Goodbye to the Gardens

Archived from 1998-99 season.

NHL teams

The Chicago Blackhawks finished in the same way as they started 68 years ago, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2 in the final game at the Maple Leaf Gardens.

Chicago also defeated Toronto, 2-1, in the first game at Maple Leaf Gardens on November 12, 1931. After 68 years and 2,329 games, the hockey shrine hosted its last NHL contest tonight. Next Saturday, Toronto will play Carolina in the first game at the Air Canada Centre.

The game and loss to Chicago hardly mattered to the sell-out crowd who was there witnessing an end to an era. The game was followed by lengthy ceremonies during which 105 former Maple Leaf players and coaches were introduced to the sellout crowd.

The Blackhawks' Bob Probert had the honor of scoring the final NHL goal at the Gardens -- only his third of the season.

"I got the puck and I'm going to put it on a plaque," said Probert. "I'll never forget this moment."

Next Saturday, Toronto will play Montreal in the first game at the Air Canada Centre.

"The building is a place," said Leafs coach Pat Quinn. "To me, it's the people that came through here that makes the building special. You look to the past for all the nice things about the building, and we'll always be able to do that. But you also want to look forward to this facility and creating our own sense of history ... which will happen."

The new Air Canada Centre will have a capacity of 18,800 which is 3,100 more than the Gardens. The new arena will retain the old color scheme and the levels rise steeply, keeping even the highest rows practically within spitting distance of the ice.

"I've seen a lot of new arenas and this has to rank right up there with most of them." Toronto goalie Glenn Healy said. "The intimacy of the building, the positioning of the skyboxes. And they made a concerted effort to carry over a lot of the feeling of the Gardens."

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