Leaside’s Leaf Shack gathers hockey fans for a cause

Doug Radford and his family invite locals to cheer on the Leafs and raise funds for CAMH

For 15 years, East Yorkers have gathered at Doug Radford’s Leaf Shack to watch every Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game.

The “shack,” a covered area in the backyard of the retired paramedic’s Hanna Road home, is publicized by a large sign and Leafs memorabilia on the front lawn. This includes banners, hockey sticks and a jersey that reads, ‘Watch Leafs playoffs outside, all welcome.’

“I would say more than half the people who come I’ve never met,” Radford said the night of the April 12 playoff game. “There’s a lot of people, friends and that, but I try and say hi to everyone, but during intermissions.”

Leaf signage outside the Radford home invites neighbours to watch the playoff game.  (Anjelica Balatbat/The Observer)

The idea was born when the Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a playoff spot in the 2003-04 series.

“When the Leafs finally made the playoffs after 10 years, I was quite excited,” Radford said.

He wanted to watch the game with friends, but his house was too small to host everyone. That’s when he decided to take the party outside. He pitched a camping tarp in his backyard and continues to do so today.

“First we put our TV in the front window and had everyone sitting out in the front lawn. That was 15 years ago,” explained his wife, Elizabeth Radford. “Then we had an old tent trailer and we brought the TV out under the awning and had people sit there. We finally graduated to the backyard and technology has helped out.”

For playoff game one against the Boston Bruins, more than 30 people (and their dogs) gathered at the Leaf Shack to watch the projected game on the big screen — a 12- x 8-foot canvas drop cloth.

Putting the structure up is a family effort. The Radfords’ daughter Sarah is the official sign-maker and helps her parents prepare for the hockey fans who visit the tented shack.

“The structure gets bigger and bigger every year,” said neighbour Paddy Doherty.

This year, the Leaf Shack has partnered with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and will donate the proceeds from each game to support those who suffer from mental illness.

To donate, visit leafshack.com.