January 26, 2012
Leafs may have found lucky charmMaple Leaf Gardens time capsule opened
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
The Maple Leafs are destined for a Stanley Cup in the next couple of years.
Sheldon Levy and a little white ivory elephant say so.
The ornamental pachyderm, about as big as a quarter, could be the Leafs’ own lucky loonie after being discovered in a 1931 Maple Leaf Gardens time capsule. Contents of the corroded copper box were revealed Thursday at Ryerson University, which shares the hockey team’s old Carlton St. site with a Loblaws super store.
Amid a Gardens stock prospectus, hockey rulebooks, an old red ensign Canadian flag and the four Toronto newspapers of the day, was the elephant, laced with a faded blue ribbon. Considered a sign of good fortune at the time - Lord knows they needed it during the Great Depression - it paid off right away when the Leafs won the Cup in their first season at the Gardens. Ten more followed, until it obviously lost power around 1967.
But Levy, the president of Ryerson, thinks this could be a Bill Barilko moment.
“We have found the charm,” said Levy, who can recite the roster of the four 1960s’ champion teams. “They are now on the road back to the Stanley Cup. We have found the answer.”
Hugh Smythe, the 84-year-old son of Gardens’ founder Conn Smythe, thinks the elephant could be a smaller twin of a four-inch carving his father received from a Russian imprisoned with him during the First World War. Smythe’s fighter plane was downed over France and he wound up in a German POW camp with an officer named Logvinoff, who offered the near shoeless Smythe his extra pair of boots.
“Typical of Logvinoff, he gave my father his best pair,” Hugh said. “He married a Toronto girl and kept up a long-time relationship (with Conn). He moved to Shanghai, was an importer/exporter and sent us a number of things, including an ivory elephant.”
Almost 20 descendants of Conn Smythe were at the school to view the artifacts, including his great-great grandson, 17-month-old Ben. The capsule was laid behind the cornerstone on Sept. 21, 1931, about eight weeks before the opening. The name M.B. Campbell, 124 Lindsay Ave., was found inside as well, but that person remains a mystery.
Hugh believed Conn didn’t get much say in the capsule’s contents because he was not a member of the board of directors at the time. The stock prospectus was quite bold for the day, but proved to be accurate. Eighty years later when Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainmenbt was sold to Rogers and Bell, the company was valued around $1.5 billion.
“Smythe was already projecting 100% profit,” said Bob Stellick, business manager of the Gardens in the 1990s. “They were going to take in $500,000 a year and expenses woukld be $235,000. The total player payroll was $135,000 and revenue was going to be $275,000. The Teachers Pension Plan and Larry Tanenbaum would have really been happy then.”
Levy invited anyone who could unravel the story of the elephant or Campbell’s background to contact the school. Ryerson will be putting its own capsule in the Gardens later this year when its athletic centre opens and is in talks with the Hockey Hall of Fame to display the capsule’s contents prior to giving them a permanent home on Carlton St.
“I believe the whole box expressed a sense of risk,” Levy said. “People were unsure of the times during the Depression. Would their investment come true? Whoever did it went without the absolute confidence of hitting a home run. With the inclusion of the elephant, I think their sense was ‘wish us luck’.”