For nearly seven decades, the name Maple Leaf Gardens was synonymous with hockey triumphs, iconic concerts and raucous political rallies in the heart of Toronto. But when the venue at Carlton and Church streets re-opens as an arena for Ryerson University’s hockey team next year, it will not carry its historic moniker.
Faced with a lawsuit by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the school said it will find a different name for the site.
“We never had the intention to brand ourselves as ‘Maple Leaf,’ ” Ryerson president Sheldon Levy said. “We have a plan to use a different name.”
The building will keep its old title for the city’s records, along with a canopy emblazoned with the name over the front doors, but the rink and athletic centre Ryerson is building inside will be named for a sponsor. Mr. Levy said the word “Gardens” will be part of the new epithet.
MLSE, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and other professional sports franchises, moved the NHL team to the Air Canada Centre in 1999 and sold the Gardens to Loblaw in 2004. Five years later, the supermarket chain made a deal to share the space with Ryerson. Loblaw will build a grocery store on the main floor while the university will takes over the upper storeys.
MLSE filed suit this summer, accusing Ryerson and Loblaw of infringing on its trademark by using the historic name in promotional materials. The sporting giant also alleged the university’s 2,500-seat venue would compete with the Air Canada Centre, citing a deal Ryerson signed with arena-management company Global Spectrum.
Robin Brudner, an executive vice-president and general counsel at MLSE, said Tuesday that the company is “pleased” Ryerson will pick a different title. She said the company hoped to come to an agreement with Ryerson on the competition issue, but that Loblaw is refusing to negotiate.
“We’ve had very productive high-level meetings with Ryerson; there is reason for optimism that we can reach a deal that will work for both parties,” Ms. Brudner said.
In the meantime, MLSE is still seeking an injunction against both Ryerson and Loblaw. The case returns to court on Oct. 31.
MLSE is not trying to stop Ryerson from building an arena entirely, but Ms. Brudner would not specify exactly what sort of concessions the company is hoping for, saying only that “creative minds will come to solutions.”
Asked about the possibility for Ryerson’s venue to compete with the ACC, Mr. Levy said the space already has so many constraints – including size and the capacity of elevators to reach the rink – that he did not think it would take much for the university to assuage MLSE’s fears.
A spokeswoman for Loblaw said the grocery store can still use the Maple Leaf brand in its portion of the building.
The rink is set to open in February or March; a date for the supermarket has not been announced.
In a separate development, workers at the site found a time capsule beneath the floor last week. While Loblaw won’t say what was in it, the company is planning to display the contents in a public place with Ryerson.