History of the National Hockey League/1917–1942/Toronto Maple Leafs/Maple Leaf Gardens

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Maple Leaf Gardens in 1934

Smythe also envisioned building a new shrine for his team. He described it as "a place where people can go in evening clothes, if they want to come there for a party or dinner ... a place that people can be proud to bring their wives or girlfriends to". Smythe purchased a piece of land at the corner of Church and Carlton Streets from the Eaton's department store chain for $350,000. Skeptics argued that Smythe would never get the arena built, nor fill it, as the Depression was in full swing. They referred to the arena plan as "Smythe's Folly". To help fund the arena, the Leafs convinced construction workers to accept 20% of their wages in shares in the arena. Just 4½ months after breaking ground, Maple Leaf Gardens opened on November 12, 1931. Many in the sold-out crowd of over 13,000 wore evening clothes in response to Smythe's stated goal in building the arena. In 1932, five years after Smythe's promise, the Leafs won the Stanley Cup in three games over the Rangers.

Maple Leaf Gardens also featured the famous "gondola", a broadcast booth specially constructed for Foster Hewitt. Hewitt began broadcasting hockey games in 1923 on CFCA, a radio station owned by his father, W.A. Hewitt. It was an assignment he initially did not want. Smythe supported the broadcast of Leafs games in contrast of other team owners, who feared that airing games on the radio would cut into gate receipts. By 1931, Hewitt had established himself as the voice of hockey in Canada with his famous catch-phrase: "he shoots, he scores!" On January 1, 1933, Leafs' broadcasts were first heard across Canada on 20 stations of the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (today the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Hewitt's broadcasts quickly attracted audiences of over one million listeners. The broadcasts became the precursor to Hockey Night in Canada, a Saturday night tradition that continues today.