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HISTORIC MAPLE LEAF GARDENS HEADED FOR AUCTION BLOCK

To paraphrase an old saying, those who do not profit from the past are condemned to sell it; and the lack of profit at Maple Leaf Gardens has forced its owners to put the last of the original six hockey arenas on the auction block.

"To have a future, a building needs to have a present purpose. Having a past, even a glorious past is not enough," Maple Leafs president Ken Dryden said as he announced the impending sale of the 68-year old hockey shrine.

Attempts to keep the Gardens profitable since the Maple Leafs left in February have failed, Dryden told a press conference in Toronto, adding his organization has watched the red ink mount to nearly $700,000 in the past six months.

"We tried to make it work and couldn't. Let's see if someone else can," he said.

Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, said he hopes the building will remain standing even if it's renovated into some other use, but he admitted there is nothing his company or the city of Toronto can do to stop its demolition if a future owner decides to tear it down.

The public's "interest in hosting and attending events at Maple Leaf Gardens has dropped sharply" with most people and functions following the Leafs to the Air Canada Centre, he explained. As an example, he noted that in its heyday, the Gardens would host more than 200 events a year. In the last seven months, he said, there have been only 40.

Peddie said CB Richard Ellis, the real estate firm handling the sale, is expected to have a sales package ready within 30 days and a deal signed within the next six months.

Property assessors expect the Gardens to fetch more than $12 million (U.S.) if it is sold as is. However, Dryden acknowledged the building's value could go much higher if memorabilia is sold off in pieces.

As collectors' items, the Garden's seats, banners, bricks and even toilets could bring in a combined sale price -- along with its 2.3 acres of prime downtown land -- of perhaps $35 million.

"Memories are valuable," Dryden said. "The tangible value may be X, but the emotional value may be three times X."

Last February, promoters of the final Leafs game took pieces of ice from the rink, sealed them in a clear plastic puck and sold them for $33 each.

"If they can sell a piece of ice for that, imagine what they could sell the hard goods for," said Rocco Mazzaferro, owner of Toronto's Sports Mint Collectibles Gallery.

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