Thursday, August 9, 2018


A behind the scenes look to have the artificial ice rink at Christie Pits in Toronto named after former Toronto Maple Leaf great, Sid Smith.

"Toronto-born captains of the Maple Leafs are few and far between. Now, the memory of Sid Smith is getting a permanent memorial at a most appropriate location, the Christie Pits outdoor skating rink that he loved so much." Excerpt from "Pits Stop" written by Lance Hornby, the Toronto Sun, January 9, 2018.

January 6, 2014, at the first Original Six Alumni luncheon for 2014, two new faces were on-hand. The first individual needed no introduction. His position and exposure as mayor of the City of Toronto made him recognizable to one and all. Mayor Rob Ford, a huge hockey fan, looked to be in his element mingling with everyone in the room. A great deal of his time was spent posing for photos. While this was taking place, Blaine Smith and I watched from a short distance away and hatched an idea that required us to approach the mayor. Blaine's dad is former Toronto Maple Leaf winger Sid Smith. As Ford maneuvered around the dining area, we pounced once Ford and his special assistant, Jerry Agyemang, the other new face, huddled for a quiet moment. We wasted little time in making our pitch. We needed Ford's guidance and help in having the artificial ice rink at Christie Pits named after Sid Smith. And the leader of Canada's biggest city was more than willing to get the ball rolling.

February 6, 2014, on this date, came an email informing us that the Parks Operations staff had no objection to the naming. After receiving the document relating to the Process for Honourific Park Naming from the Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation department, the work of fulfilling the requirements began. The first step in getting the wheels-in-motion was to provide a written request to the city. Three important bits of information were necessary to advance the cause. The first hurdle was to show Sid Smith's "significance and contribution to the community." Next came the written consent from the Smith family and "the endorsement of at least two community organizations."

June 16, 2014, following several months of research and consultations the written proposal was emailed to our contact. The paper was titled,"Sid Smith: Toronto's Maple Leaf." Many of the quotes came from Jack Batten's 1975 book called "The Leafs in Autumn." We established Smith's "significance" by detailing his hockey career with the Toronto Maple Leafs and as the playing coach of the World Champion Whitby Dunlops in 1958. Also, between 1959 and 1979, Smith helped the Ontario NHL Oldtimers raise two million dollars for various charities. In addition to his achievements on the ice, the fact Smith was born and raised in Toronto put him in a unique category. "People used to say to me all the time that Smythe (Leaf boss, Conn Smythe) didn't want Toronto guys on his club," recounted Smith. "Sure as hell all the product in those years was coming from western Canada and northern Ontario. It was me alone as far as Toronto went, but maybe I broke the barrier because afterwards Hughie Bolton and Billy Harris" came along. And Smith's first exposure to ice hockey came at Christie Pits. "I played pretty near every sport you can think of down there," he told Batten. "In the winter it was pick-up hockey. Strictly shinny, you know, but that's a hell of a good way to learn." As a Toronto Maple Leaf, Smith never forgot his roots. Sometimes after practice at Maple Leaf Gardens, he would throw his skates and a stick in the car and drive to Christie Pits to play shinny with the locals. Smith never turned down a speaking engagement or a request help a youth hockey organization. The paper concluded with, "There is no one more appropriate or deserving to honour when it comes to naming the rink at Christie Pits than Sid Smith. His name and story is an inspiration for generations to come."

July 2014 - September 2016, this time period was used to address various issues. With help from Marco Bianchi, the special assistant to Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spading), most aspects were attended to and the pathway was opened up to proceed.

September 30, 2016, after much deliberation, it was determined to approach two groups concerning the endorsements. The Toronto Maple Leafs Baseball Club of the Intercounty Baseball League, are a long-time fixture at Christie Pits. We presented club owner, Jack Dominico with a request to provide us with an endorsement. In early October, we received Dominico's reply. In part, it read, "Not only was Sid a Stanley Cup winner with the Leafs, but he was one of the good guys. He cared about the Christie Pits neighbourhood and never forgot his roots. I cannot think of a finer or more qualified person to have the artificial ice rink at Christie Pits named after than Sid Smith."

October 6, 2016, we received the response to our second endorsement request. The reply was written by Steven Smith, coordinator of the Toronto Playgrounds Houseleague Baseball. A portion of his email stated, "We fully endorse the initiative to name the facility after such a deserving and community-focused former neighbourhood resident. Many of the almost one thousand  players registered in our league skate regularly at the rink in Christie Pits with their families during the rink season. It is indeed a busy well-used facility...a fitting place to highlight someone with the character and attributes of Sid Smith."

February 24, 2017, advised that signs were installed at the Christie Pits rink informing the community of the request to have the rink named after Sid Smith. The sign, which was affixed to the fencing around the ice surface, provided a short summary of Sid Smith's hockey accomplishments and his relationship to the neighbourhood. Also, the signage encouraged "Letters of support or objection..." The deadline to submit a reply was March 10. In his online column for the Toronto Sun, Toronto historian and author, Mike Filey, lent his support to the effort. "This being the 100th anniversary season of the NHL and the Leafs' 90th, it seems to me this would be a fitting tribute to a hometown hockey star," wrote Filey. "I hope the city fathers feel the same way."

March 13, 2017, a Report For Action was submitted to the Toronto and East York Community Council. The following recommendation was made:
The General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division recommends: 1. Toronto and East York Community Council adopt the naming of the artificial ice rink in Christie Pits located at 750 Bloor Street as the Sid Smith Ice Rink.

April 4, 2017, the above recommendation, item TE23.50, went before the Toronto and East York Community Council in Committee Room 1 at City Hall for action. The recommendation was adopted. Thus, the Sid Smith Artificial Ice Rink became a reality. As someone from the Parks Department noted, "Over the last few years, I've been involved in many park asset naming proposals. Your proposal - embodies the spirit of honouring our history and those who made a significant contribution to our city." On April 10, Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun featured Sid Smith in his "Leafs 101," piece. "Approval has gone through to name the artificial ice rink at Christie Pits after Leafs great Sid Smith," wrote Hornsby before providing a brief history of Smith's career.

May 2017 - September 2017, a decision was made by all concerned to hold an official ceremony during the upcoming "rink season." By doing this, the community could come and enjoy the festivities, then go for a skate on the newly christened Sid Smith Artificial Ice Rink.

October 25, 2017, at 1:00 pm Blaine Smith and I arrived for a meeting at City Hall with Councillor Mike Layton and Marco Bianchi. On the agenda was the planning of the official ceremony to unveil the signage and a community skating party to celebrate the Sid Smith Artifical Ice Rink. The participation of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment was discussed.

December 19, 2017, On his website, Councillor Mike Layton posted this "Save the Date: Sid Smith Rink Naming & Skating Party." The date for the event was January 14, 2018, at 1:00 pm. We were hoping the Toronto Maple Leafs would hold an outdoor practice at the Sid Smith Artificial Rink, but they couldn't work it into their schedule. MLSE did agree to "provide refreshments and physical set-up of the event." Also, to arrange for a speaker from the organization to give a talk during the ceremony and have a member of the alumni participate.

January 14, 2018, on a sunny and cold Sunday afternoon, family (including Sid Smith's widow, June), friends, former teammates and opponents and the community gathered in Christie Pits to celebrate the Sid Smith Artificial Ice Rink. The boards of the rink were decorated with paste-on labels featuring Sid Smith's name between two Leaf logos with the number 8 in the middle of each logo. MLSE was represented by Mike Ferriman, manager of game presentations for the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey club. "I'm proud to be here and represent the Toronto Maple Leafs, as we honour Sid Smith one of the greatest of all-time," said Ferriman at the podium during the official ceremony. Councillor Layton told the Leafs Nation Network, "It is so fitting for a rink in our city to be named after a Maple Leaf, but for it to be in the neighbourhood where they grew-up and the neighbourhood they lived in when they were playing for the Maple Leafs - how spectacular." Blaine Smith told LNN, "We are here to honour my dad and have the rink renamed after him. This where he grew-up, this is where he was born and raised and honed his skills to become a Maple Leaf." Former Leaf and Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Dick Duff, remembered Sid Smith. "He was one of the great players for the Leafs and he was a fun guy in the room...and great for the City of Toronto. He will never be forgotten," Duff told the Leafs Nation Network.

Photo Credit: Gary Tobin

Photo Credit: Gary Tobin

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