January 15, 2006
(Toronto) - It's Hockey Day in Canada and having just wrapped up Molson Canadian Game day at our Leafs TV Gate 1 Studios at Air Canada Centre I wondered how it could get much better than this.
Getting set to head up to the media gondola when I see the unmistakable face and towering height of none other than home grown tough guy Bob Probert signing autographs with Leafs Alumni Dave Hutchison.
This alone speaks to the fact that you just never know who you might run across at Leafs Nation HQ!
Next thing I know the pair are inviting me up to The Leafs Alumni Box for some hockey talk "with the guys". A little embarrassed I admit, I had absolutely no idea where the Alumni Box was in ACC but promised to find my way up there at some point.
Making good on that, during an ugly third period for the home team, I set out on my journey to find the elusive Alumni locale. With a little help from the good people who usher us through ACC I find it next to the bar on the 300 level called the Ice Box.
The box was jammed and I almost turned on my heal thinking I don't want to be a bother ... That's when the welcomes began. It was a whirlwind. Over there is Stan Weir who we have had on the show and is a lovely man. Then there is the towering Probert holding court. Dave plays role of host very well and brings me in making me feel like the guest of honour. Can you imagine?
As I'm being guided over to the buffet area and Dave says, "OH! Jody I want you to meet someone - this is Bobby Baun."
Bobby Baun people! THE Bobby Baun! If I wasn't in awe to that point (which I was) this struck speechless.
If you know me, you know this is rare.
It's something special to be in the presence of a true icon, a hockey god in Leafs Land. I felt similar when I first met the wonderful Johnny Bower - but that is a story for another day.
Immediately my mind went to all that I had read of this man's accomplishments - most notably a game winner with broken ankle on April 23 1964, the year the Leafs won their 3rd straight cup.
"Wow, so great to meet you!" was all I could muster. He wasted no time putting me at ease and we found ourselves talking about what he thinks has changed most in the game since he played it.
"Money" was the initial response with a heartfelt chuckle, and then added, "I like the stuff the league has been doing to make it more fun for the fans. It's good that it's not all about the players and keeping the game the same. Making it more fun for everyone to watch is what I like best."
More than a little surprised by this I was expecting him to be a true traditionalist of the game.
"When it comes to fans" he went on to say, "there is nothing like those who spend so much to come here for games."
This is when Mr. Baun shared the story of how he's always had five pairs of season tickets ... FIVE PAIRS! He bought them waaay back in junior. "We are talking 50's here Jody."
He kept those tickets right through 2003.
It was during this story that he laid out "the line of the night" - "Harold Ballard used to say it looked good on me to be spending so much on tickets each year as the price went up. But I got the last laugh when I finally let them go and made a pretty penny."
After playing for pride on a broken ankle and the glory of The Cup, not to mention next to no financial reward, it is safe to say that Bobby Baun earned every penny on that RRSP he had in the form of season tickets for the Toronto Maple Leafs.