A visit to the Temple

Two free tickets took me to Toronto’s Mecca, the ACC the home of our beloved Leafs.I was there to see the extraordinary Pavel Datysuk,the Russian born magician who plays for Detroit. This would be Pavel’s only trip to the ACC. The Wings sat him out and played their Grand Rapids minor league team. I could take but two periods.

The noise, the 30 plus men wearing Leaf jerseys, the constant light shows promoting all forms of consumerism from Smirnoff’s to some law firm crowing about their thousand lawyers etc. The best was an ad for the 407 Highway, the provincial giveaway by the Mike Harris Tories, Ontarians wince when we think of this catastrophic boondoggle which gave us a $200 tax rebate to buy our votes. And we lost the revenues for 100 years.That was it for me.Rejean Tremblay had it right.

The Quebec sportswriter pointed at a sell out crowd in hockey-mad Montreal,

“See these people—they used to be Roman Catholics!”

Pump up the volume! Sell the sizzle not the steak!

Kinetic energy.No time to think.An all out assault on our senses.

Lemme outta here!

1 Comment »

  1. 1
    wmgrace Says:

    Before the ACC there was MLG. Maple Leaf Gardens. Or as it was known to Torontonians, just THE GARDENS. That’s where you went to see THE GAME. The Leaf game of course.

    As a kid I remember the gleaming, lead-painted blue and white corridors, huge black and white photos of genuine Leaf heroes. The images made your B&W TV screen look downright sick. You saw guys in suits, ties and overcoats. Women in dresses. Everyone looking like Sunday morning. On a Saturday night before the game there was a quiet excitement within and around the building, which gently boiled over during the game, and then afterwards spilled out onto the sidewalks and parking lots around the Gardens and onto the College street car as it stopped in front to pick up fans. You could hear it and feel the warmth through the always cold and snowy night. There were memories of the game itself which you kept on replaying in your head until they became imprinted there and remained, so that you could instantly call them up while you skated at the local outdoor ice rink in your neighborhood. Or at a much later time in your life when getting skates on was a damned effort.

    This would be the era preceding the time of the Carlton Street Cash Box. The place had a human scale to it – as if the people who attended were important and the builders wanted to make them feel that way. Not self-important but just valued as fans and citizens of Toronto. Kind of an old-fashioned idea. The spirit of Conn Smythe was everywhere. By that I mean you just didn’t enter the arena but you brushed up against his winning teams, his captains, his trophies, his love of Queen and country. You experienced his greatest (I think) sports accomplishment – the building of the Gardens. It was devoted to hockey the same way he devoted himself to his country during two world wars.

    Fast-forward to the nineties and me taking my kids to the Leaf skills competition on a Sunday afternoon. The clean open spaces had been over-run by concessions. Odours were rank. Colours were garish. Any sense of the fan as important was a joke. You couldn’t say anything was shining except maybe the spilled coke. Granted this was not a Saturday night game but MLG, once so dignified, was in disarray. She was overstretched beyond her true seating capacity. The requirements of TV broadcasting, additions of lounges, bars, apartments and special events stretched the capacity of her infrastructure beyond the breaking point. Hockey wasn’t really that important any more. Repairs and rebuilding never happened. Instead the Gardens was rented out to any and all attractions, 12 months, 24/7 if necessary. Employees and their families paid the price. As Conn Smythe would say; they put cash ahead of class.

    It was a lot like George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life) when he returned home to Bedford Falls but found Pottersville instead. Henry Potter (read Harold Ballard?) had transformed a small thriving community where the common good was paramount, into a cold and heartless town of self-seeking individuals.


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