A couple of weeks ago I had a dream that they had opened up Maple Leaf Gardens for one last game and magically, I found myself in attendance. Naturally, the game was between the Leafs and the Habs, and the crowd was buzzing. I don't remember the details of the game too well, not because it was a dream and dreams are notoriously hard to pin down, but because all I could do was stand there in awe of such a wonderful old building. Then I woke up and experienced something pretty well every Leaf fan is familiar with: a mental image of the Air Canada Centre accompanied by gut-wrenching depression.
Our first reaction during one of these moments is to think about how wonderful it would be if the Leafs still played at the corner of Carlton and Church, where a retired old hockey shrine sits like a lonely man on a park bench. My own reverie is a testament to how often I think about that myself. But instead of dreaming up ways for the Leafs to keep playing at the Gardens, which we have all done from time to time, why not instead turn our attention to the Leafs' current home, the Air Canada Centre? For just because the Gardens is gone, does not mean the ACC could not be a great building in its own right. The fact that it absolutely sucks is characteristic of an age in which style and character have no place. Sure, we'll preserve old buildings if they haven't fallen over yet, but god forbid anything new should be unique and wonderful.
Unfortunately, our tendency towards nostalgic thoughts about Maple Leaf Gardens and other bygone structures is allowing us to simply accept the lack of style and character of new buildings like the ACC and SkyDome. We have been convinced that only old places can give you that tingly, otherworldly feeling when you step within their walls, a feeling that convinces you that the inanimate structure actually has a soul. It's a myth: the Air Canada Centre, and every other relatively new sporting venue can and ought to be infused with style and character, and here is a list of things that I will do to make it so when I am owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Feel free to nail it to the door of the ACC on my behalf.
My plans for the ACC, as well as other additional material, can be seen at http://palhalpall.blogspot.com/2009/05/forget-maple-leaf-gardens-lets-fix-acc.html