“Toronto and the Maple Leafs: A City and Its Team” by Lance Hornby
Ice hockey, professional, history, Maple Leafs
October 3, 2017
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
On December 19, 2017, the Toronto Maple Leafs will celebrate their 100th anniversary. The city of Toronto has embraced the team for all 100 of those years and that love affair is still going strong despite the fact that the Maple Leafs have not won a championship since 1967. To put that in perspective, that was the last year in which the NHL had six teams in the league – now five times as many teams compete for the Stanley Cup, but none for the Maple Leafs since then.
So why does this city hold this team in such reverence? The answer to this question is best explained in this wonderful book by author and sportswriter Lance Hornby, who has covered the team for the Toronto Sun since 1986. Through interviews, research and his own extensive knowledge of the history of the team, Hornby provides readers answers to this question along with wonderful memories of the team’s iconic former home, Maple Leaf Gardens and some zany stories about the arena and players.
The entire history of the team is covered in the book, including its homes and nicknames before Maple Leaf Gardens opened in 1931 and the opening of the team’s current home, Air Canada Centre. While those are interesting, the reader will especially cherish stories from Maple Leaf Gardens. There are many recollections from former team players and executives. Many of them have a story – Darryl Sitler has a particularly moving one about his run with Terry Fox. Every one of these men are fondly welcomed back as part of the Maple Leaf family, no matter how few games or how many years they were with the team.
However, some of the best stories come from other people who had long-time connections to Maple Leaf Gardens such as ushers and long-time season ticket holders. It is through their visions and memories that the reader will truly feel the bond between the Leafs and the city of Toronto.
For an idea of just how much this team means to the citizens of Toronto, one only needs to hear the story of Mike Wilson, the “Ultimate Leafs Fan” as described in the book. Hornby writes about his collection of over 2000 pieces of Maple Leaf memorabilia and stories behind some of these items.
Other important events in Maple Leaf Gardens are mentioned in the book, such as the first Beatles concert in 1964 and the arrival of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and the mess that was created when trying to have both teams as tenants. But these are simply minor distractions. The crux of the book is just what the title says – the love affair between a city and its team. Hockey fans will want to pick this one up, especially Maple Leafs fans, even if they already know most of these stories. It is a fun, fast paced book that was a pleasure to read – even for this old Minnesota North Stars fan.
I wish to thank ECW Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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