Toronto Maple Leafs memorabilia bought by the Canadian Museum of History

Forest Hill man cave contents sell for $1.9 mil


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Mike Wilson stands with part of his collection in his Forest Hill home

Citizens from across Canada can now view one of the largest collections of Toronto Maple Leafs memorabilia thanks to a recent transaction between one Forest Hill resident and a national museum.

Mike Wilson, also known as “the Ultimate Leafs Fan,” and his partner Debra Thuet, have been searching for the past four years for a new, permanent residence for their massive collection. After numerous discussions with realtors, auctioneers, the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Toronto Maple Leafs and a number of corporations, Wilson said he’s thrilled his collection’s new home will be a stone’s throw from Parliament Hill at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. 

At the age of seven, Wilson received his first collector’s piece from a relative: defenceman Carl Brewer’s stick signed by the entire team. Then came other items: newspaper clippings, trading cards and more. 

“You can point to anything in the room, and I’ll tell you where I got it,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a coin or the most expensive item here.” 

Hundreds of people have visited Wilson’s home in Forest Hill to see the collection for themselves, including hockey big shots such as Brendan Shanahan, Bobby Orr, Brian Burke and Wayne Gretzky. 

Jenny Ellison, sports and leisure curator at the museum, said the collection is appraised at $1.9 million. It not only documents some of the greatest players to hit the ice, “but also the cultural impact of hockey, behind the scenes politics of NHL franchises and everyday experience of fans,” Ellison wrote in an email to Post City. 

Yet some diehard fans are unhappy with Wilson’s choice. 

“You couldn’t have sold it to a museum in Toronto?” Wilson quoted from an email written to him by a fan. 

Although he remains resolute in his decision to get his collection out of his man cave and into a more public setting, there were a few stipulations to the sale he wanted to secure. He said he wanted to have the ability to continue to work and build upon the collection. 

“When we met the people in Ottawa they said … ‘We didn’t know your plan, but we were going to insist you be a part of it,’ ’’ said Wilson. “Basically they laid out everything that I’d hoped for.” 

According to Ellison, 35 pieces of the collection are currently on display at the museum until Oct. 9. They will then travel to Pointe-à-Callière in Montreal and the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg. 

Wilson said the sale represents approximately 75 per cent of his collection, which comprises more than 2,000 pieces. Some of the sold pieces include Johnny Bower’s pads and chest protector; hockey cards from the 1920s; original doors and lockers from Maple Leaf Gardens; and sweaters from George Armstrong, Tim Horton and Dave Keon, as well as a number of additional vintage memorabilia such as programs and advertisements.

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