When I was a young boy – I am thinking about eight or nine – my father took me to visit Maple Leaf Gardens. He was usually a quiet man, but I recall that this day he was unusually excited. Walking down the street outside the Gardens, he told me about the Toronto Maple Leafs and the great hockey played there. He was excited to show me this iconic Canadian building.
But, the most memorable thing about that day to me was that Maple Leaf Gardens was locked. We couldn’t get in. We tried several doors – all locked. My father knocked loudly on the front door until a janitor came and opened the door to see what he wanted. “Why isn’t Maple Leafs Gardens open?” he asked the man. “It should be open so people can come visit it,” my father implored.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. My father convinced the janitor into letting him give his son – me – a tour of the arena. The space was all ours. And, there we went, dad and son, walking through the vast emptiness of this historic place. I also remember that day being struck by my father’s unusual animation when he talked. Clearly, Maple Leaf Gardens was a something special for him, and hockey was something special for Canada.
Hockey Is Special to Canada
And, hockey is special to Canada. So, when the update to my phone buzzed the news that the Toronto Maple Leafs would be removed from the Stanley Cup if they didn’t win it again within 12 years, I immediately reacted. My first thought was that – of course – the Maple Leafs will probably win this year. Or next.
But, what if they don’t? Could it be a true Stanley Cup if there was no longer any etched memory of one of Canada’s two great Original Six teams? That shouldn’t be. And, honestly, it put me in a bit of a spin.
I get the logic that every 13 years, in an effort for the Stanley Cup to be a “living” trophy, a ring is removed from the Cup to be forever enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Even if the Hall of Fame is less than a ten-minute walk about from Scotiabank Arena, it seems wrong. There’s got to be a better way than to risk removing either the Toronto Maple Leafs’ or the Montreal Canadiens’ history from the Stanley Cup.
Great Canadian Memories
Perhaps my thinking borders on Don Cherry’s Canadian nationalism. But hockey really does seem Canadian to me.
Paul Henderson’s great tap-in goal on Sept. 28, 1972, against Vladislav Tretiak to win the Summit Series.
Roch Carrier’s story “The Hockey Sweater,” which I found for free in a thrift shop and couldn’t believe my good fortune.
The lucky loonie buried at centre ice at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, where the Canadians beat the Americans 5-2 for the gold medal.
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And, the Toronto Maple Leafs etched on the Stanley Cup.
Come on, Maple Leafs. Let’s make sure this is the year when the name of this historic NHL franchise will be re-etched on the Stanley Cup.