Our Historical Neighbourhood: The Hockey Hall of Fame

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It seems as though you can’t turn a corner in our beloved city without being met with a little bit of history. Whether it’s a building or an event, Toronto is bursting with stories from the past, and locations that are steeped with history. In our neighbourhood, this is especially true. Not only would it take a great deal of time to write it all up, but it would take more than one day of exploring to take it all in. That’s why we’re just going to focus on one spot at a time, and today’s focus is the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

If you’re Canadian it’s very likely that you burst with national pride when the sport is mentioned. You likely have a favourite team, a favourite player, and know where and when you’ll be watching the next game. The Hockey Hall of Fame is a place to commemorate this pride for hockey, but also to collect and exhibit the history of the sport (which there is a lot of). In the 1940’s the concept of ‘halls of fame’ was coming into popularity. With the opening of a Baseball Hall of Fame, hockey fanatics started thinking, ‘Why not us too?’ In 1941, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association created a committee that was dedicated to studying the origins of the game, as this would be the first step to creating an organization that focused on the history and love for hockey. In these early days a focus was put on the city of Kingston, as many proclaimed this was the birthplace of the game. The plans were set in motion to open the first Hockey Hall of Fame there.

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Image via Rodger Evans on Flickr

However, the bustling city of Toronto seemed like a more natural location for this kind of tourist attraction and facility. In 1955 Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame was opened on the CNE grounds, which included a National Hockey Hall of Fame as well. It was the former manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chairman of the NHL Owners’ Committee that led the conversation and pushed for the Hockey Hall of Fame to make Toronto its home. He lobbied, and eventually gained the resources needed to begin construction of the facility the fans had been dreaming of. At this time, the CNE Sports Hall of Fame suggested the HHOF build on their premises, and so they started there. In the summer of 1961, the Hockey Hall of Fame was officially opened, with the notable attendance of the then Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker.

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Image via Doug Kerr on Flickr

Unfortunately, once the CNE’s summer run was over, there wasn’t much foot traffic through the new Hockey Hall of Fame, and the facility was actually costing the NHL over $300,000 in maintenance costs. Those overseeing the establishment realized that a new facility, that would be more than just a museum, needed to be built, and so the hunt for a new location began. Those in charge wanted a location that would be near Union Station, so it would be easily accessible and more visible in the city. The Bank of Montreal’s, mostly unused location outside of Brookfield Place was the perfect spot!

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Image via Feline Groovy on Flickr

The Hockey Hall of Fame that we now know and love officially opened at its Brookfield Place location on June 18, 1993, after the $27 million in renovations had been made. Between the years of 2000 and 2006 a ‘New Millennium Revitalization Plan’ was put into place, to ensure that funds were allocated to making improvements such as new facilities and exhibits. Incredible additions such as a new retail area, and the international Tissot World of Hockey Zone have been added to the facility in more recent years.

The Hockey Hall of Fame remains to be an amazing venue to showcase cherished artifacts, exhibits dedicated to the sport, interactive games and activities, honour hockey’s most significant members, and to house the Stanley Cup. The venue continues to not only educate, but entertain fans from around the globe.

Header Image via Kevin Jen on Flickr

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