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Mike Ulmer has worked for seven news organizations including the National Post and, most recently, the Toronto Sun. Mike has written about the Leafs for 10 years and wrote Captains, a book about the club's greatest leaders.
February 17, 2007
(TORONTO) -- The 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs returned to take a bow that was 40-years in coming and the club struck a worthy note for all involved.
These are the emissaries of Toronto the Good, a time when Stanley Cups were, if not expected, then not exactly a surprise. The men who rode the motorcade to Nathan Phillips Square. Some are octogenarians, senators, hockey officials and not surprisingly, retirees.
They were welcomed back with enthusiastic ovations Saturday at Air Canada Centre. No pyrotechnics. Dignified.
"It was wonderful the way they did it," said the great Red Kelly, an eighty-year-old this summer. "How many of these people were there 40 years ago. I think it's a great honour that they would cheer at all. Hopefully, it'll rub off on the players out there."
The Leafs reach was different in 1967. They were a big story in a straight-laced city, full of kids who graduated from St. Mike's or the Marlies. Nearly all of them were locals.
"We were the only game in town," said Sen. Frank Mahovlich. "There was no professional basketball or Major League Baseball. We got a lot of coverage and a lot was expected of us."
Forty years ago, the coverage has mushroomed but who wouldn't be nostalgic for a decade in which the Maple Leafs won four Stanley Cups, the last one, of course, in 1967.
Toronto the Good thrived without a hint of self promotion. Small wonder then, that after receiving a well-deserved ovation from the capacity crowd, the players stood for O Canada and then noiselessly filed their way off the ice. That is who they are.
In that way, the short ceremony, basically an introduction and picture, was absolutely in keeping with the tenor of the times.
The longest hand went to Dave Keon, who smiled and waved.
Johnny Bower, the subject of a lengthy ovation during the introduction of the 67 winners, probably spoke for the rest. He was thinking of the current Maple Leafs, tapping their sticks on the blue line.
"It was very, very dignified," he said, "but I worried about the players standing, waiting to get going."