Friday, November 7, 2008

Hockey At The Gardens

I have an idea I'd like to share with everybody, and as I've been sensing a fair amount of nostalgia lately for the old Maple Leaf Gardens, now seemed like a good time to do it.
Here's the idea: put hockey, specifically Maple Leaf hockey, back in Maple Leaf Gardens. Here's how I would do it:

*MLSE should buy Maple Leaf Gardens
*The Marlies should play there
*It should be open to public skating
*It should be renovated to include a museum, or better yet, the Hockey Hall of Fame should be moved in.
*The Maple Leafs should play 5 home dates a season at the Gardens, one each against the other 5 Original Six teams.
MLSE should buy the Gardens back from the current owners, Loblaws*, who are doing nothing with it right now. I live and work near Carlton St. and it saddens me everytime I go by it to see it sitting empty, unused, and abandoned. The building is an untapped goldmine that was once, and could be again, the hub of hockey culture.

The Marlies should play at Maple Leaf Gardens and not the Ricoh. Attendance and interest would at least double if they played in that location. It's so central, it's so easy to get to, and it conveys a sense of prestige and excitement. It's the difference between "going to a game" and "attending an event". To bring that atmosphere to the Marlies would be terrific for the fans, but also probably, the players.

Personally, I miss the Gardens so much. I used to say I would pay 20 bucks just to walk around inside the building. I'd easily pay $20 to skate on the ice. I just loved the way it felt to be there. Like a privilege. Like witnessing history. I've been to the Pyramids, I've been to the Coliseum, I've been to the Great Wall of China, and I'd put seeing a hockey game (or skating on the ice) at Maple Leaf Gardens in the same category of cultural richness. Seriously.
It is a hockey Mecca. It should be renovated to include a museum, or even better the Hockey Hall of Fame should be moved there. I don't like where the Hall is now, at the far end of a food court underneath BCE Place. It looks good on the outside at the old bank building on the corner of Yonge and Front, but that's not where the entrance is; the entrance is in a mall. Maple Leaf Gardens, itself a colossal monument of hockey history, would be a more appropriate location.

The Best Part Of The Idea!

The points above are good but the whole reason for doing any of it is this: the Maple Leafs should play 5 home games a season at Maple Leaf Gardens, one each against the other 5 Original Six teams. Each of these games could be billed as "black-tie" affairs, with huge mark-ups for ticket prices. Seats in the Reds and Golds could be like $300 and $500. Part of the revenue could be donated to a different charity for each game, and they could have food and clothing drives as well. Celebrities and Corporate sponsors could be honoured publicly at the games, while enjoying ultra-exclusive social functions before and after.
Imagine if tonight's game against the Habs was at the Gardens. The atmosphere would be electric. What a treat it would be to be able to attend that game, to be able to walk into the building, and feel the energy and the vibe, to know that something special was happening and to be a part of it. For when a building has seen so many wins and so many losses, they become part of the continuing story - the spirit of the audience, and while the results are recorded, it's the emotion that is remembered.

Tonight's game would have added excitement, not because of the points at stake in the standings, but because of the significance of the event. It'd be like having 5 outdoor games a year. Far more important then winning, would be the spirit of the occasion. On the other hand, with the uniqueness of the event, and a super-positive crowd buzzing like crazy, the Leaf players are sure to get a lift and be inspired to play a heck of a game. It would probably be just as exciting for them as it would be for us.

So let's make this happen, MLSE. Take your unimaginative hands out of those deep, deep pockets and admit it's a no-brainer. Forget about condos for one second and recognize that hockey is not a soul-less, plastic, pretentious exercise. It is an uplifting, joyous, meaningful - and yes, spiritual - experience, and Maple Leaf Gardens is my temple.
*As of November 21, 2007, no work on-site has occurred, other than some structural testing done prior to the sale to Loblaws. All plans for construction have been put on hold until at least 2008 due to the financial state of Loblaws.

On Monday, September 8, 2008, Matt Damon hosted a concert in support of the charity ONEXONE. It was the first concert at Maple Leaf Gardens in 8 years. Maple Leaf Gardens was last open to the public on October 4, 2008 as a part of Toronto's Nuit Blanche contemporary art celebration.


Scott Baker said...

I work at a coffee shop at Church and Granby, I walk by the Gardens all the time. It's criminal to see the Loblaws stickers on the doors.

Down Goes Brown said...

The Maple Leafs should play 5 home dates a season at the Gardens, one each against the other 5 Original Six teams.

This is a brilliant idea, and not just because I've been saying it for years.

Every team in the league has their throwback jerseys. Yawn. Imagine throwback arenas! Playing a Saturday night game against the Habs at the Gardens would be electric.

If I owned the Leafs, I'd even go one further: don't include at least one of the MLG games in the season ticket packs, and then give the tickets to local schools so kids can take their parents to a game.

And hell, why not also make MLG the official home of any Game Seven played in Toronto?

In other words, the idea is brilliant and hockey fans would love it so it would never happen.

general borschevsky said...

scott baker: Granby, eh? I like coffee - a lot! - maybe I'll drop by sometime. I take mine black with 3 sugars and I'll be wearing a Borschevsky jersey.

DGB: Wicked comments. Really appreciate it.

MF37 said...

I love the idea of restoring MLG, (not sure if they should keep it old school and bring back the troughs in the men's rooms).

MLSE just needs to figure out how to get the city to magically absorb the majority of the costs a la Ricoh and BMO field so it can happen.

Down Goes Brown said...

This idea is so good, and so unlikely, that I now plan to be angry for the rest of the day.

Archi said...

Fucking NAILS ideas.

Seriously, genious.

I especially agree with DGB, the 5 home games against the original six is an incredible idea, along with the black-tie theme.

Think of all the marketing!

It's a shame that they just put all that money into Ricoh and BMO, because this idea is too damn good to not be explored.

puckbuddy said...

As someone that was hired by the CBC for the gardens final game, I had all access including being on that ice the final game. Being a Leafs fan my whole life it was a thrill to be able to walk anywhere, talk to anyone and pretty much have free rein to wonder in a very historic night.

Having said that, I saw all of the gardens and after seeing it, I saw why there was a need to move to the ACC. Maybe in 30's the gardens where a state of the art facility but considering what they have now, going back to the gardens might never happen. The facilities are just not there. For instance the visitors dressing room wasn't even a room really... the Leafs room was terrible and too small. Parts of the building needed much repairs and even the blowing alley upstairs was destroyed and used as a storage dump. It would take too much money to retrofit the gardens to be up to todays comfort (players and fans).

I love your ideas but unfortunately i dont think it would ever work. As for games that will have tickets going for $300-$500, those crowds are not rowdy ones, just ask anyone who's ever sat in the platinums at the ACC .

Again for the 2000 AS game at the ACC, I was hired again by CBC to do the same thing as I did for them for the final game at the Gardens. Not only did I think it was a HUGE step forward from the gardens but anyone I met at the MC vip suite stated the same; wondering how anyone ever thought that the gardens was ok.

Dont get me wrong. I love the gardens and what its meant to all things Leafs and I doubt that there is anyone else that thinks anything less of the gardens and its place in the history of hockey... which is the real special thing about MLG.

Drake said...

Hey General.

I love this idea. Why has this not been thought of before???

Its not like MLSE is short on cash or anything, and that would inject some life back into the Leafs and their fanbase I think. Why let such a historical sight go to waste?

Also one more thing....GO LEAFS GO!!! 6-3 over the hated Habs! WOOOOOO!!! okay got that off my chest, now Im calm again.

general borschevsky said...

Wow. This went over well.

Hi drake:Why has this not been thought of before???

Uh... I think DGB's been saying it for years, or so he says.

Hi archimedes! Welcome to the General Area! Thanks for the encouraging words.

Cheers to mf37! bring back the troughs in the men's rooms

What a comment. No. But they should put the troughs in the museum or in the Hall, so future generations can appreciate the sociological depth of being a Leaf fan.

Hey puckbuddy! Thanks for droppin' by. Really appreciate your input. I saved your response for last 'cause it's the longest. $300-$500, those crowds are not rowdy ones, just ask anyone who's ever sat in the platinums at the ACC

Usually this is true and over 41 games, for sure, but for just 5 exclusive games demand would be way higher, and if the price were beyond just a corporate nickel, then only the most interested hockey fans are likely to shell out. Also, the apathy you see coming from the platinum seats is a reflection of the general pessimism around the team the last two years. Being stinking rich doesn't prevent you from being passionate about the Leafs. Once they start winning games, and really, once they make the playoffs, the platinum seats will have much better energy. Those rich bastards want the Leafs to win just as much as we do. It just hurts less when you can drive home to your mansion in a helicopter.

Finally; even the blowing alley upstairs was destroyed

I'm assuming blowing alley = bowling alley, uh, and not the dark side of MLG that no one wants to think about.

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

Great ideas. Pure nostalgia. It is a shame to see MLG sitting empty.

Anonymous said...

It's a nice idea, but if you're going to go that route you might as well suggest going back to the Gardens completely. But that won't happen for several obvious reasons, and for the same reasons, your suggestion will fall on deaf ears.

But just because MLG was awesome, it does not mean the ACC has to suck. So instead of taking the nostalgic route, why not start a movement to promote converting the ACC from a mausoleum to a shrine? I have several suggestions for how to go about doing this - in fact, I think I will write a blog about that myself right now, so check in shortly. But to get bogged down in nostalgia means simply accepting that the ACC is a soulless metal cave, and don't think we should give up on it so easy.

As for using MLG for the minor or major junior hockey, or moving the hall of fame there, they are all wonderful ideas that would likely have come to pass if the Leafs were owned by a hockey fan.

Anonymous said...

Here are my views on the subject. I'm sure you'll find them interesting.