Where Have All the Great Coliseums Gone?
by Jeremy Baillie
aula Cole has a wonderful song that in its title asks, "Where have all the Cowboys Gone?" Me? I'm not all too concerned with where all the cowboys have gone. The question I would like to ask is, "Where have all the great coliseums gone?" The last of the great modern coliseum, Maple Leaf Gardens, will close in February. Centuries ago, the Romans erected magnificent coliseums for their games and to honour their gods. Centuries later, modern day anthropologists unearth these grand structures and in the process learned a great deal about the culture that built them. Centuries from now what will anthropologists unearth? Will they find the bland coliseums we build now?
Hockey experts, writers, and fans alike are all asking the question, "What is wrong with Canadian Hockey?" You know what is wrong, we are letting big business take the myth out of hockey. For almost any child born a hockey fan west of Toronto, Maple of Gardens was akin to the Vatican. The Montreal Forum represented the same to any child born in Quebec. First, we lost the Boston Garden, then the Chicago Stadium, then the Montreal Forum and now the Gardens.
Myths are important to any culture and you only get myths if there is a place upon which to focus the myth upon. My memories of the likes of Tiger Williams, and Darryl Sittler are as tied to the game as they are to Maple Leaf Gardens.
Hockey fans worship the players just as much as they do the venerable old arenas. What hockey fan does not understand the special tie between player and the ice upon which he skates? What hockey fan who has read Guy Lafleur's autobiography "Overtime" does not understand the feeling he describes that he got each time he skated out upon the ice at the Forum.
Sure all hockey fans know their heroes go home at the end of the night, but the memories of them in their glory remain in those buildings. I am sure I am not alone as hockey fan when I say that there are nights watching a Toronto Maple Leaf game, I have actually noticed the absence of the traditional announcer for the Gardens. Somehow during the broadcast, I just notice that it is not his voice announcing the penalties, the goals, or the last minute of play to the Gardens' faithful. He is as much a part of the building as the boards, the glass, the seats, or the benches.
We no longer have a place to create our myths around and I lament the fact that Canada will lose another of its great coliseums in February. Hope remains however, and we need only look at the sport of Baseball to realize this. Baseball for decades built bland ball parks with no more personality than Preston Manning on a good day. Facing dwindling crowds, baseball owners tried something - they built old style ball parks with all the modern amenities. The result? The fans came back and baseball is undergoing a renaissance. In the years to come myths will abound about Cal Ripken playing in Camden Yards, Ivan Rodrigeuz playing in Texas Stadium and Sammy Sosa playing in Wrigley Field.
Hockey fans everywhere can only hope hockey owners will in the near future come to the same conclusion.
Jeremy Baillie is a 1st Year Elementary Education major and an aspiring writer with the rejection slips to prove it.
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