TORONTO - The Toronto Maple Leafs celebrated their 75th anniversary on Saturday night but the event turned somber after Art Jackson, who was representing his uncle Busher Jackson as one of the team's Top 25 players of all-time, passed away during the pregame ceremony.
The 78-year-old Jackson collapsed, suffering a massive heart attack, as he about to walk the carpet to center ice from the Leafs' bench. Medical staff worked furiously to resuscitate the man for nearly 25 minutes as the ceremony continued.
In the end there was nothing that could be done. There was some doubt as too whether the game would be played because of the unfortunate circumstances. The decision was made to continue the night and puck dropped about 35 minutes after the incident occurred.
| Shayne Corson played a physical game against the Sabres. |
Graig Abel Photography
"We are very saddened by the passing of Art Jackson. There has been a long association between the Jackson family and the Toronto Maple Leafs. We hope the family finds the peace and strength they will need in the days ahead," Leafs president Ken Dryden said in a statement released to the media.
Many players had trouble focusing. The Leafs dressing room was quiet before they embarked on what would turn out to be a 3-3 tie with the Buffalo Sabres.
"It was just a quiet room and I explained to the players who it was and we tried to play the game," head coach Pat Quinn said. "It puts a damper on the celebrations today."
Mats Sundin scored two goals, bringing his total to 33 on the year. Sundin's and everyone else's play picked up once emotions of the game put the disturbing situation out of their heads.
"We saw them fighting for this man's life on the bench," Sundin said before talking about what it was like in the Leafs room. "The dressing room was quiet, we were just trying to play a game here and it certainly put everything into perspective."
A 15-minute stoppage brought the game to a halt for the second time when Chris Gratton let a slapshot go that tipped off Corey Schwab's glove and broke the glass directly behind Toronto's net.
"It was a fairly spirited game despite a lot of distractions tonight," Quinn said. "I don't know if the delays effected the game or not, there's nothing you can do about anything that happened."
Penalties helped keep the players on their toes. The Sabres were 2-for-6 with the man advantage while the Leafs were 2-for-5. Travis Green was given a five-minute major for checking from behind in the second. He was tossed for the infraction.
"There were so many penalties. That might be as bad as I've ever seen it (officiating)," said Quinn, who also compared the game's referees to the officials that worked the Canadian women's gold-medal game at the Olympics. In that game Canada faced eight consecutive penalties.
Corey Schwab did an admirable job between the pipes after letting in three goals on his first six shots in Friday's loss to the New Jersey Devils. He made key stops - 23 in total-- in the third to help save the point.
"It was a tough game to stay mentally into it," Schwab said "I felt better than I did the night before. I'm starting to bear down and will hopefully be better next time.
Next time for Schwab will be Monday night when the Leafs start a four-game road trip in Washington. NOTES:
Wade Belak was a late scratch when he fell violently ill. The Leafs will probably bring up a skater to ensure they aren't shorthanded ... Gary Roberts scored the Leafs' other marker. It was the team's eighth short-handed goal of the year.