North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

From the bowels of the Garden to your living room

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Back when I lived in Oshawa, I once went to a auction where they selling a bunch of Leafs memorabilia. It was mostly photos and jerseys, and looking back, I’m kind of pissed I didn’t try to get something for myself (this was back when I still considered myself a journalist and figured it was a conflict of interest to bid on something I was reporting on). Thanks to a tip from Puck Daddy, I might make up for that oversight.

Frozen Pond Auctions, a site that calls itself the leader in online auctions of autographed memorabilia, is currently hosting a curious collection of esoterica from the former Maple Leaf Gardens. It’s not everything left over from when the Leafs abandoned the place and it’s not everything I remember seeing in that infamous CTV report, but it’s still a lot of stuff. Some of it even looks pretty cool.

There’s signage, paintings and seats. So many seats, some of which were signed by fans. I sometimes wonder what the average person would do with a seat from the Gardens, but I guess the answer is obvious: you sit on it. I went to a haircutting place once that had a bench from the Montreal Forum and while I suppose it was neat seeing it, it wasn’t really a big deal. But I digress.

There’s a ton of stuff here. In fact, it can be overwhelming for the average Leaf fan. And since Christmas is fast approaching, those  buying a gift for a Leaf fan might need a place to start. That’s why I’m here: to weigh on what to look for, to avoid and what you should bid on right this minute!

Buy this: A signed photo of the 1963-64 Toronto Maple Leafs

Sure, this isn’t exactly the most famous Leaf team (and technically, it’s not from the Gardens), but it’s a very good one featuring Johnny Bower, Tim Horton and Dave Keon. Some might remember them upsetting the Montreal Canadiens in seven games, then beating Detroit in another seven to win the Cup. What most probably remember is the black-and-white, grainy footage of Bob Baun being helped off the ice in game six: this was the year that Baun broke his ankle in the middle of the third period, stuck his foot in a pail of ice for a while and made his way back to the game, scoring a goal in overtime for the Leafs. He signed this team photo, as did Bower, Eddie Shack, Frank Mahovlich and others. Also: they spelled Mahovlich’s name wrong. Right now bidding at $175, which is a bargain by the standards of these auctions.

Don’t Buy this: A team collage of the 1950-51 Toronto Maple Leafs

To be fair, this was a hell of a Leafs team: they lost just 16 of 70 games and finished the highest Points Percentage – basically how many points they finished with, as a percentage of the points available – of any Leaf team ever. And there’s a few names even casual Leaf fans should recognize: Howie Meeker, Ted Kennedy and Bill Barilko. This was the yeah he scored the Cup-winning goal and died shortly after this team won the Cup. As the song says, they didn’t win another until the year he was discovered. A cool moment, but if the above is a steal, this is a rip, with bidding starting at $2,500. And it’s huge, too: about 84″ by 66″ and two inches deep. One assumes it’s also heavy as hell, too. While I suppose someone who can afford to drop at least $2,500 can afford to pay shipping, what exactly will you do this this? You basically need to bolt this to a concrete wall. Want to remember this team? You’d be better to spend a fraction of the money on a huge-ass painting of Barilko.

Buy this: A huge painting of  Roger Neilson

For my money, the best coach the Leafs ever fired, Roger Neilson’s time in Toronto really needs to be better remembered: the late 1970s teams he coached were good and had a few memorable moments – the seven-game series against the Islanders, a close series against Montreal with three overtime periods in four games – and after incurring the wrath of Harold Ballard, the teams were basically gutted, with Lanny MacDonald, Mike Palmateer and a young Randy Carlyle shipped out. Neilson himself was fired, twice: there’s a cool story about Ballard trying to save face by getting a re-hired Neilson to wear a paper bag over his head. Eventually, heh ended up in Vancouver, New York, Philadelphia and Ottawa and finished with 460 wins. How did the Leafs remember him? With a painting they hid up by the private boxes. Hanging in your house, it’ll be slightly more public (and you can put a paper bag on it for the Full Ballard Experience) . It’s a tad expensive with bidding starting at $500, but there’s worse ways to drop that kind of money here.

Don’t buy this: A huge painting of Doug Gilmour

This is a bad way to spend your money. Not because of Gilmour, who had a few fun seasons as a Leaf, but because since every Leaf fan in the GTA has an intense admiration for him, so this will be a hot commodity. Bidding right now is also $500, but I expect it to go right through the roof by auction’s end. Also: it looks kind of washed out. It wouldn’t surprise me if the winner of this painting is stalked by a fat guy from Scarborough who’s constantly staring at the painting and mutters darkly about Kerry Frasier.

Buy this: a signed photo of Brian Trottier and Darryl Sittler

Okay, this is another thing that isn’t part of the Maple Leaf Gardens auction. But it’s a signed photo of one of the best Leafs ever, playing in what I assume is one of the biggest upsets ever – the 1978 series against the Islanders – and it’s only $50 right now, by far the cheapest thing I’ll link to today.

Don’t buy this: The Hot Stove Club sign

Do you remember the Hot Stove Club? It was a private dining room in the bowels of the Gardens, a place where I’m pretty sure Harold Ballard used to hold court. Also: it had a dress code, which I’m pretty sure the modern Hot Stove Club doesn’t have. Is there a better way to remember a place where the well-connected, if not well-to-do elites, used to gather for steak and cocktails than a plain sign with blue lettering? To celebrate the expensive food and drinks which still permeate the ACC’s concession stands? There almost certainly is and I’m sure it costs a fraction of the bidding price.

Buy these: one of the many logos for out-of-town scores

Not a fan of the Leafs, but for some reason you still want to own a piece of MLG history? You’re a bit weird, but here’s something which might be up your alley: the logos they used on the out-of-town scoreboard. The listing says the number of boos directed at these are countless, but I’d be willing to bet the Cleveland Barons logo was only booed a handful of times. And for some reason, there’s two each for St. Louis and Detroit. I guess they’d be okay to hang on a wall, but at 30″x30″ they’re pretty big too.

Don’t buy this: The 1967 Maple Leafs Stanley Cup Banner

If you want to remember the last time the Leafs won a cup, just talk to any Montreal fan. Don’t drop at least $10,000 on a 17 foot long banner that honestly should be in a museum or hall of fame. Jesus Christ, I know people say Leaf fans spent too much on a team that hasn’t won, but this is insane.



Written by M.

October 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm

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