Is Dave Keon Your Greatest Maple Leaf Forever?

I’m always late: I stay up late, get up late and I’m learning to skate at a later age. Now I’m just discovering NHL Center Ice – seriously there must be something wrong with me.  This lateness really has to stop at some point.

After my self-imposed ban on anything Buffalo Bills (thanks to the hiring of Rex Ryan) I’ve tried to find something sports-wise to balance out the non-Sunderland days. I’ve struggled when a random hockey game wasn’t on cable somewhere.  In a way it’s forced me to find myself as a sports fan, to look inward and see if it was worth it to stand up for what I believe in versus that little nugget of entertainment on a Sunday.

Now, thanks to the fact that I bit the bullet and paid for it, I can watch pretty much every Maple Leaf game and see games in every team’s building. Talk about getting to the party. Just the other day I happened to catch a random Winnipeg Jets game instead of a random NFL game. I’ll take that any day of the week.

The best thing is that I can now watch the Leafs. It’s tough keeping up with a team hundreds of miles away when you don’t get to see their broadcasts. Especially home games when they honor a past player and it makes you think about what they did for the club. Or when they talk about the history of the team.  Watching a Leaf game recently they talked about the “Greatest Leaf Ever.”

Based upon the number of Stanley Cups (4), Conn Smythe trophies (1), points (858), Lady Bing Trophies (2) and Calder Cups (1), Dave Keon’s accomplishments make him the best Toronto Maple Leaf ever. Not only was he great with the puck but he’s said to have been absolutely brilliant without it. A great skater and amazing checking center. Unfortunately I never got the chance to see him play plus there was always the history between the Leafs, Keon and former owner Howard Ballard.

The new Leafs’ ownership lead by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment began reaching out to Keon in the late 90’s trying to win him back to the blue and white family.  Keon stuck to his guns until 2007, when he showed up on the ice and then in the 2013 he appeared at the Air Canada Centre with other members of the ’63 Cup winners team.

In 2016 the Maple Leafs finally gave their greatest ever a home on Legends Row in front of the ACC alongside familiar names like Tim Horton, Mats Sundin, Johnny Bower, Syl Apps and Darryl Sittler.

As the Leafs prepare for the Centennial Classic game against Detroit on New Year’s Day at BMO Field just down Gardiner from the ACC, some of those names will play on New Year’s Eve but so too will some of my greatest Leafs ever: Felix Potvin, Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark, Darcy Tucker, Dave Andreychuk and Dave Ellett.  All of them, except Tucker, members of that 1992-1993 team that took “The 6” all the way to the Western Conference Finals when Gilmour was famously clipped by Gretzky in the 6th game of the Series.  Toronto was on the brink of closing out Los Angeles but it wasn’t meant to be.

A magical year for the Maple Leafs that included rookie goalie Potvin’s 25-15-7 record with a league leading 2.50 Goals Against Average and .910 save percentage, Gilmour’s 127 points in the regular season and 35 in post season, Andreychuk’s 12 postseason goals and Clark’s 20 postseason points.

Meanwhile, barriers were being broken that season when Quebec-born Manon Rheaume tended goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning on September 23, 1992 against the St. Louis Blues for a period.  She would go on to play in the Roller Hockey International league, West Coast Hockey League, International Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League. I could never get to a Norfolk Admirals game to see her Knoxville Cherokees or Nashville Knights though I always tried.

I believed that it was Doug Gilmour that was going to take Toronto to the next level because of his drive and the fire in his play. Gilmour and Potvin made me want to play and be Leafs – I especially wanted to play goal just like the “Cat.” They made me want to see the Gardens, to know the team, to know the game and know the town.

Since the time I’ve seen the Leafs play, they have never won a Cup. Whatever curse or demon or ghost that haunts this team has yet to leave. Moving out of the Maple Leaf Gardens didn’t change anything except for the address, number of seats and cost of tickets. There still is an empty spot where that next Cup belongs.Greatest Ever is one of those subjective titles and can mean different things to different people. I don’t know Keon like other Leafs fans and I never saw the things he did on the ice. That’s not to say he’s not exceptional however without a point of reference I’m lost.

Since the time I’ve seen the Leafs play, they have never won a Cup. Whatever curse or demon or ghost that haunts this team has yet to leave. Moving out of the Maple Leaf Gardens didn’t change anything except for the address, number of seats and cost of tickets. There still is an empty spot where that next Cup belongs.Greatest Ever is one of those subjective titles and can mean different things to different people. I don’t know Keon like other Leafs fans and I never saw the things he did on the ice. That’s not to say he’s not exceptional however without a point of reference I’m lost.

Since the time I’ve seen the Leafs play, they have never won a Cup. Whatever curse or demon or ghost that haunts this team has yet to leave. Moving out of the Maple Leaf Gardens didn’t change anything except for the address, number of seats and cost of tickets. There still is an empty spot where that next Cup belongs.

“Greatest Ever” is one of those subjective titles and can mean different things to different people. I don’t know Keon like other Leafs fans and I never saw the things he accomplished on the ice. That’s not to say he’s not exceptional because his records and numbers speak for themselves.

Since the time I’ve seen the Leafs play, they have never won a Cup. Whatever curse, demon or ghost that haunts this team has yet to leave. It could be argued that Howard Ballard haunts the team to this day.  Maybe it is me that argues that?

Moving out of the Maple Leaf Gardens didn’t change anything except for the address, number of seats and cost of tickets. There still is an empty spot where that next Cup belongs.  What I can say is that Gilmour and company influenced a love of a team and a sport that continues to this day.  A tradition of something special that I haven’t forgotten.

Baseball’s Chicago Cubs used to be called the “Loveable Losers” because of the 100+ years that they waited and waited to win a World Series title.  That thirst was finally quenched after 108 long dry years, something that as Leaf fans we all know about.  But they also had tradition, something we also know about.

There was tradition with the Cubs from broadcaster Harry Caray to shortstop Ernie Banks, “Let’s Play Two,” on up to Wrigley Field and its colorful Ivy walls.  These are things that people thought of when they thought of the Cubs – these individuals and these traditions.

These are the things I think of when I think of the Leafs – the traditions of Horton, Gilmour, Keon and hundreds of others who wore the blue and white, the Maple Leaf Gardens that are now home to a supermarket, the Air Canada Centre with banners of the greats hanging from high, Foster Hewitt’s gondola, Maple Leafs Forever, the story of Bill Barilko and the hope for the kids of the future.

Who knows, maybe Mitch Marner or Auston Matthews or William Nylander will be the Greatest Leaf Ever?  I can’t predict the future but I can tell you that it will be hard for them to make me feel the same things that Gilmour and company did.  I guess that’s what happens when you grow up with a generation of players and they move on.  The next group comes in and all you can see is #93 taking the draw and #17 scoring a goal. My Greatest Leaf Ever will always be Dougie.

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