Taking on “Legends Row” of the Toronto Maple Leafs: picks one through five

legendsrowRecently, the Toronto Maple Leafs have unveiled plans to erect a statue saluting some of their legends in the form of 10 players jumping over the boards. This statue will take its form in front of the Air Canada Centre where fans can reminisce of good times gone by. The man doing the sculpting, Erik Blome, has already done phenomenal stone work by doing Wayne Gretzky’s statue down in Los Angeles in front of the Staples Center.

So at least it won’t be a laughing-stock.

The Leafs have also revealed that Ted Kennedy will be the first of the alumni to be enshrined. Former captain and five time Stanley Cup champ, Kennedy was acquired by the Leafs in 1942 from the Montreal Canadiens. Retiring at the age of 30, he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1966. Seems like a no brainer pick with stats like that.

When I was first presented the idea to my own version of the Legends Row, I realized it wouldn’t be fair for me to include players from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s as I never lived through their greatness. While I’m fully aware of what players were phenomenal and how much they mean to Leafs Nation, it just wouldn’t be right to me. Which leaves me with a much shorter list to pick from but I’m down for the task.

I’m also only going to name two that are a given. We already know the greatness of Mats Sundin, Curtis Joseph, Felix Potvin, Tie Domi, Darcy Tucker, and so on. After the first two names, it’s time to give some of the other guys who contributed a time to shine.

I was born in the 80s. Get ready to take a slight trip back in time to some of the Leafs mediocre times. Before I start, this is just my personal list so don’t get bent out of shape for some of the players that are named. It’s also in no particular order. I’ll include honorable mentions at the end.

Without further ado, picks one through five. Five through ten will be tomorrow!

1. Wendel Clark

wendelSome say the greatest player to wear #17 (*cough*Rod Brind’Amour would like a word.*cough*), Clark played his junior days out the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades who just seemed to breed hockey enforcers for a few years. Taken first overall by the Leafs in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, Clark was one of the few who threw punches but had the hockey skill to back it up. In his rookie year, he racked up 227 PIM and never backed down from the physicality that was needed from him. I say this as he wasn’t just known for throwing a few, he had an arsenal of body checks that could change the game’s momentum in an instant.

Obviously a crowd favourite, who can’t forget the time he went after Marty McSorley after he leveled Gilmour in the 1993 Conference Finals? I’m not even going to get into the Gretzky debacle. Or some of his tilts with Probert? Or Russ Courtnall and Clark exploding with the “Hound Line”? In my books, Wendel Clark is the first player to be on my Legends Row. (Just ignore the time he played with the Islanders. The first round pick that was traded for him ended up to be Roberto Luongo.)

Speaking of Gilmour…..

 2. Doug Gilmour

Oh Dougy Gilmour, god love you.

Fun fact; my earliest memories of hockey included seeing Doug Gilmour in cow printed spandex tights in honour of his “Got Milk?” campaign. It really was the 90s.

Anyway, another obvious no brainer to add to the row. Gilmour played his junior years with my hometown Cornwall Royals and actually had the glorious oppourtunity of playing fastball during the summer here as well. Along with Dale Hawerchuk and Danny Daoust, the Royals became legendary for the Seaway City.

Obviously Gilmour was destined to bigger things then just being a Cornwall celebrity. Drafted by St. Louis and after a minor stint with Calgary, Gilmour donned the white and blue of the Leafs starting in the 199-1992 season. A crucial asset to the team, Gilmour was another who didn’t let up. Who’s to say what could have happened if Kerry Fraser never missed the call on Gretzky in 1993.

I’m not going to say anymore; I’m just going to leave this here.


3. Nikolai Borschevsky

borschevskyAfter the demise of the USSR, Russian players were suddenly on the market for the NHL in the beginning of the 90’s. While Borschevsky wasn’t a huge powerhouse with Dynamo Moscow, he started to get into his groove after being traded to Spartek Moscow in 1989. NHL scouts kept their eye on him for the next three years and took in his play at the 1992 Albertville Olympics in which he was a part of the gold medal winning squad.

The Leafs gambled and picked him up in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft and it managed to pay off. Borschevsky exploded for almost a point a game in his rookie year and ended up second in team scoring; second only to Gilmour. Another crucial piece to that 1993 team that keep haunting the Leafs until the current group manage to reach the second round of the playoffs.

It remains to be seen what could have been of Borschevsky if injuries didn’t get the better of him. After two solid years with the Leafs, his stock plummeted and he never regained his monumental performance. I think with him being of the first Russians to make a small dent in the NHL hockey world deserves a nod to my version of the Legends Row.

He also belongs on here just because Steve Dangle named his pet bird Nikolai Birdchevsky. Brilliant.

4. Nik Antropov

Probably one of the most underrated players of his time with the Leafs, Antropov was one player I always had my eyes glued on. I even went as far as buying tickets to an IIHF game between Finland and Kazhakstan on the basis that he was playing. Now that’s dedication right? I mean, who could not go see a guy that scored 26 points in one game. (International against Iceland. 11 god damn goals.)

We all know the 2000s weren’t all that great to the Leafs however, there were a couple of rays of sunshine that stood out. Antropov was drafted 10th overall by Toronto in the 1998 Entry Draft. He came up full-time in the fall of 1999 and for the next 10 years, Antropov contributed solid numbers year after year after year. He’s one of the few was I’m devastated that the Leafs could never get on a roll and win something for. Playing on the same line as Mats Sundin would be no easy feat but Antropov did it with ease and proved that having solid wingmen is a daunting task.

He kept up his stats when he was traded to the Thrashers/Jets and even managed to become a Canadian citizen in the meantime. He played last season with Barys Artana in the KHL.

I should probably start up a Nik Antropov Fan Club.


5. Sergei Berezin

lg_berezin_ap_01Another underrated player to lay in Toronto fandom, Berezin was selected 10th overall in the 1994 draft and after exploding with talent for the next two years in the DEL he finally headed over to North America. A pity that it was with the Leafs who I think at the time didn’t really know what to do with him or develop him into elite player status.

He managed to be selected to the All-Rookie team in 1997 and managed a career high of 59 points in 1999. However after his second career high of 50 points (only 3 points behind Sundin), he was traded off the Phoenix for Mikael Renberg. Yeah, the worked out didn’t it.

The knife in the back for the Leafs came when Berezin, now with the Canadiens, scored their 10,000th goal on home ice. Ouchie.

However, five solid years with the Leafs through the crazy early years of the 2000’s puts him on my list.

Honorable mentions for this half: Jonas Hogland, Peter Zezel, Freddy Modin, Igor Korolev, Garry Valk, oh and Nikolai BIRDschevsky.

Advertisements

In honour of Jonathan Bernier and Ryan Miller’s fight, a goalie fight compilation

BU0YVlLCYAAMfAR

In case you haven’t heard, there was a huge line brawl in last night’s Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres match up. Complete with Phil Kessel doing his best “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan impression and everyone’s favourite: a goalie fight.

For your viewing pleasure:

Of course, this got me to thinking. Why not honour the greatness that is a goalie fight. Here are some scrums that stick out in my mind.

First off the bat is Philadelphia’s favourite hot headed goaltender, Ron Hextall. While Hexy is most remembered for being insane and slashing the hell out of players, there’s one incident that pretty much shuts him up in the years following. His opponent? None other then another Leafs, Felix “The Cat” Potvin.
Hextall gets his ass handed to him by Potvin. One of the best goalie fights of all time.

Continue reading “In honour of Jonathan Bernier and Ryan Miller’s fight, a goalie fight compilation”

Being An Away Fan In The Opposing Team’s Arena

Unless you’re the Ottawa Senators (cause banning Toronto fans into the Crappy Tire Centre can’t be too far behind.), fans from the opposing team in that evening’s game might be scarce. Sure there might be a couple of fans who live in town or a few might make a road trip down but there a few things to consider if you decide to head down this road.

321318_465788223513132_179915127_n

1. Don’t Be A Drunken Loud Mouth Idiot
mad_hockey_fanThis is just asking for it. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen away fans lose their mind and get into people’s faces when their team scores only to be heckled even worse by the home fans surrounding them. Being a loud mouth in general is stupid but in certain arenas, this isn’t taken too lightly. Sit down, shut up, fist pump and scream a couple “Woohoo!” if you must but relax. You’re a visitor. (Toronto fans in Ottawa disregard this as I actually think it’s funny.)

2. Do Not Flaunt Your Jersey

Really Rihanna?! Really?! Sigh.
Really Rihanna?! Really?! Sigh.

I’m not saying don’t wear it. In fact, I recommended every fan in every sport to wear their jerseys with pride. Just don’t flaunt it. You’ve already been spotted with it on and mentally noted  as the enemy. For some reason, this is worse in places like Montreal and I hate to it, Boston. Personal story time: A few years ago my cousin, a Leafs fan, took in a regular season game in Montreal. He got up and did the occasional high fives and woohoo’s after every Leaf goal but was very tame. The Leafs ended up winning and on the way out, with him flaunting around his jersey got stabbed in the leg. Yes, it was stupidity on both parts but for future reference, just don’t do this. Granted, some people are just complete morons, hence this video:

3. Do Not Get Into The Home Town Fans Faces

This ties in with statement number 1 and it should be a given. There is nothing worse than know it all idiots who do nothing but rub the score in all game. News flash for you buddy, you’re outnumbered. If you’re gonna debate hockey stats, make sure you know your stuff buddy. Make one wrong move and it’s lights out for you.

4. Respect The Home Town Team

I don’t care how much you hate them. I don’t care how intense this “hatred” is. Respect the home team. You’re in their arena; their home. You’d want to be shown the same respect from visiting fans in your rink wouldn’t you? Furthermore, the players on your team are under just as much scrutiny as you are.

Oh…..and don’t be this guy. Goes for both home and away fans.

weareallcanucks02

LA Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs Exchange Backups

Dave Nonis is getting a head start on the rest of the field this summer and creates the first big trade of the offseason.

Bernier. (Photo: puckme_1. flickr.)
Bernier. (Photo: puckme_1. flickr.)

Toronto sent back up Ben Scrivens and forward Matt Frattin, plus a second round draft pick to Los Angeles in exchange for Bernier. The Maple Leafs finally made a trade in their favour.

Bernier has been back up to Jonathan Quick the past four years and his playing time got dismal as Quick got hotter. Not to outdo Toronto’s young James Reimer, Bernier is a hint of added depth to the position and also has a shot at being the Leafs number 1 netminder. Bernier is set to become a restricted free agent but I don’t not see any doubt in why that contract will not take place.

In LA’s case, Scrivens could turn out to be a solid backup for Quick; not that Bernier wasn’t. Matty Frattin a speedy forward is definitely a great addition as well.

In any case, it’s a great day for Leaf fans. Bernier has been looked at being a franchise goaltender for years now. Let’s just see if he holds up to it.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY – 1993 Stanley Cup Playoffs Pt. 1

I’m going to make one fan base re-live cruel moments and one fan base re-live some glory with this one. I apologize in advance, you guys know who you are.

Ahhhhh 1990’s hockey. What a time to be a hockey fan! Canadian teams were still half decent; ALL CANADIAN TEAMS MADE THE PLAYOFFS, Wayne Gretzky turned his back, defected to Los Angeles and then became hated by a nation, and then there’s my personal favourite: Mediocre NHLers of the 90’s. But more on that on Mediocre Monday. (I’m looking at you Sergio Momesso.)

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

The first round of the 1993 playoffs saw a deep rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Quebec City Coyotes…I mean, Nordiques. After all, Montreal’s star goaltender, a guy by the name of Patrick Roy is from rivaled QC. Not phased however, Montreal whizzed passed them and into the second round. Little did they know that would be the last time they’d play the Nordiques of Quebec.

The Boston Bruins came into the playoffs with the second best record in the league. Anything can happen though as the Buffalo Sabres proved that by SWEEPING them in 4.  I think I’ll just leave this here…..

Fast forward to the division finals. Montreal sweeps Buffalo, the Islanders beat Pittsburgh (?!?) and L.A throttles Vancouver. The Norris Division final was between the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues. The game went the full 7 games and what a beauty of a series it was. Both teams battled hard but eventually Toronto came out on top. Doug Gilmour’s double overtime game winning goal in game 1 is still one of the best I’ve ever seen.

And NOW things get interesting. At least for one team.

Part two will be delivered next Friday!