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Maple Leafs Lose Two Long-Time Friends

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs have lost two long-time contributors.


Al Stewart, 73, died July 22 when complications developed after a surgery.

Joe Lamantia, a staple of the Leafs game crew, passed away on July 20.

Stewart grew up in the Toronto neighbourhood of Leaside and began working for the Maple Leafs as an errand-runner and assistant to Maple Leafs founder Conn Smythe. He sold programs during the winter and later became an executive assistant to Leafs’ owner Harold Ballard.

But Stewart’s greatest contributions came when he founded his own multi-media production company that answered the hunger for intermission television features. Broadcaster Don Cherry credits Kingston with launching his Coach’s Corner feature. Stewart interspersed footage with bits of Cherry filmed in Stewart’s basement.

He finished his career working for another Leafs’ owner, Steve Stavro, who used him in public relations for his Knob Hill Farms grocery operation.

Stewart is mourned by his children Nancy and Bryan and his grandchildren Gregory and William as well as his life-long friend Yvonne.

Joe Lamantia, who worked as a penalty time-keeper at Maple Leaf Gardens for over 40 years, gained enduring fame through Paul Morris’ pre-game introduction of the minor officials. He gabbed with players when they felt like talking and often upbraided players for bad language because nearby children could hear their swearing.

Lamantia was known as Banana Joe because it was he who arranged fresh fruit for the power brokers at the 1967 Progressive Conservative Convention at the Gardens. Photographers snapped Tory leader Robert Stanfield nibbling awkwardly on a banana and that image was often cited as a purported example of Stanfield’s lack of ease. Stanfield lost three times to the Liberals and Lamantia became Banana Joe.

He is survived by brothers Peter and Lawrence as well as many nieces and nephews.
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