The brave men and women serving and defending our nation were the focus of an evening celebrating their commitment to our country Saturday night as Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) and the Toronto Maple Leafs held their sixth annual Canadian Forces Appreciation Night. Four hundred and fifty members of the Forces and their families were guests of the Leafs and MLSE as Toronto faced the New York Rangers at Air Canada Centre
Canadian Forces members from bases across southern Ontario enjoyed the game throughout Air Canada Centre from seats generously donated by Maple Leafs season seat holders.
“It is an honour for us to be able to recognize and host the courageous members of the Canadian Forces,” said Leafs President and General Manager, Brian Burke. “They have been kind enough to host us in Afghanistan and now we are privileged to have them in our building.”
As a tribute to the Canadian Forces, the entire Leafs team wore wear their camo sweaters during the pre-game warm-up. The HMCS York Flag Party and a team of rappellers from CFB Trenton took part in the pregame ceremonies and Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walter J. Natynczyk participated in the ceremonial puck drop along with distinguished members of the Canadian Forces. Following the game, all members of the Canadian Forces in attendance were invited to the ice for a group photo with the team.
“MLSE has a long-standing connection with those that serve our country and the Maple Leafs’ connection extends back to the team’s earliest days,” said Tom Anselmi, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, MLSE. “We’re proud to host these heroes and acknowledge all they have done for our country.”
Both Burke and Anselmi, along with Leafs and NHL Alumni, made numerous trips to Afghanistan on a goodwill mission to visit Canada's soldiers while they were stationed there.
MLSE’s history with the Canadian military can be traced back to the early part of the 20th century starting with Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe, who was a Major with Canada's Forces and represented Canada in World War I and II. Other notable Leafs players who served with Canada’s military included Hall of Famers Turk Broda and Syl Apps.
The Toronto Raptors will host a Canadian Forces Appreciation Night on March 21 vs. the Chicago Bulls. For more information, visit www.mlse.com or www.mapleleafs.com.