Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) and the Toronto Maple Leafs honoured the thousands of men and women who serve our country at their fifth annual Canadian Forces Appreciation Night on Saturday, February 19 when they hosted the Ottawa Senators.
A record 430 members of the Canadian Forces were attendance from the Greater Toronto Area, CFB Borden and CFB Trenton. The heroes watched the game from one of Air Canada Centre’s gondolas plus various seats throughout the arena, many of which were generously donated by Maple Leafs season seat holders.
“This is one of the most meaningful nights of the year and on behalf of the entire Toronto Maple Leafs organization, we're honoured to recognize and host the courageous men and women of the Canadian Forces,” said Leafs President and General Manager, Brian Burke. “MLSE and the Leafs are committed to being leaders in the community and initiatives such as Canadian Forces Appreciation Night help reinforce this value.”
The entire Leafs team wore camo sweaters during the pre-game warm-up and as a tribute to the Canadian Forces, the fans in attendance performed the Canadian National Anthem. The HMCS York Flag Party and a team of rappellers from CFB Trenton took part in the pregame ceremonies. Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walter J. Natynczyk participated in the ceremonial puck drop along with distinguished members of the Canadian Forces. All members of the Canadian Forces in attendance were invited to the ice for a group photo at the end of the game.
“Our organization has a long-standing and proud connection with the men and women that serve our country and it’s a relationship that continues to grow deeper every year,” said Anselmi. “We’re proud to honour the service and sacrifices of the Canadian Forces – our heroes.”
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. It is also been long-rumoured that the Maple Leafs were named in honour of a World War I regiment.
Last year both Burke and Anselmi, along with Leafs and NHL Alumni, travelled to Afghanistan on a goodwill mission to visit Canada's soldiers. The Stanley Cup accompanied them on the mission.
Earlier this month, the Toronto Raptors also held Canadian Forces Appreciation Night during their game versus the Los Angeles Clippers.