Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Maple Leaf Gardens Update

I was looking for any excuse. Sure, there are plenty of bookstores in suburbia, but they most likely wouldn't have this particular publication on my to-read-list. After convincing myself there was zero possibility a local retailer could be of assistance, I quickly put plan "B" into motion.

Within a couple of hours, I was securely planted in the sports section of the Worlds Biggest Book Store. I spent at least another hour scanning a number of titles spread out on the shelves. The landscape being dominated by McFarlane, Fischler and Shea.

Checking my watch, I decided there was time for one more journey prior to heading home. In reality, the walk north on Yonge Street, then east on Carlton, seemed to be my real purpose for heading downtown. A visit to the book heaven on Edward Street being a convenient excuse to make the trip in the first place.

Indeed, it was time for another visit to Maple Leaf Gardens. Yes, I have no hesitation in calling the building at 60 Carlton Street by that name. The recent squabble between Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and Ryerson University concerning the name, seems to incorporate several disputes. Mostly, on the part of MLSE.

The sports giant is concerned over their brand name "Maple Leaf Gardens" becoming part of the still in development project.  However, the major bee-in-their-bonnet is the potential use of the arena being constructed for Ryerson. A non-compete clause ruled out any competition with the Air Canada Centre. With legal action being  initiated by MLSE, the two sides are attempting to resolve this matter.

I can understand their concerns relating to the non-compete clause. In regards to the name, they are barking up the wrong tree.

In 1989, the Toronto Historical Board prepared a heritage property report on Maple Leaf Gardens. After much discussion, the property received historical status. Having been granted legal designation, there seems to be no separating of the legal address and name. At least, from the perspective of the hockey world and   "Joe & Jane Public". The short statement of the reasons for the proposed designation opens with the following sentence: "The property at 438 Church Street, known as Maple Leaf Gardens, is recommended for designation for architectural and historical reasons."

The report is littered with references to hockey and the Toronto Maple Leafs. As a designated site, it is the only reason the entire building wasn't demolished. The exterior being protected by law. To associate the historical standing with a new name would be counter productive and ludicrous. Not to mention a mockery. The historical significance is just as important as the architectural. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Foster Hewitt and his broadcast of their games across Canada being front and centre.

No matter what argument is advanced by MLSE, their "brand" will forever be tied to the protected property - Maple Leaf Gardens. In order to recognize the historical aspects, more than a plaque is necessary. If the citizens of Toronto, and for that matter Canada, care about the past, there should be a national outcry calling for the building to remain as Maple Leaf Gardens.

Imagine, Ryerson University (as depicted in an artists rendering of the finished product) or Loblaw Ltd. being projected from the marquee. Or, MLSE insisting the name Maple Leaf Gardens be abandon. In either case, it would be a lost opportunity to salute 68 years of hockey history. What's wrong with Ryerson Arena at Maple Leaf Gardens or Loblaw Super Centre at Maple Leaf Gardens?

After a pleasant walk along Yonge, I reached the Gardens. At this stage of construction, most of the work appears to be going on inside. Thus, it is difficult to gauge how much or what progress is being made.

Prior to departing, I snapped several photographs. While standing on the south-side of Carlton, one portion of the Gardens caught my attention.

Leaf Sport 1997

Same location, August 2011

For generations of hockey fans, the above location was home to Doug Laurie Sporting Goods. It became a pre-game tradition to visit the store before venturing further into the Gardens. Racks of hockey equipment and sweaters greeted the public as they negotiated the small confines. Need a Maple Leaf key chain or pin - Doug Laurie was the place to shop for Toronto Maple Leafs souvenirs.

I suddenly wanted to delve deeper into this specific location and Doug Laurie Sports. With no regard for time, I continued my march north, strolling up to the Toronto Reference Library at Yonge & Bloor.

Researching the City of Toronto Directories provided some information. The 1944 directory reveals 458 Church Street being occupied by Junior League Opportunity Shop, dealing in used clothing. Also noted in the '44 directory, was a home address for Doug Laurie in Leaside, Ontario. The future owner of Doug Laurie Sports, is listed as being a department manager at Brown Sports and Cycle Company. They were situated at 345-5 Yonge Street.


The 1945 directory shows the first listing for Doug Laurie Sports at 458 Church Street. It would indicate they became a tenant sometime in 1944.

In 1963, a change in use of the premises at 458 Church took place. The space from 454-458 Church served as a Gardens storage warehouse. Ultimately, becoming home to the Hot Stove Lounge. In the same year, Doug Laurie Sports moved around the corner.

The next home for Doug Laurie Sports is listed as being 62 Carlton Street. As with anything to do with real estate, the prime need is "Location, location and location". By moving to 62 Carlton, the store was situated between the main entrance of Maple Leaf Gardens at 60 Carlton and Alton's Barber Shop at 66 Carlton. Doug Laurie, taking possession of the space vacated by McCutcheon's Camera. The address at 62 Carlton would be home to Doug Laurie Sports from 1963 until the early 1990s.

The 1992 city directory contains the final listing for Doug Laurie Sporting Goods Ltd. at 62 Carlton. Thos. (Thomas) S. Smythe is noted as being the President. The following year, 1993, Leaf Sport appears in the directory at 62 Carlton Street.

Mission accomplished - right? Forget-about-it! I couldn't get back home fast enough to re-read the combined efforts of the late Tommy Smythe and hockey author Kevin Shea in their fascinating 2000 book, Centre Ice - The Smythe Family, the Gardens and the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club. Contained within are wonderful stories and facts concerning Tommy's involvement and ownership of Doug Laurie Sports.

It was day filled with hockey for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Who cares if it was early August and the temperature was soaring upward.

My purchase earlier in the day - Eddie Shore and That Old Time Hockey by C. Michael Hiam - would take it's place on top of the pile of books positioned on my night table.


  1. I made 2 purchases at Doug Laurie Sports in '88 - the first was a Montreal Canadiens sweater I bought for a friend's daughte, who lived in Georgia and who I was planning on visiting a couple of weeks later. I left the store and went to the local watering hole, maybe the Nag's Head at the Eaton Center and then left for home. Got off the bus with the plastic bag in my hand and discovered no sweater. Somehow it slipped out of the bag and to this day have hated plastic bags for carrying anything unless they're stapled closed. To make a long story short, I went and bought another sweater for her and am wondering if she still has it - my friend divorced her mother years ago and I've lost track of them.

  2. Doug Laurie is my sons' great grandfather and I will be happy to copy your description of the time around Doug Laurie Sports for them to enjoy and learn from.

    1. Hi Emily my friends have been trying to get information about Doug Laurie. His store was an institution in Toronto . It was one of the only places you could Northland pro hockey sticks and " real " Maple jerseys . It was a thrill when you went to a game to go into the store. What we would like to know is his relationship to Conn Smythe that Conn would allow his space in the hockey Cathedral Maple Leaf Gardens ?

  3. I bought my first Jersey from Doug Lawrie Sports in 1973.

  4. A boyhood friend of mine from Ottawa had an aunt (her name was Mrs. Hogg - I forget her first name) who worked as an accountant and general factotum in Mr. Laurie's store. My buddy and I had more or less the run of the store, and I can always remember how kind and generous Mr. Laurie was - a true gentleman

  5. Mrs Hogg's first name was Helen. She was the bookkeeper when I managed Doug Laurie Sporting Goods in the early '70s. Helen and co-worker Charlie Good were the employees at the time Tommy Smythe and Harry Addison bought the business from Doug Laurie.

    1. Doug Laurie Sporting Goods supplied the equipment and uniforms for Team Canada in 1972. MLG was the training centre for Team Canada. The team sweaters were made by Maska (Denis and Gérard Côté) in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec. The time was so tight I collected the sweaters from Denis at Dorval Airport and flew them back as personal luggage. Jim Lapp, manager of Doug Laurie Sporting Goods.


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