My memories of the final Toronto Maple Leafs game at Maple Leaf Gardens
Maple Leaf Gardens – the former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, not to mention a one-time concert home to The Beatles and Elvis Presley. That building was simply part of my youth growing up. No, I didn’t see Presley or The Beatles, but a few shows on a long list I did manage to see would include – Rush (many tours), Van Halen, Ozzy, Triumph, The Who, Eric Clapton, Riverdance, Bryan Adams, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, and of course, a few Toronto Maple Leaf games – including – the final one.
Maple Leafs Gardens is a new home today of Ryerson University and Loblaw’s. Deemed a historical site (meaning the actual building can never be torn down in Toronto) it’s a place that is too rich in memories to name. So the final Toronto Maple Leafs game on February 12th, 1999 – was a big deal that night in Toronto. And I was lucky enough to be there. It was like I won a lottery (actually, I kind of did).
Before the game started, there was plenty of chances to meet the great Maple Leafs in history who at one time had played in the building and they all had fond memories to share. Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming, Frank Mahovlich, Lanny McDonald, and Johnny Bower were just a few Leaf legends I got to meet and share stories with on the night.
While the Maple Leafs would end up losing the game to Chicago. It was fitting that Mats Sundin took the ceremonial opening face-off against Doug Gilmour, who was playing for the Blackhawks at the time. The outcome was really meaningless as everyone in the building that night shared in that special Toronto memory.
It’s my fondness for that building – thankfully still standing today but used very differently is why I’ve always collected and currently enjoy framing a unique collection of Maple Leaf Gardens memorabilia in the NCC Collection.