November 12, 1931.
In the scheme of things, it was just another day on the calender.
The morning paper indicated the city of Toronto was due to get milder temperatures, but scattered showers were also expected.
Opening The Globe newspaper, readers were greeted with news concerning Remembrance Day activities. A headline read, "Poppies and Laurel On Thousand Stones Prove Remembrance".
In Ottawa, a crowd of 50,000 took part in ceremonies. The first paragraph under the above mentioned heading set the mood. "For the thirteenth time, Canada stood momentarily silent today in mute recalling of that dramatic interlude on Nov. 11, 1918, when at 11 o'clock in the morning the magic order "Cease Fire" flashed across the thundering battlefields and brought peace to a war-weary world."
An advertisement for the McLaughlin Motor Car Co. Ltd. featured a 1931 McLaughlin-Buick Sedan. Billed as being a demonstrator with only 2,500 miles the asking price was $1200.
Another story of interest involved Dr. F.B. Mowbray who was one of the nations top surgeons. While conducting an operation, the good doctor collapsed and was given medical attention. Unfortunately, he didn't survive, passing away a sort time later.
On the local scene, a fire in the downtown core caused many people to stop and observe the fireworks. The two-story building located at 109 Victoria Street, became engulfed in flames when a fire broke out on the top floor. Responding in a timely fashion, fire crews successfully contained the blaze and fear of it spreading to adjoining buildings was averted.
With colder weather, readers were asked this question by Marvelube, the purest of motor oils, "Is your motor balky these cold mornings?"
Out west, the Regina Roughriders once again dominated senior football. The club won their sixth-straight Western Canada Senior Football championship by defeating Calgary 26-2.
In the Toronto Daily Star, a gallery of photographs filled an entire page. One photo of Academy Award winning actress Maria Dressler, pointed out she was born in Cobourg, Ontario. Another showed the All-Scottish Women's field hockey team strutting their stuff at the Westchester Country Club in New York State. A caption under the picture of the Hollywood Baby Orchestra pointed out no member was over the age of six.
At the Uptown Theatre, Lew Ayres had top-billing in "The Spirit of Notre Dame". The Tivoli was offering a preview of "The Dreyfus Case" with Cedric Hardwicke. Starting the next day, Loew's was screening "The Sin of Madelon Claudet". The text made certain to inform everyone the film was "introducing to the screen one of America's greatest stage stares - Helen Hayes."
The big news of the day for most of the folks living in Toronto could be found in the sports pages.
Reading a headline in The Evening Telegram, there was little doubt something big was about to happen on the Toronto sporting scene. If anyone forgot, the bold lettering supplied a reminder - "BLACK HAWKS MINUS MANAGER FOR OPENING OF GARDENS".
The Gardens in this case was Maple Leaf Gardens, located at the corner of Carlton and Church.
On November 12, 1931, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks played the very first hockey game in the soon-to-be historic building.
As indicated, Chicago came into Toronto at less than full strength from a management perspective. With Gregory Mathieson stepping down from his responsibilities, the role of coach and manager fell to a gentleman by the name of Iverson, who served as the Hawks physical director. As all this was going down, club secretary Bill Tobin, returned to the Windy City to consult with ownership. In the previous campaign, Chicago was guided by Dick Irvin.
No matter the blight of the visiting team, the new arena was front and centre. Writing in The Telegram, sports writer J.P. Fitzgerald had these words for hockey fans. "The opening of the new Maple Leaf Gardens to-night is a great step forward for hockey and hockey crowds. The class of hockey in this new home will not be any faster or better than in the old Arena, but it will give more people an opportunity to see this, the speediest game on earth in comfort."
National Hockey League President Frank Calder was quoted as saying, "Maple Leaf Gardens, the new home of Toronto Maple Leafs, in my opinion sets a new standard in construction of arenas suitable for hockey and kindred entertainment. It is a stands as a monument to the ingenuity of those who devised and planned it, and to the courage of those who in these days of timidity saw it through."
In an amazing feat, Conn Smythe and his management/ownership team moved the project forward to completion in five months during very tough economic times!
Legendary writer Ted Reeve writing in his column, "Sporting Extras", gave his readership the scoop directly from those in-the-know. "From what the boys tell us, it is a marvellous place, built on most modern lines and supplied with everything including an echo."
Due to the new hockey palace receiving a tremendous build-up, the game itself took a backseat to the pomp and circumstance surrounding the opening of the Maple Leaf Gardens.With political dignitaries in attendance and doing what they do best, talking, hockey fans were eager for the action to get underway.
For those who couldn't go to the game, they could at least follow the opening ceremonies and play-by-play action on the radio. With Foster Hewitt planted in the gondola fifty-two above ice level, the contest was broadcast over CFCA (8:30pm) and CKGW (9:00pm) radio.
The first goal in Maple Leaf Gardens was scored by Chicago's Mush Marsh at 2:30 of the first period. The Telegram described the historic goal in the following manner, "March got in fast and was Johnny on the spot for a pass from Cook to flip the puck over the bending Chabot." Of interest, March scored the final NHL goal at Arena Gardens on Mutual Street, when the Leafs and Chicago battled in the playoffs the previous spring.
Scoring the initial goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their new home was Charlie Conacher. According to news reports, the Leafs were buzzing around the Chicago zone most of the contest, but the Hawks stayed close to their checks not allowing many scoring chances. If the Leafs did break through the Chicago defence, goalie Charlie Gardiner was up to the challenge. The Leafs out shot their opponent 51 to 38. The only player to beat him was Conacher. At 18:42 of the middle frame, the famed right winger of Toronto's Kid Line "accepting a pass from Joe Primeau, drilled a beautiful shot into the corner of the net," as described in The Globe.
A piece in The Evening Telegram best summed-up the entire affair of the grand opening and the game. "Well, you can't have everything and doubtless the Leafs will show better hockey when a bit of the shine wears off on the new furniture. Any way, it was a great house warming and those who were in charge of handling the monster crowds, both inside and out, deserve credit for the minimum of inconvenience which was caused to customers."
Today, marks the 80th anniversary of that very special evening on Thursday November 12, 1931. From that date to 1999, when the Leafs departed and the final National Hockey League game was played in the house built by Conn Smythe, an entire nation has banked a vault full of memories and dreams.
Happy 80th, Maple Leaf Gardens!!!