Canada's Hockey Experience

Home is where Leafs Nation is

It cradles the booming voices, the vocal chords thrumming in jubilation as Toronto scores a goal.

For the Toronto Maple Leafs there have been three such homes, increasing in capacity through the years to welcome more members to their family.

During the era of the Toronto St. Patricks hockey team, the corner of Dundas and Shuter was the epicenter of hockey in Hogtown. Mutual Street Arena, originally called Arena Gardens upon its construction in 1912, comfortably sat 6,000 fans, with additional standing room for 1,500.

At the time, the rink was owned by the Toronto Arena Company whose president was Casa Loma builder and resident Sir Henry Pellatt.

Two Stanley Cups would be brought to the grounds during both the Arenas’ and St. Pats’ residency.

The early MLG on Carlton St. was in the midst what was still largely a residential area. Photo courtesy City of Toronto Archives.

In 1927, Conn Smythe purchased the St. Patricks, later renaming the team to the patriotic namesake it has today. Needing new digs, Smythe had Maple Leaf Gardens erected during the darkest depths of the Depression.

On its opening day, November 12, 1931, MLG held double the capacity of Mutual Street with 13,542. The Buds would lose 2-1 to Chicago Black Hawks.

Many a classic moment was seen on the ice including Leafs great Darryl Sittler netting 10 points in one game and Bill Barilko’s Stanley Cup winning goal in 1951.

But with the decline of the team’s competitiveness through the 1980s and the death of owner Harold Ballard in 1990, the team sought out new sites for a third arena in the mid-1990s.

The final game for Maple Leafs Gardens was Feb. 13, 1999. Again the boys in blue would lose to Chicago, this time 6–2. Blackhawks enforcer Bob Probert would be the last player to score a goal in MLG.

Leaving 60 Carlton Ave, Leafs management would travel to a new spot at the foot of Bay Street, just north of the Gardiner Expressway.

A week later, on Feb. 20, Leafs Nation would pack the Air Canada Centre, Toronto’s third and current residence, for the ultimate match against rival Montreal Canadiens.

The crowd was not disappointed as the Leafs beat the Habs 3–2. Todd Warriner was the first goal scorer.

Also known as the Hangar, the new facility covers 685,000 square feet with a capacity of 18,819 fans.

The ACC is built inside the renovated Toronto Postal Delivery Building originally built in 1939.

While walking around the ACC recently, tour coordinator Collin Ritch said most of the stone carvings adorning the walls are original to the structure.

Cultural buildings like the Hangar have to exhibit 10 percent art.

“It made the City of Toronto extremely happy,” he said. “This was a historic building.

What few people know about the ACC is it’s also home to the NHL’s office and War Room (where all goals contested in the NHL are reviewed).

But remember, in case the Leafs ever should happen to have a goal reviewed not in their favour, there’s no fighting in the War Room.

Sponsored by The Canadian Experience and Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment, “Canada’s Hockey Experience: The Sport of a Country” is a unique, 20-week online series on the history of hockey.

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