Leafs wins opening game at new ‘Gardens’

It was on this day in 1931 that Conn Smythe opens the Maple Leaf Gardens arena, home of the Leafs 1931–1999.

At that time, Smythe had to pay his workers with shares because of the Depression.

In the first game this day  at the Gardens, the home town NHL Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1.

Maple Leaf Gardens is a historic building located at the northwest corner of Carlton Street and Church Street in Toronto. The building was initially constructed as an arena to host ice hockey games, but has since been reconstructed for other uses. Today Maple Leaf Gardens is a multipurpose facility, with Loblaws occupying retail space on the lower floors and an athletic centre for Toronto’s Ryerson University, known as Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens, occupying another level.

Considered one of the “cathedrals” of ice hockey, it was home to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League from 1931 to 1999. The Leafs won the Stanley Cup 11 times from 1932 to 1967 while playing at the Gardens. The first NHL All-Star Game, albeit an unofficial one, was held at the Gardens in 1934 as a benefit for Leafs forward Ace Bailey, who had suffered a career-ending head injury. The first official annual National Hockey League All-Star Game was also held at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1947.

It was home to the Toronto Huskies (1946–1947) in their single season in the Basketball Association of America (a forerunner of the National Basketball Association), the Toronto Marlboros of the Ontario Hockey League, the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association (1974–1976), the Toronto Blizzard of the North American Soccer League (1980–1982 indoor seasons), theToronto Shooting Stars of the National Professional Soccer League (1996–1997), and the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League (1999–2000). The NBA’s Buffalo Braves played a total of 16 regular season games at Maple Leaf Gardens from 1971–75. The NBA’s Toronto Raptors played six games at the Gardens from 1997 to 1999, mostly when SkyDome was unavailable.

It was also one of the few venues outside of the United States where Elvis Presley performed in concert (April 2, 1957). In 1972, Maple Leaf Gardens hosted game 2 of the famous Summit Series between Team Canada and the USSR. Team Canada won the game 4–1.

According to Wikipedia, Constantine Falkland Cary Smythe, MC (February 1, 1895 – November 18, 1980) was a Canadian businessman, soldier and sportsman in ice hockey and horse racing.

Conn Smythe

Conn Smythe

He is best known as the principal owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1927 to 1961 and as the builder of Maple Leaf Gardens. As owner of the Leafs during numerous championship years, his name appears on the Stanley Cup eight times: 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1962.

Smythe is also known for having served in both World Wars, organizing his own artillery battery in the Second World War.

The horses of Smythe’s racing stable won the Queen’s Plate twice among 145 stakes race wins during his lifetime.

Smythe started and ran a successful sand and gravel business. He was a big supporter of the Ontario Society for Crippled Children and the Variety Club and founded the Conn Smythe Foundation philanthropic organization.

While Smythe, to date, has not been featured on a Canadian postage stamp, his beloved Leafs have been featured numerous times over the years as highlighted below:

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