New Maple Leaf Gardens worth 13-year wait | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaNew Maple Leaf Gardens worth 13-year wait

Posted: Monday, September 10, 2012 | 12:59 PM

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The Ryerson Rams defeated University of Ontario Institute of Technology 5-4 on Sept. 9 in the first game at the new Maple Leaf Gardens rink, now called the Mattamy Athletic Centre. (Tim Wharnsby/CBCSports.ca) The Ryerson Rams defeated University of Ontario Institute of Technology 5-4 on Sept. 9 in the first game at the new Maple Leaf Gardens rink, now called the Mattamy Athletic Centre. (Tim Wharnsby/CBCSports.ca)

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There were many curious onlookers on hand to see how the new Maple Leaf Gardens rink turned out last Saturday. Ryerson University's new home opened to rave reviews.
Dorothy Wise has seen enough hockey games since she emigrated from Scotland in 1954. The 85-year-old mother of Ryerson Rams head coach Graham Wise has celebrated plenty of championships and more than enough victories with her hockey-coach son over the years to get too excited about an exhibition game.

But last Saturday was different, when the Rams met up with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology -- a 5-4 Ryerson win -- in the first game at the new Maple Leaf Gardens rink, now called the Mattamy Athletic Centre. She had to be there.

"I've been reading some stories in the newspapers and Graham has kept me updated on the new building," Dorothy said during the second intermission. "I wanted to see how it turned out. I think it's lovely. It's quite an accomplishment.

"Besides, my grandson [Brendan Wise] is playing for the other team, too."

Dorothy wasn't the only curious onlooker who showed up on Saturday to investigate the new $17.5-million renovated facility. Most of the 2,600 seats were filled.

"Amazing," said Frank Bonello, who spent many nights in the old Maple Leaf Gardens as governor, general manager and coach of the Toronto Marlboros junior club and later on as the chief scout of the NHL central scouting bureau.

"I came here to see how this thing turned out. I was curious to see what it looked like. I'm not disappointed. They did a tremendous job. It's nice to have hockey back in this building."

300-holmstrom.jpgThe Maple Leafs played their final game at MLG on Feb. 13, 1999, ending 68 years of NHL hockey for the venerable rink at the corner of Carlton and Church streets that cost $1.5-million to build in 1931. Loblaws moved into MLG's bottom floor last November, and now Ryerson occupies the middle and the third levels.

There is a state-of-the-art athletic centre on the second floor. The rink is situated on the third floor with the ice level moved up to what used to be the first row of the grey seats in the old Maple Leaf Gardens.

This move should be a boon to Ryerson's men's and women's hockey programs. The Rams should be able to lure top talent to join a team that plays in the old Maple Leaf Gardens in downtown Toronto and because the building is a block away from Ryerson's campus, there should be more fan support from the student body.

In the past, the Rams have played in front of a handful of people, whether at Moss Park Arena, St. Michael's College Arena or most recently George Bell Arena.

george.jpg"It's exciting to be part of this," said Ryerson goalie Louis George, who earned the victory on Saturday. "It was overwhelming to see all the lights and cameras and there was a ton of energy here tonight."

It was a far cry from the atmosphere at George Bell, when a few parents and girlfriends would show up to take in a game. The Ryerson students were good about filling fan buses to make the trip to the rink at the other end of town for meaningful games, but for the most part the atmosphere at George Bell was lacking.

The 25-year-old George didn't have to come back for his fifth and final season of Canadian university hockey, but the idea of finishing his career with a season at MLG was too good to pass up on.

George grew up in the shadows of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. But after a brilliant run with the Cambridge Winter Hawks junior B club, in which he was a 2007-08 all-star and named the league's playoff MVP in 2005-06, there was no room at Laurier to continue his career with three goalies already on its roster.

Instead, George was lured to Ryerson by a couple of friends who played hockey there in Alex Sharpe and Troy Murray. He often walked by Maple Leaf Gardens and wondered if the whispers that this would be the future home of the Rams would become a reality.

"I even did a couple of class projects on why it made sense for Ryerson to buy the building," said George, a business management student. "We skated a couple times here [in late August]. It's awesome that this has become a reality."

The Rams open their regular season in their new building on Oct. 19 against Queen's.

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