(pictured: Maple Leaf Gardens, the Leafs’ home for 68 years)

When Maple Leafs greats Johnny Bower and Eddie Shack reunited at the site of the former Maple Leaf Gardens on Thursday afternoon, they couldn’t resist in some musical nostalgia. In good spirits the four-time Stanley Cup champions exchanged renditions of each other’s novelty songs from the 60’s – Bower’s “Honky the Christmas Goose” and Shack’s “Clear The Track.”

The friendly banter was part of a gathering held to launch The Artifacts of Maple Leaf Gardens historical auction. Several of the contents of the hockey shrine that once stood at 60 Carlton Street are now available in lots open to the general public until November 14. Fans can bid on anything from benches, to doors, to out-of-town scoreboard panel logos (how about those Cleveland Barons?)

Bower and Shack were joined by former teammates Red Kelly, Dick Duff, Brit Selby, Gary Collins and Jim Dorey at the once-hallowed rink that is now the Mattamy Athletic Centre at Ryerson University. The guests in attendance were surrounded by a myriad of signs and photos that once adorned the Gardens walls, while banners of honoured players and Stanley Cup champions – all available to the highest bidder – hung from the rafters.

“I have no idea how much my banner will sell for,” said Bower. “But if it’s going to be low, I’m going to bid on it myself!” (At the time of publication of this column, the 90”x50 banner depicting Bower that used to hang in the gold section hallway was selling for $650 USD).

The collection of memorabilia was made available by Sherman Cunningham, who had initially won the items at the closing of Maple Leaf Gardens auction that was held in November 2000. “I wanted to build an audio-visual training centre and put in about 50 or 60 seats, and make the floor looking like a hockey rink,” said Cunningham of the motivation behind his purchase a dozen years ago that cost him about a half-million dollars. “I wanted to get the banners and pictures from the Gardens. A lot the pictures were on the walls on my office, or in my basement. But the banners were too big. So they’ve been folded in my basement closet for 13 years.

“The banners are so large that they need to go someplace viewable,” said Cunningham who now spends his retirement days traveling with his wife. “Maybe somebody else can have another vision (of a new location) – maybe a restaurant.”

The auction is being managed by Frozen Pond, a memorabilia store in Vaughan that has been partnered with the National Hockey League for several years. Owner Hersh Borenstein agreed to sell the Cunningham collection about a year and a half ago, but waited until the opening of the newly renovated Gardens to showcase the auction launch.

“One of the most popular items will be the 1967 Stanley Cup banner that originally sold for $66,000, which was by far the highest of any item in the original MLG Auction,” said Borenstein. “ We are hoping it sells for six-figures this time around. The Bill Barilko #5 and Tim Horton #7 banners will be popular, and also the penalty boxes – the old Stanley Cup collages, especially the one from 1931-32.”

And in a near-perfect metaphorical reminder of the Leafs’ current 45-year Stanley Cup drought that includes seven consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, Borenstein said “Right now – the toilet from the Leafs locker room is generating the most interest.”

The current price tag is $600. One can only wonder how much higher the figure could get if much of the last four decades of the franchise hadn`t been spent down the flusher.

The online auction is located at http://frozenpond.at.truition.com/

Public viewing of the lots at Mattamy Athletic Centre is open to the public throughout the day on Friday and Saturday.

For a PDF catalogue of the lots, visit http://synergydesign.ca/FrozenPondMLGAuct24b.pdf

Johnny Bower and Eddie Shack
Brit Selby, Dick Duff, and Bower
Bidding for the Bill Barilko banner starts at $5,000

Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca

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