Memories of Attending Games at Maple Leaf Gardens

St. Louis Blues v Toronto Maple Leafs
St. Louis Blues v Toronto Maple Leafs / Graig Abel/GettyImages
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Scotiabank Arena is Not Maple Leaf Gardens

The Team

Born in the late 60’s, I suffered with other Leaf fans of my generation the misfortune of growing up in “the Ballard years”. 

Harold Ballard was the majority owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1972 until his death in 1990.  The man was the poster boy for penny-pinching owners who cared more about making a buck than they did about putting a winner on the ice.

I just had a look back at the season records of those teams, and confirmed my memories that they were not good – just bad and ugly.  Any time the Leafs won a few games early in the year, the excitement built that maybe, just maybe, the team might finish over .500 that year.

Usually, the hope died early, and we settled in for another winter of frustration.  I don’t know if the Toronto Maple Leafs were the cause of the temper I had in my teens or just an outlet for it – probably a bit of both. Either way, I spent many January Saturday nights yelling at the family television.

There was no salary cap in those days, but no real free agency, either, so it’s not like Ballard could have gone out and used his millions to buy a Stanley Cup.  But he could have spent more on scouting, training, coaching, etc to at least give the team some small advantages.

Instead, Ballard’s antics, attitude, avarice and general asshattery rubbed many the wrong way, and resulted in the departures of such Toronto Maple Leafs icons as Dave Keon and Darryl Sittler, among others.  On the plus side, it was often entertaining to watch on television (or in person) to see Ballard and his best pal King Clancy holding court during games from “the bunker” (his private box in the lower corner of the arena).