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Bear Essentials On the Road: Toronto

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
Bear Essentials on the Road: TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA (Air Canada Centre)

Where are we going?
CN Tower. (photo:
Toronto is Canada’s largest city and Ontario’s capital.  It is part of the Golden Horseshoe region of southern Ontario and is home to 5,113,149 people, according to the 2006 Canadian Census.

“As Canada's economic capital, Toronto is considered a global city and is one of the top financial cities in the world,” says Wikipedia.  “The Toronto Stock Exchange, the world's seventh largest, is headquartered in the city, along with a majority of Canada's corporations.

“Toronto is one of the world's most diverse city by percentage of non-Canadian-born residents, as about 49 percent of the population were born outside of Canada,” continues Wikipedia.  “Because of the city's low crime rates, clean environment and generally high standard of living, Toronto is consistently rated as one of the world's most livable cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Mercer Quality of Living Survey.”

According to, one-quarter of the entire Canadian population lives within a 160 kilometer radius of Toronto.  The city is Canada’s largest retail market, number one tourist destination, and the largest financial center in Canada.

It is the fifth-largest city in North America to boot.

Additionally, says the website, over 100 languages are spoken in the city, but the two official languages are English and French.  Toronto is also home to the longest street in the world – Yonge Street – and the world’s tallest free-standing structure – the CN Tower.

The city is, of course, home to the Hockey Hall of Fame, as well as many outdoor skating rinks, prompting to declare that “Toronto has nine months of winter and three months of poor skating.”

Where are we playing?
Air Canada Centre. (photo:
The Air Canada Centre, also known as the ACC or “The Hangar,” opened on February 19, 1999, after nearly two years of work.  It is home to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors of the NBA, and the National Lacrosse League’s Toronto Rock.

The building is owned by Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment and was originally designed for basketball, expected to only be the Raptors home.  However, the Maple Leafs were looking for a new arena while the ACC was being built, so MLSE bought the both Raptors and the arena, redesigned some of the top-level seating, and turned it into the Leafs arena as well.

The first Leafs game in the ACC took place on February 20, 1999, against the Montreal Canadiens.  The first Raptors game was the following night.  Since then, the arena has played host to the 2000 All-Star Game, as well as numerous concerts and other events.

“Air Canada Centre has been recognized with more than 25 industry awards that range from Canadian Major Facility of the Year (multiple times), the U.S. based Facilities & Event Management Magazine's Prime Site Award, the Wine Spectator, VQA Restaurant and the International (Diamond Wine Award) Awards of Excellence, and Tourism Toronto's Jeff Adams Access Award of Excellence for the facilities accessibility,” says Wikipedia.

The ACC is also the only North American arena to have three exclusive restaurants, as well as an in-house bar with its own micro-brewery.

And speaking of food, the arena’s website reports that the average number of hot dogs sold at an event is 1,800.

Who are we playing?
Johnny Bower
As one of the “Original Six” NHL teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs have an interesting history.

The NHL was actually formed as a reaction against Eddie Livingstone, owner of the National Hockey Association’s Toronto Blueshirts.  The owners of four Canadian NHA teams created the league and didn’t invite Livingstone to join.

“However, the other clubs and arena owners felt it would be unthinkable not to have a team from Toronto in the new league,” says Wikipedia.  “Accordingly, the new league granted a 'temporary' franchise for Toronto to the Toronto Arena Company…to use the Blueshirts' players for the season, and to compensate Livingstone out of the club revenues.”

This Toronto team had no official name during their first season, 1917-1918, and was known as “the Blueshirts” or “the Torontos.”  They became known as the Toronto Arenas for the 1918-1919.

Livingstone filed numerous lawsuits to get his club back, and the costs of the dispute resulted in the loss of many players and a five-win season.  The .278 win percentage the Arenas recorded is the worst in franchise history.

The franchise went up for sale in 1919 after Livingstone won a settlement, and the team’s new owners renamed the team the Toronto St. Patricks, finally becoming the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1927.

The Maple Leafs, in all their incarnations, have won 13 Stanley Cups and five division championships.

When are we playing?
7:30 p.m. ET

Who's playing for us?
Not Marc Savard or Andrew Ference, who will join Andrew Alberts, Patrice Bergeron and Manny Fernandez on the shelf (although Albe, Bergy and Fernandez are in Toronto to practice with the squad). There will be a lineup decision between, presumably, Nokelainen, Schaefer and Sobotka, some time today. Matt Lashoff will take Ference's spot on the blueline.

Is the game on?
Yes, NESN and WBZ have you covered on the TV and radio. Just remember, it is a half an hour later than usual.

8:18 a.m.
Rocky Balboa Poster
Yesterday, On Bear Force One, the movie "Rocky Balboa" was playing.

The major theme of the sequel (worth a rental for any sports fan, BTW) was boiled down to one of the main character's monologues. I am paraphrasing here, but Rocky said, "It's not how many punches you can throw, but the number of punches you can take and still move forward."

The B's received bad news yesterday when they found out that Marc Savard was unavailable for the next two games and that Andrew Ference is out for Tuesday, so the theme to the movie became pretty appropriate.

For a team that had already been shorthanded for most of the season, the loss of their leading scorer could certainly be disheartening.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien felt as if his club was uniquely prepared to receive yet another blow to their roster, but it did make him wonder aloud (jokingly) about trying understand why the hockey gods had it out for him.

"Well, I seem to think I live a good life," said Julien with a wry chuckle. "So I don't know why this would happen to me.

"But this is just one of those things that you go through...and it seems like you are somewhat snake-bitten.

"But, all-in-all, I still believe that this team, as a group can pull through," he said.

And having played without Bergeron and Alberts and Fernandez for significant amounts of time, the B's might be able to absorb yet another loss.

"The advantage we have is that we have faced it all year, so it's not like it's a shock to our system right now," said Julien. "It's something we've been put up against all year.

"And we are going to face that challenge and I am as optimistic as I was before -- we'll just continue to move forward that way."

1:00 p.m.
I have escaped from the ACC with relatively little information to add to the discussion. Obviously, Coach Julien is remaining rather quiet as to who will play where and with whom this evening.

I will say this, however, Tim Thomas was first off the ice.

Coach did not express any overt trepidation about going into the big game in the big house without his leading scorer.

"The biggest thing, right now, is that we have to have confidence in our system and the way we have played all year," said Julien. "[You have to] have confidence in your teammates that they will do their job."

2:37 p.m.
Watch Shawn Thornton's Vlog
Thanks to the fine folks at Harbour Sports Grill, I had pirogies for lunch. Good stuff!

More from Coach Julien, who expects a supreme effort from his charges, tonight.

"That's what we have to do from here on in," said Coach. "We have to leave everything out on the ice and deal with what is going to happen from there.

"I want our guys to go out, hard and give everything they've got."

Earlier, Milan Lucic was previewing his coach's remarks.

"You can never take a shift off," he said. "You have to be sure that you are ready to play every night.

Shawn Thornton echoed everyone's sentiments in his Vlog.

6:03 p.m.
Bish's view
Not a bad view from the media gondola here in the ACC. But even the pleasant visage is not calming my nerves.

This, True Believers, is a darn big hockey game.

And everyone knows it.

"We've got seven games left here," said the oft-quiet Chuck Kobasew. "We have our mini series to make the playoffs, and we have to approach it that way, where every game is like a playoff game, and it's a great opportunity for this team.

"I know that if we had talked about this at the beginning of the year -- seven games to make a spot -- it would've been something to be excited about."

It is somewhat miraculous that the Bruins are actually in this situation. Picked by many "experts" to finish in the bottom of the pack in the entire NHL, Boston has maintained playoff positioning for virtually the entire campaign. And all of that has been done without some of their best players in the fold.

Inside the ACC, from morning skate.
But the B's remember those early predictions and take it as a matter of pride in terms of proving the pundits wrong.

"Our expectations were a little different than the outsiders, the media," said Kobasew. "Alot of [people] picked us to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but that is not our approach.

"We knew from the start of the season that we had a legitimate shot at making the playoffs and now it is our goal."

That being said, another pair of injuries, to Marc Savard and Andrew Ference, have put the postseason in question for Boston and the B's must put their best skate forward against their Original Six rivals from Toronto.

"We've been without key players all year long," said Kobasew, with his jaw set. "It's something that is not new to us, and it gives everyone else that extra little opportunity to show what they can do to help the team win."

No doubt, Kobasew will continue to play an important role as the final games tick off the schedule.

6:48 p.m.
The media "Gondola."
I've been reprimanded for not giving credit where credit is due. Brian Zechello, of NESN, was responsible for the inclusion of the movie Rocky Balboa to our entertainment schedule on the way to Toronto from Boston.

I was remiss in not giving at least some credit to Brian, as at least a couple of Bruins got very involved in the movie as the plane made its way to Ontario.

And, to boot, the final fight scene kept everyone from noticing that I was squirming in my seat during the landing. Still got a bit of white-knuckle going when I fly.

Who am I kidding. I am terrified, but we'll make it. Somehow...

7:14 p.m.
As expected, Timmay led Our Boys out of the room.

This is a decent guess at the rest:
Lucic-Sobotka-Glen Murray
Chara-Ward (sg)Thomas
Lashoff-Wideman (bg)Auld
Hnidy-Stuart Go Bruins!

This is a big one folks, hold on to your hats!

7:28 p.m.
I am going to keep it here for tonight.

First Period
0:00 Filling up pretty good in here. Leafs fans will be disappointed to miss Mats Sundin, Nik Antropov and Carlo Colaiacovo.

Starting for Boston: Chara, Ward, Sturm, Krejci, Kobasew. Thomas is in goal.
Starting for Toronto: Kaberle, Kubina, Tucker, Stajan, Blake. Toskala is in goal.

:08 Toronto won the faceoff, and put their first shot on goal. Tim, wisely, held for another draw.

2:24 B's on the PP. Bell popped Hnidy in the chops.

3:57 PP goal for the B's. Off a broken play, a Matt Lashoff shot goes off of Glen Murray and into the goal. Give Milan Lucic an assist and a "nice job" for going to the net in the first place.

10:10 Some nice sustained pressure from both teams. You might have missed that Shawn Thornton attempted to go with Darcy Tucker. He was not obliged.

10:47 B's on the PK.

15:40 That was a big kill, and thus far everyone wearing Black & Gold has been contributing.

16:28 Big save Timmy!

17:07 Toskala just made nice stop on Lash...

20:00 Nice start for Boston, who lead 1-0. The B's Chuck Kobasew left the game after being hit by a puck. I did not see him return.

Second Period
0:00 I don't see Kobasew coming out of the room.

1:12 David Krejci scored a nice backhand goal off a rebound in the slot. 2-0, B's! Second assist to Lash on the night.

3:40 Metro and Wardo just saved a goal when it got behind Tim. Great team play thus far.

BTW: Chuck Kobasew has a lower leg injury. He WILL NOT return, tonight.

6:49 It is so quiet in here that I could hear Thorts yelling, "Noke, Noke!" on the last rush.

7:24 Darcy Tucker in the box.

8:20 Very nice PP goal set up by Krejci. He waited. He waited. He waited and dished to Sturmie for the slam dunk. 3-0, Bs.

T's Bryan McCabe in the box for "delay of game."

9:43 Kubina in the box for slashing. It's a 5-on-3 for Boston.

14:28 Although they did not grab another goal, Boston has been in control since Sturmie's goal. And Tim Thomas has been very solid when necessary.

15:30 Kubina scores as a pile up develops in front of the B's goal -- I think it actually may have gone off the leg of a defender. Not sure there was much Tim could do. B's remain in control, 3-1.

20:00 One minor lapse leads to a fluke goal. Stay the course, Boston.

Third Period
0:00 Just need a solid period. And some help from Ottawa and Carolina.

3:05 THOOOOOOOORTS! Nice goal and it should be a big Vlog in the a.m.

9:46 Steen almost decapitated Timmy and he is in the box.

14:44 Ponikarovsky on the PP scores to make it interesing. Ugh.

16:16 Kessel may have just put this one away. He worked hard into the zone, and when the puck game out to the point for Metro who threw it into the net -- B's, 5-2.

A happy Bear Force One!

20:00 Running to the locker room. BIG WIN. Nice shot Reicher!
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