerts, circus performances, operas and political events. Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Fats Domino, Aerosmith, Madonna, Elton John and AC/DC are just a few of the music legends that played there.
Loblaws & the Restoration
In 2004, Loblaw Companies Limited purchased the Toronto gem, and in 2009, renovations began. Conservation experts, ERA Architects, were hired to direct the restoration. The roof, rafters and exterior were preserved. Completed in 2012, there was extensive masonry work, the industrial heritage windows were replaced, lighting fixtures were preserved, and the Carlton St marquee was restored. Today, this historic building is home to Loblaws on the main level.
Mattamy Athletic Centre
On the upper levels of the historic structure is Toronto Metropolitan University’s (formerly Ryerson University) Mattamy Athletic Centre. There’s a basketball/volleyball court with seating for 1,200 people, a fitness centre and under the original domed roof is an NHL-sized hockey rink with over 2,500 seats.
Did You Know?
- The architectural team of Ross & Macdonald also had significant roles in designing a few other Toronto landmarks, including the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and Union Station.
- In the original structure, there were over 750,000 bricks and 2006 m3 or 850,000 board feet of lumber and 22.5 km or 14 miles of underground piping to keep the ice surface cold.
- The steel truss roof was made by the Dominion Bridge Company of Montreal. They also manufactured the 3-point turntable bridge at the John Street Roundhouse.
- Sports reporters nicknamed Maple Leaf Gardens the “Carlton Street Cash Box.”
- The Toronto Maple Leafs moved to the Air Canada Centre, now Scotiabank Arena, in 1999.
- Center ice is still visible in Loblaws.
- Maple Leaf Gardens received heritage status from the city in 1974 and from the province in 1990, and the treasure became a National Historic Site of Canada in 2007.
- The Stanley Cup, other major NHL trophies and much more are on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame, in the historic Bank of Montreal building at 30 Yonge St and Front St W.
Maple Leaf Gardens Photos
- City of Toronto Heritage Register: 50 Carlton St
- Ontario Heritage Trust: 438 Church St
- Canada’s Historic Places: Maple Leaf Gardens
- The Canadian Encyclopedia: Toronto Maple Leafs 1967: The Last Stanley Cup
- NHL: 1966-1967 Toronto Maple Leafs Roster & 1966-1967 Montreal Canadiens Roster
- ERA Architects: Maple Leaf Gardens
- Turner Fleischer: Maple Leaf Gardens
- Toronto Star: Maple Leaf Gardens magic not forgotten 20 years later
- Toronto Architecture: A City Guide by Patricia McHugh and Alex Bozikovic (2017), pg 166
- Government of Ontario: Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Recreation: 438 Church St Report
- Welcome to Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre Brochure e0b4c3b836
- The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Jan 3, 1966, page 18
- Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives, Toronto Public Library, Library and Archives Canada & Archives of Ontario