Like lots of kids in Toronto, Cody Hodgson grew up cheering the Maple Leafs.
Not many, however, were almost born watching them. And it’s a safe bet none celebrated that occasion 22 years later by playing them.
The Vancouver Canucks center will celebrate his 22nd birthday against the Toronto Maple Leafs team he was almost born watching.
Hodgson said his mom was watching a game at the old Maple Leaf Gardens on Feb. 17, 1990 when she went into labor. After going straight from the rink to the hospital, Cody was born the next morning, and subsequently raised in a family filled with Leafs fans.
“Growing up there and being a Leaf fan for a lot of my childhood, a lot of my boyhood idols were Leafs players – Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark and those guys, legends in the city,” said Hodgson.
But all of his family’s long-time allegiances switched, Hodgson said, as soon as Vancouver drafted him 10th overall in 2008. So there will be no Frankenstein jersey blends of the Canucks and Maple Leafs in the Hodgson household when the two teams meet Saturday afternoon.
“No it’s all Canucks jerseys now,” Hodgson said. “Ever since the draft, they’re always supportive no matter where I go or what team I play for.”
For Hodgson it’s just another game, even if the one 22 years ago wasn’t.
“You just go out and compete and do what you can to win the game,” said Hodgson, who can help extend Vancouver’s win streak against the Leafs to 10 games dating back to 2003. "You try to treat like it's just another game."
It definitely won’t be that for Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson and the large contingent of family members that made the six-hour drive southwest from his hometown of Sicamous, B.C.
Like Hodgson, Franson grew up cheering the Maple Leafs. He just did it in Canucks country, which makes for an odd dynamic on a weekend that started with Franson being honored by another local hockey team.
The Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League inducted Franson into their Ring of Honor on Friday night, even creating a bobblehead in his likeness for the first 500 fans at the game, which naturally led to some good-natured ribbing in the Leafs’ locker room.
“Oh yeah, I’m taking heat, but that’s fine,” said Franson, who won a WHL championship with the Giants in 2006 and a Memorial Cup in 2007. “I’m honored to be in this position and I’ll take some heat from the boys anytime for that. They've treated me with nothing but respect and I can’t say enough about the Giants, they’ve been a class act from Day One and I wouldn’t trade my three years here for nothing.”
Franson was also excited to see his younger brother Cain, an 18-year-old forward with the Giants, play live for the first time in years, but admitted Canucks fans won’t be happy to see his family Saturday.
“There will be a lot of Leafs jerseys coming from Sicamous, everyone will have one,” said Franson, who is making his first trip to Vancouver with the Maple Leafs after being acquired in a trade with Nashville last summer. “The Leafs have been in my family a long time.”