It was all quiet on Carlton Street in front of this shrine on Friday afternoon, but Wednesday morning was a different story. People actually started lining up on the street on Tuesday night to be first to enter the new Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens (MLG) when it opened at 8AM on November 30th. Almost exactly 80 years after its original Grand Opening as a hockey arena and home to the Toronto Maple Leafs (until 1999)
Now, it is a grocery store.
I had to see it when it was still all bright and shiny new
(and in full disclosure, this was only my second time ever being in this place of so many memories)
It is a store with special touches
and a giant Amazing Wall of Cheese
and a popular sushi bar placed at the outside wall with windows onto the street for some great theatre
When it was first announced that a grocery chain had bought this iconic building, there was much gnashing of teeth at the effrontery of it all. MLG is considered a hallowed shrine. It was not only used for a beloved hockey team, but was also the venue for many other sporting events, not least for wrestling and boxing. Then there were the concerts - Elvis and the Beatles among them.
This new store is actually full of mementoes of these events. From the pictures on the pillars to the old posters on the walls and even the cafe tables are a collage of old sporting event memorabilia shots.
At the entrance is a collection of the old chairs from the arena painted in blue and (artfully?) arranged on the wall in the shape of a maple leaf. The original walls were left exposed and one can still see the imprint of the risers next to the new escalators. Further up and not yet finished will be an athletic centre and a new hockey rink for the nearby university. This building and its owners has also been riddled with controversy over the years, which just adds to the legendary status and the controversy continues (but I won't bore you with details. google it if you are really interested)
This is as much a tourist attraction as a grocery store for a badly needed vibe in this area and there were staff galore handing out maps and brochures and guiding you to see the sights. Halcyon, who was with me, desperately wanted to get a picture of their specially designed t-shirts, but everyone declined (bosses were likely watching carefully on the security cameras) but I managed a covert shot of these two
poor sods in1930s newsboys outfits who wandered around handing out free bags and colourful brochures for the special events being held.
and then there is aisle 25.
where near the end, surrounded by soy sauces, is a red dot.
this folks, is the very spot of centre ice.
seriously, next to the amazing wall of cheese, this was possibly the biggest attraction
and as you can see by this large billboard (interestingly seen across the street at Church and Carlton)
this was a major, show stopping event.