TORONTO - After three terms in office, hockey legend Ken Dryden couldn't save his seat in York Centre on Monday, giving up a riding the Liberals have safely held for almost half a century.

Considered one of the most vulnerable Liberal incumbents heading into the federal election, Dryden was defeated by Conservative challenger Mark Adler in the north Toronto riding. He becomes the first Tory to win the York Centre seat since Fred C. Stinson occupied it from 1957 to '62.

With 175 of 250 polls reporting, Adler held the lead with 47 per cent of the vote compared to 33 per cent for Dryden. New Democrat Nick Brownlee was a distant third.

The mood was sombre at the Montecasino Hotel where the Dryden camp watched the results come in Monday night.

Dryden, a Hall of Famer who won six Stanley Cups as a goaltender with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970s, had represented the riding since 2004 but the 63-year-old former cabinet minister watched as his margins of victory narrowed with each election.

He won by more than 11,000 votes in 2004, but by 2008 that lead had slipped to just 2,090 votes.

Not even a visit from former prime minister Jean Chretien late in the campaign was enough to lift Dryden to victory.

York Centre had long been seen as one of the safest Liberal seats in the country. Before Dryden, Art Eggleton held the seat for more than a decade, Bob Kaplan was unstoppable for two decades and James Edgar Walker kept it a Grit stronghold for a decade.

But the Conservative government's support for Israel was a key factor among Jewish voters in the riding, pundits said.

Adler is an active member of the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre and well known in the riding's large Jewish community.

"Kaplan held the riding for years and he was a member of the Jewish community and the Liberal party tended to take a kind of centrist position on Israel," said York University political science professor Robert MacDermid. "(Prime Minister Stephen Harper) and the Conservatives have taken a much more pro-Israel stance on many issues and attracted many Jewish voters in that and surrounding ridings."

Fellow York professor Robert Drummond agreed.

"Nobody is unsupportive of Israel," said Drummond. "But I think some voters have found the Harper government rather less critical of Israel than perhaps some of the Liberals have been willing to be and that may have shifted some people's support."

Adler founded and is president and CEO of The Economic Club of Canada which has drawn such speakers as Harper, Canadian premiers, former U.S. president Bill Clinton and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

York Centre is a diverse riding that includes low-income residents and a fair number of immigrants, said MacDermid.

"They have all been hotly contested by the Conservatives' attempt to win over new Canadian groupings," MacDermid said.

MacDermid didn't think the fact that Toronto voters had elected right-leaning mayor Rob Ford was a major factor in swinging York Centre to the Tories. Ford endorsed Harper last week.

Some voters routinely shift between the Liberals and Conservatives, and they may have been more willing to vote Conservative this time, said Drummond.

"There's been a bit of a shift towards the Conservatives in the last few elections of voters who may have been willing to go back and forth between the Liberals and Conservatives and decided they're more supportive of the Conservatives," he said.