New home for high-sticking at redeveloped Maple Leaf Gardens


New home for high-sticking at redeveloped Maple Leaf Gardens
Published On Tue Nov 29 2011 Daniel Girard Sports Reporter
#MapleLeafGardens @RyersonU
Over seven decades, crowds often raised the roof at Maple Leaf Gardens. But the iconic arena’s reopening next spring is about lifting the floor. The centrepiece of Ryerson University’s new $71.2 million athletic centre will be a full-sized, 2,600-seat arena situated directly below the distinctive white dome of the old barn, some 50 feet above the entrance off Carlton St. The new playing surface, which is roughly the height of the old green seats, will not only be the highest skating rink in Toronto but also make Maple Leaf Gardens the only one of the Original Six NHL arenas to still have ice.

Four of the old buildings — in Boston, Chicago, Detroit and New York — have been demolished. The Montreal Forum has been converted into retail space.
“It brings back the Gardens to the city,” Ryerson president Sheldon Levy told a news conference Tuesday detailing a new $15 million donation to the project. “It’ll be a wonderful place for the community for years to come.”
Andrew Buck was still in grade school when the Gardens hosted its last game — a 6-2 Leafs loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 13, 1999. But the left-winger for the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team recalls going to games with his grandparents and still can’t believe it will be his home rink.
“I’ve tried not to think about it too much because it’s so exciting,” said the 23-year-old from Newmarket. “Just standing on the ice, the national anthem, skating out here — there’s no words for what it will be like.”
Nella Brodett, a 20-year-old forward on the women’s hockey team, is a fan of her hometown Edmonton Oilers who never saw a game in the Gardens. But she certainly appreciates the significance of the opportunity she’ll get.
“The history behind it, and knowing all the Stanley Cups that have been won here, makes it really exciting to know that we’re going to be playing here, on this ice,” she said. “Having the original roof above us, it’s really nostalgic.”
The new 220,000-square-foot Peter Gilgan Athletic Centre at the Gardens, named for the Toronto homebuilder who made the donation, will also feature a multi-purpose basketball and volleyball court, a student fitness centre, studios and a high-performance gym. Those facilities will be on the second floor, below the arena — to be known as the Mattamy Home Ice after the benefactor’s company — and above a large Loblaws grocery store.
The 70,000-square-foot, street-level Loblaws opens its doors on Wednesday.
Gilgan, who has two sons who graduated from Ryerson and two more still attending, said he stared up at the ceiling in amazement during timeouts of hockey games he attended and wondered how it was built in the 1930s.
“Hockey is Canada’s sport,” Gilgan said. “And I certainly go back to the day when there were six teams and this was ground zero for hockey.
“This is the last of the Original Six hockey teams’ buildings still being used to play hockey in. This ensures it’s going to stay that way for generations.”
In addition to hosting Ryerson home games, Levy said he hopes to open the facilities “as close to 24-7 as possible” for such things as public skating. He also insisted the university and Loblaws are “very close” to an understanding with Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment to avert further court action in an ongoing dispute over the naming and use of the 80-year-old building.Ottawa has provided up to $20 million of the project’s cost; Ryerson students voted to pony up another $20 million through a $126 annual fee. A joint fundraising campaign between the university and the grocery giant is committed to raising the remaining money, with Loblaws having pledged $5 million.

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