After an extended and heartfelt pre-game reception from a packed crowd at Air Canada Centre Saturday, Maple Leafs legend Dave Keon and the families of late Leafs stars Tim Horton and Turk Broda spoke of the news announced this week – namely, that all three franchise icons would have a statue of their likeness placed on Legends Row – and their gratitude for it.
“I’m very pleased to be here tonight to be part of the next group (of players on) Legends Row,” said Keon, a Hockey Hall-of-Famer and one of the most accomplished and dynamic players in franchise history. “It’s a great honour and I’m very happy.”
The statues will be unveiled in October, and bring the number of honoured players on Legends Row to 10. And the the children of Broda and Horton were radiating pride as they described their father, and what it meant to have them celebrated in such a permanent manner.
“The (family) name is pretty famous right now because of the (food) chain that’s in his name – that was his job-to-be after he retired from the game – (but) the game was his life,” said Jeri Horton-Joyce, Horton’s daughter. “He loved hockey. Tonight is a very, very, very great honour.”
“He was everybody’s friend, he loved the game of hockey,” added Broda’s daughter, Barb Tushingham. “He’d talk hockey forever after he’d come home from a game. He loved playing for the Maple Leafs. He was just a great guy.”
Leafs president Brendan Shanahan believes it’s important for the organization to acknowledge and pay tribute to the heroes of yesterday, and that Legends Row is a wonderful way to do so.
“We want to make sure that our on-ice product and the team that we ice is a the team that not only honours our history, but certainly something that we're proud of today. I think it's just as important that our alumni feel part of the family, Shanahan said. “We think Legends Row is a great idea, because it’s not just honouring one player, it’s honouring a group of players, teammates and teammates from different generations.
“We certainly want to be best in class when it comes to taking care of our alumni.”
For Keon – who won four Stanley Cups in 15 seasons with the Leafs – coming back to Toronto and participating in the Legends Row process was something he was pleased to do. Asked to recall what it was like living and playing in the city during the team’s most recent Golden Age, he said players were beloved by fans.
“It was a great place to live,” Keon said of Toronto. “Fans thought a great deal of us, we wanted to produce and carry on what had been done in the 40s and 50s. Fans were great, they treated us great, and they supported us all the time.”