Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan took the stage at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Thursday to talk about the hockey club's upcoming Centennial celebrations. With additional surprises beyond the announcement yet to come throughout the season, the festivities promise to be memorable ones during the 2016-17 season and many will live on with the club in the future.
Centennial plans truly began taking shape roughly four months ago when the NHL announced the Leafs will host the 2016 Centennial Classic. The game, a rematch of the 2014 Winter Classic against the Detroit Red Wings, will be played on Jan. 1 at BMO Field in Toronto. The city's first modern-day outdoor hockey game -- which will also include a matchup between Leafs and Red Wings alumni -- will be bracketed by a celebration of the Maple Leafs and NHL hockey.
Pockets of Leafs Nation across Canada will have an opportunity to see their team play live when hockey gets back underway. The club will host three pre-season games in non-NHL cities when they take on the Ottawa Senators in Halifax, the Buffalo Sabres in St. Catharines and the Detroit Red Wings in Hamilton. The Leafs will also play a fourth home game in a non-NHL city when they are hosted by the Senators in Saskatoon.
Upon a return home for regular season play, the Air Canada Centre will have a different look for fans when they arrive in October.
Legends Row will have three new inductees as Turk Broda, Tim Horton and Dave Keon will have their statues installed at Maple Leaf Square. The trio were announced as the newest additions to the monument in January of 2015 and will officially take their place alongside the other Maple Leafs legends in the fall.
On the inside of the arena, the familiar honoured players will be receiving a makeover. The banners that have been previously hoisted to the Air Canada Centre rafters will be delivered to the hometowns of the respective players and new banners created for the Centennial will take their place above the ice surface.
In addition to the traditional tributes to the most impactful Maple Leafs, a committee comprised of 30 members of the hockey community have been tasked with creating a list of the greatest players to don the crest. Prior to the season, the club will unveil the official list of the 100 greatest Maple Leafs to play for the team in its first 100 seasons.
Finally, the club will also wear two commemorative sweaters during 2016-17 on top of the new home and away sweaters, which were unveiled at the 2016 NHL Draft. On Jan. 1, the team will wear a special commemorative NHL Centennial Classic sweater for the outdoor game vs. Detroit. On March 18 vs. the Chicago Blackhawks, the team will pay tribute to the Toronto St. Pats with special uniforms on St. Patrick's Day weekend.
With these initiatives in place and more surprises to come, the upcoming season promises to be an exciting one that will not only pay a fitting tribute to the past, but provide plenty of excitement for the years to come.