Maple Leaf Gardens
I passed through the doors of this building so many times with my dad as a kid to watch the Leafs, the Russians, circuses, and numerous concerts and shows. It has seen the shoes of Muhammad Ali, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and countless other greats. When you stepped into this building you were automatically hit with an energy so thick it made your heart race. The excitement, the crowds, the smell of hot nuts and popcorn from the vendors just outside in the cold snow created a swirl of memories that I had no idea would last a lifetime!
20 years ago today, Feb 13, Maple Leaf Gardens hosted it’s last NHL game to the Chicago Blackhawks before moving down the road to the brand new Air Canada Centre. Chicago beat the Leafs 6-2. (which was fitting since Chicago beat the Leafs 2-1 on the building’s opening night Nov 12, 1931.)
It was an historical moment for the city of Toronto and hockey fans! The post game celebrations started in the building with almost every living Leaf player on the ice, and ended outside of the Gardens on Carlton street with thousands of fans celebrating the iconic building. Myself and a couple of buddies were lucky enough to be part of it all.
This painting of Curtis Joseph was created for the Toronto Maple Leafs to honour that iconic event. You can see the specially painted mask Cujo wore just for that closing night.
It was a huge and time consuming project for me. I had to gather all reference I could find relevant to Cujo, the Maple Leaf Gardens and the ACC building. This was before the ease of reference with the internet. I could not find any blue prints for either building, so I had to create my own.
The star of this piece is Cujo, but the historic passing of the torch from the Gardens to the ACC had to be the backdrop to their star. I had to find a way to portray the energy and history of the Gardens, and somehow transition it into the freshness and beginnings of the Leafs’ new home.
The solution I felt best is what you see here. The memorable Gardens interior, complete with Stanley Cup banners and retired numbers flowing into the bright, clean interior of the ACC as the all encompassing background. I then placed the facades of the two structures on the inside of these buildings. (What?! You can’t do that!) I was nervous about this, but it allowed me to display Cujo and his personality in front of all this epic history.
Luckily, the Gardens still stands, but is a mere shadow of it’s glory days on the inside. I’ll never forget MLG. I have not entered many buildings that held the same atmosphere as this one, and I hope I was able to pass on a little of the nostalgia I feel for this building through this piece.
#mapleleafgardens #acc #aircanadacentre #cujo #curtisjoseph #torontomapleleafs #leafs