It was a picture-perfect, crisp Fall afternoon Thursday in Toronto - ideal weather to be talking about the sport that courses through the city's veins year-round, and ideal weather for the Maple Leafs to add three franchise icons - former captain Dave Keon, defenceman Tim Horton, and goaltender Turk Broda - to the Legends Row exhibit outside Air Canada Centre.
With a slew of organization members on hand - including Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, GM Lou Lamoriello and head coach Mike Babcock, as well as team stars such as Darryl Sittler and Wendel Clark - the Leafs unveiled life-sized bronze statues of Keon, Broda and Horton on Legends Row, bringing to 10 the number of players to receive the honour. Members of Horton and Broda's families were in attendance for the ceremony, while the 76-year-old Keon looked resplendent in a bow tie and beaming as he posed beside his likeness and spoke humbly of his thankfulness for the recognition.
"I thank you for making me 29 years old forever," Keon joked, before taking time to list family, friends and colleagues who made an impact on his Hockey Hall of Fame NHL career. The Rouyn-Noranda, Que., native is considered one of the greatest players ever to pull a Leafs sweater over his head, winning four Stanley Cups in his 15 seasons with the team. He also won a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1967, the Calder Trophy as top NHL rookie in 1961, and two Lady Byng Trophies as the league's most sportsmanlike player.
Horton and Broda also made incredible marks on the franchise: Horton also won four Cups in Toronto, and appeared in 486 consecutive regular-season games, setting a team record that stands to this day. Broda, meanwhile, spent the entirety of his 14-year NHL career as a Maple Leaf, leading the franchise to five Cup championships and winning two Vezina Trophies as the league's top netminder.
Those two legends were represented at the ceremony by large family contingents, and one member of each family - Horton's daughter, Jeri-Lyn Horton-Joyce, and Broda's daughter, Bonnie - spoke briefly before the unveiling. They spoke lovingly of their fathers and noted how honoured each man would have been to be included in the exhibit, which can be found at the southwest corner of Air Canada Centre and also features statues of Darryl Sittler, defenceman Borje Salming, and forwards Syl Apps, George Armstrong, Ted Kennedy, and Mats Sundin.
"Legends Row is a tribute to the men who helped make the Toronto Maple Leafs one of the most iconic clubs in sports, but it's also an opportunity to build a strong connection between fans of all ages and that tradition. Adding the names Keon, Broda and Horton to the monument is a thrill for everyone in the organization and generations of Leaf fans."
The ceremony kicked off the Leafs' centennial celebrations - festivities that will last all season long, and that will continue Friday afternoon when Brendan Shanahan helps reveal the list of the 100 greatest players in team history.