Gardens rebirth stirs glimmer of golden days

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By Amanda Cupido

Rick Vaive snapped his wrist and shot the puck. Goal. He looked up at the audience in the Maple Leaf Gardens only to see a standing ovation. The cheers from the Toronto Maple Leaf fans echoed throughout the building and defined the greatest moment of Vaive’s career.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that,” said Vaive as he described the moment he became the first Leaf to score 50 goals in one season. Going into the game needing one goal to set the record, he was focused. “It wasn’t a matter of ‘am I going to score?’ it was ‘how many?’”

Now, 28 years later, he still feels honoured to have played at the Gardens. “There’s a mystique about that building,” said the former captain. “And the mystique of Maple Leaf Gardens will never change.”

Vaive grew up watching the Leafs and hoped to make it to the NHL. When he was selected to play with the Leafs he was thrilled but nervous. Before every game he made sure he had the right mindset. “As soon as I left my house I was in game mode.”

Making his way to Maple Leaf Gardens pumped up Vaive. He said he felt something special about the building. “Everybody did — if they didn’t there was probably something wrong with them.”

Michel Trottier felt a special connection too. The Haileybury resident purchased one of the seats that was once in the Maple Leaf Gardens for $450. As a Leafs fan, he was excited to receive the seat in its original condition. “The chair had never been touched,” he said. “There was still some gum underneath.”

Trottier owned a local grocery store and set up the chair in his store. “We made a big display,” he said. “We wanted to make things exciting.”

For a loonie, customers could sit in the chair. All the proceeds went to charity. “It brings good memories to people,” said Trottier. “There’s a lot of historical significance.”

Now Ryerson will be part of the Maple Leaf Gardens’ history. Vaive thinks it will help the hockey program. “It will be a great venue,” he said. “It might be what Ryerson needs to put a hockey program on the map.”

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