old shrine of hockey opened up as a Loblaws and up to 300 people lined up get the first sneak peek inside. As a lifelong Maple Leaf fan I will probably go check it out and will also want to see what the third floor Ryerson University ice rink will look like when it opens up in the spring.
This isn't the first time Loblaws has opened up in a former Maple Leafs arena. On my last visit to St. John's, Newfoundland, my buddy took me to the old Memorial Arena where the St. John's Maple Leafs had played before they moved to Toronto to become the Marlies. That old rink was turned into a Dominion supermarket, which is owned by Loblaws Companies. I wonder if the owner of Loblaws, Galen Weston, is a Leafs fan? Or secretly hates them. You can almost see the Hangar becoming a Zehrs in 2030.
For years after the Maple Leafs left the Gardens to go play in that lifeless building called the ACC, the Gardens just sat there falling apart, occasionally being used for movies, but mostly just collecting dust. My brother and I at the time were so pissed off about this that we started a Facebook group to Save Maple Leaf Gardens, and had over 2000 members in less than a month. We wanted MLSE to keep the rink and turn the Gardens into a Toronto Maple Leafs Hall of Fame and have the Gardens open on the weekends to the public for pleasure skating and tours. The group had some diehards who provided some great pictures and video of the transformation MLG took these past few years and it has become a marketplace for MLG seats and memorabilia.
Yes, our plan wasn't the biggest money maker for MLSE and they probably would have lost some money with our plan to keep the Gardens open and running. But sometimes saving history is worth losing a few bucks, and it would have been spare change for them. I would have loved to have been in a weekly pick up league playing out of the Gardens or even had a chance to watch my future kids play a school championship there under the Stanley Cup banners. You can also bet some musical acts would have loved to play concerts at the Gardens, considering it's the same building that Elivs and the Beatles played in.
It's a shame that the Gardens didn't get saved, but at least it didn't get torn down like many other old arenas. Loblaws has done some neat things to pay homage to the Gardens with having original lights, exposed brick and a Maple Leaf shaped wall sculpture in the atrium made from arena seats. They even have a red dot in aisle 25 to mark where centre ice would be.