He walked on the long red carpet towards centre ice. There, he waited for his wife, two sons and one daughter to join him. A few seconds later, his four grandsons came to his side and dropped the ceremonial first puck. It was indeed a special night for Frank Mahovlich as his number 27 was honoured and raised to the rafters.
Team president Ken Dryden notified Mahovlich a week ago of the team's plan to pay a tribute to him before the Leafs started their 75th season. The sellout crowd of more than 19,000 people roundly cheered the man affectionately known as "The Big M" when he was introduced. They remember the Stanley Cups championships he helped bring the team. They remember his long, smooth strides and breathtaking goals.
Mahovlich scored 533 goals in his illustrious career, 296 as a Leaf. He held the Leafs' single season record for most goals with 48 for many years until Rick Vaive broke it in the early 80s. The occasion seemed to genuinely touch Mahovlich.
"I was really thrilled," he said. "My family seemed to really enjoy it. My daughter came all the way from Seattle with her two sons. It's been an exciting week. I look at Syl Apps and Bill Barilko and what a thrill it is to be along side them. It really is an honour. Bill was really a hero of mine."
Mahovlich said that when he played with the Leafs in the 1960s, they were one of the most talked about teams in sports.
"When we won the Staley Cup in 1964 we where like the New York Yankees," said Mahovlich. "We had won the Stanley Cup more than any other team and that was including the Montreal Canadiens. They took over since then, but we were ahead at that time. People looked at Toronto as a very strong franchise."
Mahovlich was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981.