With Wednesday’s opening of Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens, there is a lot of hand wringing about the ultimate fate of the hockey Mecca at the corner of Carlton and Church. It just feels wrong that the bakery section (or whatever now stands on the spot where Doug Gilmour scored his famous wrap-around goal.
That those young faces pressed against the glass will be looking at cuts of meat instead of players like Salming, Sittler, Clark, and Sundin. While a combination grocery store/athletic facility hardly seems to befit ground as sacred as Maple Leaf Gardens, it is supremely preferable to what became of the other Original Six Arenas.
The Bruins inhabited the Boston Garden from 1928 to 1995. The building sat vacant for two years after the Bruins moved next door to the Fleetcenter and was demolished in 1997. It is now a parking lot for the TD Garden and Boston Transit System.
The stadium was home to the Blackhawks from 1929 to 1994. When constructed it was the largest indoor stadium in the world. The Blackhawks left for the United Center in 1995 and the Stadium was demolished. It has been replaced by a parking lot for the United Center.
The Detroit Red Wings, then known as the Cougars, were the Olympia’s first tenant when it opened in 1927. They stayed there until 1979. Initially the Wings considered following the Lions to Pontiac but the city offered a water-front arena with lower rent and a stake in both Cobo Hall and parking facilities so the Wings moved to Joe Louis Arena.
The Wings’ lease with the city barred them from operating Olympia Stadium in competition with either Joe Louis or Cobo Arenas. They were also forbidden to sell the building for use as a sports or entertainment venue. As a result the building was shuttered and eventually demolished in 1987. In its place is the Michigan National Guard’s Olympia Armory. All that remains is a commemorative plaque.
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN (THE 3RD)
The third building to bear the name: Madison Square Garden was home to the New York Rangers from 1925 to 1968. When the Rangers moved to Madison Square Garden IV the building was demolished. The site was a parking lot until the late 80s when One Worldwide Plaza, a skyscraper, was built on the site.
THE MONTREAL FORUM
The Forum was perhaps the most storied of all the Original Six arenas. It was home to Les Canadiens from 1926 to 1996. After the Habs left Nicholas Cage filmed parts of the movie Snake Eyes there. The plot revolves around a boxer feigning a knockout after a phantom punch, hardly the first time someone took a dive at the Forum.
The Forum is the only other Original Six arena still standing. It was gutted and transformed into an entertainment center called the Pepsi Forum. The building acknowledges its past life with memorabilia from the Forum and statues of former Habs.
MAPLE LEAF GARDENS
Built at the beginning of the Depression by Conn Smythe over six-months the Gardens was home to the Leafs from 1931 to 1999. When the Leafs moved out the building sat mostly dormant. The last major use was for season one of CBC’s Battle of the Blades. Yesterday the Loblaws opened. It is also the home of the Peter Gilgan Athletic Centre at the Gardens, home to the Ryerson hockey team as well as an athletic facility for its students.
Two parking lots, an Armory, a skyscraper, and a glorified mall.
While it may not be the perfect fate for a building as hallowed as Maple Leaf Gardens, for the foreseeable future hockey will still be played at the corner of Carlton and Church.