It was a historic night in Toronto Saturday. The team won their first game it what seemed like forever, and on top of that hosted Homecoming Night at the Air Canada Centre, announcing the two next greats to be immortalized on Legends Row.
The Newest Additions to the Row
Prior to their thrilling 4-3 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets, the Leafs held a special ceremony where they honoured past Leafs players and revealed that former Leaf legends Geroge Armstrong and Syl Apps would be the latest to be honoured as part of the collection of statues of Leaf greats outside the ACC, and rightfully so.
The two join former Leafs Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming, Ted Kennedy, and Johnny Bower to be named as part of the memorial that was introduced in 2014. The ceremony was touching seeing some former Leaf greats on hand at centre ice to be part of the celebration and the likes of Armstrong and Apps’ son there to accept the honours.
What unfortunately seemed to tarnish the ceremony somewhat is the fact that some of the former players on hand to help celebrate the special occasion do not deserve the same type of praise as the legends.
Celebrating the Undeserved
On Saturday nine former players and management were on hand including Rick Vaive, Red Kelly, Ron Ellis, and Wendel Clark all considering Leaf greats at one time or another. However, also on hand were the likes of Garry Valk, Peter Ing, and though he may have been a bit of a fan favourite, Darcy Tucker. These latter three names fall far from the same cut as the peers they stood amongst.
Valk played just four seasons with the Maple Leafs during his career. In that time he dressed in just 287 games and tallied just 31 goals and 94 points in that time. He played in 45 playoff games with the team between 1998-2002 putting up just six goals and 12 points in those games.
Peter Ing was a goalie with the Maple Leafs who played just one full season with team. He played three games during the 1989-90 season going 0-2-1 with a 5.94 goals against average and a .830 save percentage. He carried the load the following season suiting up in 56 games going 16-29-8 with a 3.84 GAA and a .883 SP. Following the 1990 season he would play just 15 more games in the NHL split between two season with Edmonton and Detroit.
He was largely on hand Saturday because Ing now holds the position as president and CEO of the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni Association, but when you consider his accomplishments not just as a Maple Leaf, but in the NHL as a whole, it is clear that he does not stand among the greatest Leafs of all-time.
Darcy Tucker is an interesting case, since as mentioned above, he was always a fan favourite in Toronto due to the way he played. Tucker was a physical force, always throwing the body around and never afraid to drop the gloves, and was also able to contribute offensively for the Buds.
He was with the organization for eight seasons and had 148 goals and 314 points in 531 games. He had four 20-plus goals seasons, including a career high 28 goals and 61 points in 2005-06. These numbers aren’t too bad, but once again the argument can still be made that these don’t make him a great and especially not amongst the greats to ever play in T.O., especially when considering that the furthest the Maple Leafs ever got with Tucker was to the Conference finals.
A Tradition That Needs to Stop
The Maple Leafs have come under fire in recent years with many believing that they have not done a very good job at preserving the legacy of the greats that have played in the city. The failure to do so is very surprising and incredibly disheartening especially when considering that the franchise has 60 former players enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, the most of any team.
Along with the Maple Leafs it would be safe to say that the most historic franchise in NHL history would be the Montreal Canadiens. Lately the lengths they have gone recently to remember their greats and the class that they have shown doing it has been unparalleled. The team raised Guy Lapointe’s number to the rafters in November and the tragic loss to Jean Beliveau in December, saw the team hold ceremonies to remember these greats and they were done with perfection, capturing the essence of what it is like to be a great in a hockey craved city.
Lapointe’s banner raising for example saw him accompanied by the other two members of what was coined ‘The Big Three’, Larry Robinson and Serge Savard, both multi-Stanley Cup winners and Hall of Famers, definitely true Canadien greats.
The Maple Leafs are one of the most storied NHL frachise’s in history. As part of the original six, they have an incredibly rich history. Sure success has been hard to come by as of late, but with that in mind, if the Leafs want to honour an preserve their rich history it is important to do it properly and with those worth of such an honour because if they start to recognize and immortalize those who don’t fit the moniker of what it is to be great, then their tradition of mediocrity may continue to slip into their play and forever tarnish the Maple Leaf.