Welcome to my diary and thanks for jumping on board with me. You won't find more extensive and exclusive coverage of Hockey Hall of Fame Weekend anywhere else but NHL.com.
If you want to know something, have a question, an opinion, or just want to share your own memories of any of the 4 inductees please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. This weekend, I'm here for you, the loyal NHL.com reader.
So, let's begin, shall we?
You know, I find it pretty difficult to get upset about not having my luggage meet me at my destination when I know later in the day I'm going to get to chat with some of the game's legends and see some of the most historic artifacts our game has ever produced.
That's why I did not get all New York on the Continental representative who told me my bag was the unlucky one that got pulled off the plane in Newark to be inspected by security. Seriously, who do they think I am?
Nevertheless, it's 6:30 in Toronto now — I landed at noon — and I just found out that my bag is en route to the beautiful Fairmont Royal York, where both myself and my colleague, John McGourty, are staying for the next four nights. It's just a two-block walk from the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Air Canada Centre, so it's quite convenient — and luxurious, I might add.
After checking in and grabbing a quick bite at the York Deli in the mall below the hotel, I headed over the Hall. Having covered this weekend last year for NHL.com, I found myself much more at ease with where I was going and what I was doing. Last year, I remember being quite frazzled and not knowing anyone or anything, really. It was also my first time ever in Toronto.
This is my first time back since, but I feel like I really know the place.
Of course, the first thing I did after flashing my NHL Team Management card to gain entry into the Hall — perks, folks, perks — was stumble upon the Canadiens' Centennial Exhibit, the reason why I was in a rush to get to the Hall in the first place.
Dozens upon dozens of artifacts dating back to 1909, the year the Canadiens were born, were laid out right before my eyes. The design of the exhibit is flawless, and the artifacts it contains are magnificent.
"This club is more than a professional sports organization. It is an institution, a way of life," is a quote from Senator Hartland Molson from Dec. 4, 1909. Those words are beautifully displayed on a poster backed by the old Montreal Forum and images of George Farnsworth (Habs captain, 1932-33), Butch Bouchard (Habs captain, 1948-56) and Bill Dornan (Habs captain 1947-48).
If you follow in a clockwise direction from that poster, you can see the final stick and pair of skates used by George Vezina. It was Nov. 28, 1925, when Montreal played the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was Vezina's 325th straight game, but he was forced to retire after the game due to tuberculosis. He died four months later.
Durnan's belly pad from the 1940s and Toe Blake's combined Canadiens and Maroons All-Star sweater from Nov. 3, 1937, are on display. Blake wore the sweater in the Howie Morenz Memorial Game at the Forum.
Continue moving along and you'll see Jacques Plante's goalie mask, the first of its kind. Plante debuted the mask on Nov. 1, 1959 at Madison Square Garden after taking an Andy Bathgate shot to the face. He refused to come back into the game without the mask and eventually Blake, the coach at the time, relented and let him wear it. It changed the position.
You can see the puck that represented Rocket Richard's 500th goal. He became the first NHL player to score 500 goals on Oct. 19, 1957. You can see Ken Dryden's goalie pads from the 1978-79 season and a stick he used in an exhibition game while he played for Cornell University. You can see the final pair of skates he wore.
It's kind of cryptic, but the Hall has on display the crutches Morenz used the night he suffered he suffered a career-ending leg injury. It was Jan. 28, 1937, against the Blackhawks. Morenz died two months later at the age of 34. He was still in the hospital. His funeral was held at center ice of the Montreal Forum.
We should all be so lucky.
There is an entire window for Patrick Roy, including the sweater he wore as a 20-year-old goalie during the 1986 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he led the Habs to the championship. In the display is the stick he used to beat the Calgary Flames 4-3 in Game 5 of the Final, the Cup-clinching game. Amazingly, the Hall also has the scissors used to cut the netting off one of the goals Roy defended on Oct. 17, 2000, his 448th career victory. That night against Washington he surpassed Terry Sawchuk as the game's all-time winningest goalie. He finished with 551. Martin Brodeur has 544.
Sawchuk, by the way, is now fifth on the list behind Roy, Brodeur, Ed Belfour (484) and Curtis Joseph (449 and counting).
There are sticks and sweaters from Guy Lafleur, Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau, Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson, among others.
Unless you're a collector or you were there and saved it, where else are you going to find a game program from the 1975 New Year's Eve clash between the Habs and the Central Red Army at the Montreal Forum. The 3-3 tie is still called "The Greatest Game Ever Played."
Fittingly, you can also find a game program from the final game played at the Montreal Forum, March 11, 1996. The Habs won 4-1, and the building shut its doors forever.
The Centennial exhibit inside the Hockey Hall of Fame is very much open and if you happen to be in the Toronto area or can get here, I suggest you check it out. Even if you're a Leafs' fan, you can't ignore history.
As for me, you're probably wondering what's next?
Well, John and I are going to go get some dinner in a place where we can find a hockey game that's on. Fat chance, huh? In Toronto, where can one find a hockey game?
Saturday morning we're going to be at the ACC for the Leafs' morning skate and then I'm heading over to the Hall for a little exploring myself. At 1:30, Phil Pritchard, the Hall's VP and curator but more well-known as the "Keeper of the Cup," will be dishing some tales of the Stanley Cup to fans in a Q&A session. I'll be there.
The Hockey Hall of Fame Game is Saturday night and as usual it has a significant Original Six flair. The Leafs host, of course, the Canadiens.
So, Saturday is a big day. I hope to bring you two diaries — one after the Tales of the Cup and another following the Leafs-Habs game.
Until then, enjoy your Friday night hockey!
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com