Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wall to Wall History at Maple Leaf Gardens

The main destination for many tourist visiting Toronto from 1931 to 1999 was Maple Leaf Gardens. After years of listening on radio and watching on television, the hockey palace on Carlton Street seemed like a second home. Once inside the giant edifice, the corridors were like walking through a museum. The large framed photographs hanging on the walls, revealed both the history of the team and building.

Many of the photographs are displayed in the Maple Leaf Gardens Commemorative Album and Auction Catalogue from November 2000 (above picture). The collection of photographs span several generations of hockey from Hap Day to Doug Gilmour.

One of my all-time favourite pictures at the Gardens was the above photo of Ron Ellis. It was snapped after the contest in which he scored his first National Hockey League goal. The game was played on October 17, 1964 at Maple Leaf Gardens. In net for Boston that evening was Eddie Johnston. The caption reads "Ron Ellis poses with his first NHL goal puck." The photo was situated in the wallway leading to the East Gold seats.

At the beginning of the 1964-65 season, comparisons were being made between Ellis and another NHL rookie - Yvan Cournoyer. The native of Drummondville, Quebec started the year playing on a line with Jean Beliveau and John Ferguson. The hope for Ellis was that he would have the opportunity to flash his offensive skills in the same manner as his counterpart in Montreal. Playing on a line with Andy Bathgate and Frank Mahovlich, there was concern Ellis would be saddled with the majority of checking assignments.

The scouting report on Ellis outlined his speed and potential to become a scoring threat. His skating abilities enabled him to reach the corners and fight for control of the puck. His shot was hard and accurate. Ron Ellis would record decent offensive statistics over his 15 year career in the National Hockey League. In his initial season, he would tally 22 more goals after that wonderful picture was taken following the Leafs home-opener.

During a visit to the Air Canada Centre, I decided to explore around the building and conduct an inspection of the photographs. Taking into account the fact the structure is relatively new (1999) and no championships have been secured, the pictorial presentation is no match to Maple Leaf Gardens. Updated technology has been engaged with several electronic screens flashing a series of pictures. These cover many decades of Toronto Maple Leafs history.

Below is a sampling of the electronic images.

The Kid Line

1951 Cup


 Tucked away in stairwells and other locations are several print/framed photographs.

Hap Day

Ace Bailey


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