Ryerson’s reborn Maple Leaf Gardens rink set for grand hockey opening
The air is crisp, and the ice in the refurbished Maple Leaf Gardens is glassy smooth.
A dozen media types strapped on skates Monday and glided around the new rink, exactly the size and on exactly the spot where the Toronto Maple Leafs played for almost 70 years.
It was a chance to relive childhood hockey fantasies on a magnificent surface.
Only the rink, reborn as part of Ryerson University’s $ 78 million Mattamy Athletic Centre, has been raised 15 metres.
The magnificent, 30-metre domed ceiling, however, is much the same as in the storied arena, now painted a clean light grey and furnished with powerful new lights.
In centre ice, instead of the Leafs’ logo, is Ryerson’s R for its Rams.
The seating accommodates a snug 2,620 — compared to 16,000 in the old Gardens, but Leafs fans can relive the past by sitting in raised seats high above each net, a homage to the old “end blues.”
On Sunday, Sept. 9, between 1 and 2:30 p.m., the public will get its first taste, when Ryerson first opens the ice for a free community skate.
And the rink will soon be available to rent for $ 300 an hour prime time — $ 192 after 11 p.m.
The official grand opening is Sept. 6 to 9, although there has already been a “lights on” opening on Aug. 13, attended by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The new rink’s first hockey game is Sept. 8, when Ryerson’s men’s Rams team plays host to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks.
Simon Bennett, a Ryerson journalism grad who was a PA announcer for Rams hockey games in the late ‘90s, remembers how hard it was to get student spectators to travel to games, then played at St. Michael’s College School Arena at St. Clair Ave. W. and Bathurst St.
“For the first time, they are going to have the draw of games footsteps from the campus. I’m sure that’s going to get the crowds,” says Bennett, now a reporter/play by play voice for the Score Television Network.
And what better way for the university to lure prospective Rams players — a chance to play in the cathedral of hockey?
“As a kid you want to play for the Leafs. It’s kind of a cool feeling,” said Charles Vanegas, 22, sports editor for the Eyeopener, Ryerson’s independent student newspaper, before he hit the ice.
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