Referred to as Canada’s “Cathedral of Hockey” Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens (formerly Maple Leaf Gardens) is not only a historical symbol for Canada’s on-ice claim to fame, but has also been home to twelve Canadian sports teams since first opening its doors on November 12th, 1931.
Built in only seven months, it was the largest arena in the country at the time. The venue saw some of the most breath taking moments of the century, hosting legends such as Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali and Winston Churchill. Built by Conn Smythe in a time that meeker men wouldn’t have dared, the monument on the corner of Church and Carlton ignited a flame in an economically dim time. The Gardens represented more than the teams and figures it hosted; it gave Canada a place to showcase and take part in the groundbreaking popular culture that was shaping the Century.
With the new facility bringing crowds and bringing luck to the Toronto Maple Leafs, they fared well in their new home. The boys in blue won the iconic Stanley cup their first year at the Gardens, and would earn the revered trophy ten more times between 1941 and 1967.
On November 1st 1946, the venue made history, hosting the first game of the NBA, (originally named the Basketball Association of America) with the Toronto Huskies playing the New York Knickerbockers. The following year, the Gardens was host to the first official NHL All-Star game, a tradition still honoured to this day. The venue would continue to make history, being the only venue to see The Beatles on each of their three North American Tours in 1964, 1965, and 1966. Elvis Presley played his first show outside of the United States at the Gardens in 1957. In one of the most legendary moments of sports history, the Gardens is remembered as the lucky venue that saw Team Canada beat the Soviets in game two of the 1972 Summit Series, the only game of the series won on Canadian soil.
As the venue changed management, tenants and capacity, one thing has remained constant; its role as a Canadian landmark, holding memories as strong as the hands that built it. The Gardens was recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada in 2007.
Over the past 81 years, the Gardens has been a home to two soccer teams, two lacrosse teams, five hockey teams, and three basketball teams. It now welcomes six Ryerson Rams CIS men’s and women’s teams. With its renovation nearly complete, the Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens features a full-sized ice rink accommodating over 2,600 fans, a multi-purpose court for basketball and volleyball, multiple studios, and a high-performance gym. The revitalization of the Gardens promises to bring the community back into its historic home, and hopes to serve the Ryerson Rams with as much spirit and success as the many great teams before them. Prominently set in the heart of Toronto and in the heart of Canadians, we are very excited to say “Welcome back to the Gardens”.