Maple Leaf Gardens was best know as the home ice of the Maple Leaf hockey team, but it was also the site of many other sports and entertainment events. Many skating extravaganzas were seen here. Performers Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope performed to enthusiastic audiences. Beginning in the 1960s, it was the venue for virtually all of the city’s major indoor rock and pop concerts until the SkyDome was opened in 1989. Among the artists and bands that have appeared at the Gardens are the Beatles, New Kids on the Block, the Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, and Bruce Springsteen. Politicians and statesmen have spoken: Winston Churchill gave a speech there on March 3, 1932 and Prime Ministers William Lyon Mackenzie King and Pierre Trudeau both used this space for election rallies.
The Maple Leaf Gardens was built in 1931 at a cost of about $1.5 million, and opened on November 12, 1931 with the Toronto Maple Leafs hosting the Chicago Blackhawks. The best seats in the house could be had for $2.75 apiece. As fate would have it, the Leafs’ final game in the Gardens on February 13, 1999 was also lost to the Chicago Blackhawks; however, the game itself had record attendance. Originally it held 13,000 persons for hockey and 16,000 for other events. Changes over the years increased the capacity to more than 16,000 for hockey and more than 18,000 for concerts.
Some fans formed The Friends of Maple Leaf Gardens in an attempt to preserve the Gardens as a heritage site but were unsuccessful. They recognized that it is unlikely that The Gardens could be home to a professional hockey team, but felt that other appropriate uses might emerge , as had at the Distillery District in the former Gooderham and Worts complex. That is not to be. The building has been purchased by Loblaws who plan make the Gardens into a grocery Store with the blessing of Toronto City Council. Never the less, this building itself will always hold a special place in Canadian memory.