Smythe got into the hockey business in earnest when he helped organize the newly-minted New York Rangers, but fallout over money landed him back in Toronto.

Smythe parlayed his holdings and bought the Toronto St. Pats, ruining plans to ship the team to Philadelphia. An unflinching patriot, Smythe named his new team the Maple Leafs in honour of the Toronto Maple Leafs fighting regiment.

The team’s colours were changed from green and white to blue and white and one of the great sports franchises was born.

The centre of Smythe’s empire would stand on the corner of Carlton and Church Street in Toronto, not far from where Smythe lived as an oft-hungry child.  The Gardens would be completed in less than six months; the staggering pace of the project was largely due to the availability of tradespeople and materials in the Depression.

Smythe offered common shares and many of the people who worked on the project would emerge as stockholders.

Smythe envisioned an arena whose doors were open for anyone, from the fan who scraped together the price of the ticket to the high society women who arrived dressed in fur. Decades after the arena’s opening, suits and ties for the men and dresses for the women were considered mandatory. A game at Maple Leaf Gardens was an event.

In 1993, another sports franchise began to vie for the hearts and minds of Canadian basketball fans.

The Toronto Raptors captured new fans in a rapidly maturing sports marketplace. Inevitably, the two teams came together in a new company, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, in 1998.

Both teams would play in the new Air Canada Centre.

There would be more.

In 2005, the company relocated its American Hockey League team to Toronto, renamed them as the Marlies and began play in beautiful Ricoh Coliseum.

The company added another jewel, the Toronto Football Club or Toronto FC and partnered with several levels of government to create another splendid venue, BMO Field.

A stunning list of improvements has kept Smythe’s vision of an ultimate sporting address alive.

Most eye-catching is Maple Leaf Square, a $500 million investment to turn the area around Air Canada Centre into sports, residential and retail melting pot.

The company’s major sports holdings have been gifted with their own media outlets. Raptors NBA TV, Leafs TV, GOL TV for Toronto FC, as well as websites and burgeoning social media outposts will help MLSE teams break new ground strengthening the link between athlete and fan.
 


Conn Smythe was behind the construction of Maple Leaf Gardens






BMO Field now sits on the CNE grounds on the lake shore in downtown Toronto.