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  • Monday, February 15, 1999

    Gardens wasn't just about hockey

    By DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun
      Funny, my favourite memories of Maple Leaf Gardens have little to actually do with hockey games, and I was even there the night Darryl Sittler scored 10 points against Boston.
     Of course, I was also there as a Bruins' fan.
     No, I'll most fondly remember:
     The first time I saw the centre ice scoreclock, and how it was so much more colourful than the one I had previously seen only through our old Panasonic. But then, maybe our old Panasonic was the problem. Y'know, it did blow up and start a fire that destroyed our rec room.
     Standing in a long line, maybe on that very same first trip, waiting to get Bobby Hull's autograph. I remember his big grin, and I hope today's NHLers know how important it is they smile when they sign a piece of paper for a kid.
     Hanging out near the walkway that connected the visitors' dressing room to the rink, and patting both my heroes, Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson, as they went by at the start of a game. I know a Corel Centre security guard who would be driving your face into the cement if you tried that trick.
     Taking the subway to Carlton St., walking up the stairs at the base of the rink, and getting swarmed by scalpers. Point is it's very cool to go downtown for an NHL game, something many Ottawans will never know.
     Going to see a Cheap Trick concert with Sharon Steeves, my old college buddy who I very much wanted to be more than just buddies with. Oh, did I say that out loud?
     Watching a Peterborough Petes thug by the name of Tie Domi absolutely pound the snot out of a Toronto Marlie and then going to the Zanzibar to talk about it. You don't know the Zanzibar? It's a big, um, library.
     Having season tickets in the greys and, during the first intermission of each game, going to say hi to a friend who just happened to be the usherette in the gold seats surrounding the penalty box. Today, they call it 'The Move of The Game' and such an upgrade is actually endorsed by the clubs. Then I was just lucky I didn't have to climb back up those very steep steps.
     Same usherette inviting me to staff Christmas parties. Were they any good? Well, I did marry her.
     Covering my first junior hockey game for the Toronto Sun, about 15 years ago, Marlies versus 67's, and meeting Brian Kilrea (he has not changed).
     Suddenly, I'm thinking the on-ice product would have been a lot more memorable had the primary tenants hired Killer back in the '80s like they should have. Oh well, their loss.
     Good news for the Lynx -- Howard Darwin has received the go-ahead from city officials to sell billboard advertising on ground around JetForm Park. For $75,000 you get two signs, one in full view of the busy Queensway and the other facing Coventry Rd. (it's $80,000 for one billboard near the Corel Centre) and the goal is to get five companies inked to five-year contracts. Darwin, apparently, is going to spend the money promoting the team. You should call (723-1348) or fax (723-1395) Pat Reid if you're interested ... Matt Dunigan has resigned from his post as a quarterback coach at a small U.S. college and would like to return to the CFL as an assistant ... Fans of the NHL team based in Toronto will want to buy The Story of Maple Leaf Gardens -- 100 Memories at Church and Carlton by the Sun's Lance Hornby ... For those who got their shorts in a knot over Chris Murray's bare behind being on the back page of the Sun this week, we have just one request. Could you please get a life? ... Always worth attending is this Sunday's annual Senators Carnival, from 1-5:30 p.m. at the Corel Centre ... Interesting, isn't it, that Randy Cunneyworth had a goal and assist for the Sabres on the same night Ottawa could only muster one score in a loss to Florida? ... The best TV talk show interview in a long while was Tiger Williams on Mike Bullard's Open Mike Friday.

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