Maple Leaf Gardens – Toronto’s Iconic Cathedral of Hockey

2021 - The south facade and main entrance to Maple Leaf Gardens
2021 – The south facade and main entrance to Maple Leaf Gardens

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 Leafs 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 5 months and 12 days to build, at a cost of $1.5 million (1931 value).

1950's - Maple Leaf Gardens
1950’s – Maple Leaf Gardens (Toronto Public Library r-3834)

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, 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, all 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.

1940/70 - Toronto Maple Leafs vs Chicago Black Hawks
1940/70 – Toronto Maple Leafs vs Chicago Black Hawks (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7529)

The Toronto Maple Leafs

The Gardens was home of 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

1950's - Fat's Domino on stage at Maple Leaf Gardens
1950’s – Fat’s Domino on stage at Maple Leaf Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7208)

The National Historic Site of Canada wasn’t just for hockey. It was also home to other sporting events like boxing (including the 1966, 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 Ryerson University’s 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 major 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 as well as, 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, from the Province in 1990 and the treasure became a National Historic Site of Canada in 2007.

Maple Leaf Gardens Photos

1950's - Maple Leaf Gardens
1950’s – Maple Leaf Gardens (Toronto Public Library r-3834)
2021 - Maple Leaf Gardens and today home to Loblaws and Mattamy Athletic Centre at Carlton & Church Sts, looking northwest
2021 – Maple Leaf Gardens and today home to Loblaws and Mattamy Athletic Centre at Carlton & Church Sts, looking northwest
967 - Toronto was awarded the Stanley Cup, seen with veteran centre George Armstrong, after winning the final playoff game against the Montreal Canadiens in Maple Leaf Gardens, 2 May 1967
1967 – Toronto was awarded the Stanley Cup, seen with veteran centre George Armstrong, after winning the final playoff game against the Montreal Canadiens in Maple Leaf Gardens, 2 May 1967 (Library and Archives Canada/Centennial Commission Fonds e011195951)
1957 - Elvis Presley on a table answering questions from journalists at a press conference, after his performance at Maple Leaf Gardens
1957 – Elvis Presley on a table answering questions from journalists at a press conference, after his performance at Maple Leaf Gardens (Library and Archives Canada/John Sebert Fonds e011052488)
1949 - Toronto Maple Leafs Captain, Ted "Teeder" Kennedy, accepting cup from Clarence Campbell
1949 – Toronto Maple Leafs Captain, Ted “Teeder” Kennedy, accepting cup from Clarence Campbell (City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail Fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 132796)
1949 - Toronto Maple Leafs scoring against the Detroit Red Wings during a Stanley Cup playoff game
1949 – Toronto Maple Leafs scoring against the Detroit Red Wings during a Stanley Cup playoff game (City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail Fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 132792)
1984/87 - Maple Leaf Gardens on Carlton St, looking northwest
1984/87 – Maple Leaf Gardens on Carlton St, looking northwest (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, File 426, Item 16)
1940's - Spiff Evans pouring champagne into the Stanley Cup
1940’s – Spiff Evans pouring champagne into the Stanley Cup (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 3015)
1940/60 - Cleaning the ice at The Gardens
1940/60 – Cleaning the ice at The Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 2439a)
1977 - Looking west along Carlton St towards Maple Leaf Stadium and Eaton's College Street store
1977 – Looking west along Carlton St towards Maple Leaf Stadium and Eaton’s College Street store (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 93, Item 6)
1978 - King Clancy on the ice at Maple Leaf Gardens
1978 – King Clancy on the ice at Maple Leaf Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 8865)
1970's - Darryl Sittler and Rosemarie for the March of Dimes
1970’s – Darryl Sittler and Rosemarie for the March of Dimes (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 4253)
1940/70 - Toronto Maple Leafs vs Chicago Black Hawks
1940/70 – Toronto Maple Leafs vs Chicago Black Hawks (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7529)
1972 - Maple Leaf Gardens at Carlton & Church Sts, looking northwest
1972 – Maple Leaf Gardens at Carlton & Church Sts, looking northwest (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 51, Item 30)
1960 - The Gardens at Carlton & Church Sts, looking northwest
1960 – The Gardens at Carlton & Church Sts, looking northwest (Archives of Ontario I0005729)
1960's - Liberace on stage at Maple Leaf Gardens
1960’s – Liberace on stage at Maple Leaf Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 3402)
1960's - Frankie Avalon at The Gardens
1960’s – Frankie Avalon at The Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7255)
1950's - Fat's Domino on stage at Maple Leaf Gardens
1950’s – Fat’s Domino on stage at Maple Leaf Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7208)
1956 - Bill Haley and the Comets at The Gardens
1956 – Bill Haley and the Comets at The Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7214)
1950's - Conn Smythe (centre) and others in front of Maple Leaf Gardens
1950’s – Conn Smythe (centre) and others in front of Maple Leaf Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7473)
1950's - Sonny Fox and Harold Ballard at Maple Leaf Gardens
1950’s – Sonny Fox and Harold Ballard at Maple Leaf Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 3038)
1950's - Ice show performers with Toronto Maple Leafs players
1950’s – Ice show performers with Toronto Maple Leafs players (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 6828)
1950's - Two men pointing at a sign in the Toronto Maple Leafs dressing room
1950’s – Two men pointing at a sign in the Toronto Maple Leafs dressing room (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7447)
1950's - Toronto Maple Leafs players, including Tim Horton, and an ice capades performer with a broken leg
1950’s – Toronto Maple Leafs players, including Tim Horton, and an ice capades performer with a broken leg (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 6756)
1955 - Corridor, concession booth and stairs to the Greys at The Gardens
1955 – Corridor, concession booth and stairs to the Greys at The Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7426)
1955 - A crowd at the opening ceremony for the new escalators
1955 – A crowd at the opening ceremony for the new escalators (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7445)
1950's - Testing out the new escalators at The Gardens
1950’s – Testing out the new escalators at The Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7457)
1950's - Setting-up for the Metropolitan Opera
1950’s – Setting-up for the Metropolitan Opera (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 6901)
1950's - A Metropolitan Opera concert
1950’s – A Metropolitan Opera concert (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 6938)
1955 - Refreshment stand at The Gardens
1955 – Refreshment stand at The Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7423)
1946 - A basketball game at Maple Leaf Gardens
1946 – A basketball game at Maple Leaf Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7523)
1940's - Circus trapeze artists at The Gardens
1940’s – Circus trapeze artists at The Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7354)
1946 - Ice follies at The Gardens
1946 – Ice follies at The Gardens (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 6636)
June 1931 - Beginning construction of Maple Leaf Gardens and laying track at Carlton & Church Sts, looking northwest
June 1931 – Beginning construction of Maple Leaf Gardens and laying track at Carlton & Church Sts, looking northwest (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 8654)
1934 - The Gardens and its massive dome with lantern on Carlton St, looking northeast
1934 – The Gardens and its massive dome with lantern on Carlton St, looking northeast (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 3185)
2021 - The south facade and main entrance to Maple Leaf Gardens
2021 – The south facade and main entrance to Maple Leaf Gardens
2021/1972 - Maple Leaf Gardens at Carlton and Church Sts, northwest corner - now Mattamy Athletic Centre and Loblaws
2021/1972 – Maple Leaf Gardens at Carlton and Church Sts, northwest corner – now Mattamy Athletic Centre and Loblaws (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 51, Item 30)
2021/1950 - Maple Leaf Gardens at Carlton and Church Sts, northwest corner - now Mattamy Athletic Centre and Loblaws
2021/1950 – Maple Leaf Gardens at Carlton and Church Sts, northwest corner – now Mattamy Athletic Centre and Loblaws (Toronto Public Library r-3834)
2021/1934 - Maple Leaf Gardens at Carlton and Church Sts, northwest corner - now Mattamy Athletic Centre and Loblaws
2021/1934 – Maple Leaf Gardens at Carlton and Church Sts, northwest corner – now Mattamy Athletic Centre and Loblaws (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 3185)
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