The Air Canada Centre is all abuzz this weekend as fans flock towards 40 Bay Street for Leafs Nation Fan Fest. On Saturday morning, three statues will be unveiled outside of the arena on Legends Row, with one of them bearing the likeness of Hall of Famer legend Ted “Teeder” Kennedy.
Kids of all ages have been waiting in eager anticipation for the identities of the other two Leafs to be honoured to be divulged. And, there is no shortage of worthy candidates to join Teeder.
So who could they be? Punch Imlach’s rival Toe Blake said over a half-century ago “Predictions are for gypsies.” But I’ll take a stab at it, pitching my proposal from a solely personal standpoint.
Borje Salming definitely deserves to be there. The six-time All-Star was the anchor of the Leafs defence in the 1970’s. But more importantly, he pioneered the way for a generation of Swedish-born players to enter the NHL. During a period where the game was dominated by Canadian players, Salming broke into the league amidst a xenophobic culture. Persevering despite the naysayers, he was twice a finalist for the Norris Trophy.
Salming’s 17-year career during which all but one season was played in Toronto was immortalized with his 1996 induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame; the first ever such enshrinement for a Swedish-born player.
Also, I’d like to see Johnny Bower take a spot on Legends Row this morning. The iconic goalie’s 220 wins and 472 games played rank second on the Leafs all-time lists only Turk Broda. He was instrumental in backstopping Toronto to four Stanley Cup wins in the 1960’s, teaming with Terry Sawchuk for that ‘over the hill gang’ hurrah in 1967.
Just as important as Bower’s on-ice credentials are, so is his presence in the community. Despite not having strapped on the pads for an NHL game in over four decades, who in Toronto doesn’t recognize – and love – Johnny Bower?
As already stated, there are several Leafs alumni who would be just as worthy to be recognized this morning, and will likely receive such an honour at a later date if not today. If my predictions are proven to be futile in favour of any of Tim Horton, Darryl Sittler, Syl Apps or Mats Sundin, you won’t hear an argument from me.
I will say that there is one other factor that tips my preference in favour of Salming and Bower complementing Kennedy.
Quite simply: you’d have a collective Hall of Fame trio of a forward, a defenceman and a goalie.
The Legends Row statues will be unveiled at 11:00am ET.
Correction: The original post attributed Toe Blake’s quote to Punch Imlach. The error has been corrected.
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