TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs' family of immortals grew by three Thursday when players who were as good as gold to the franchise were unveiled in life-size bronze.
Forward Dave Keon, goalie Turk Broda and defenseman Tim Horton were celebrated as the latest members of the Maple Leafs' Legends Row, a pantheon that now numbers 10.
In the dawn of their Centennial Anniversary season, the Maple Leafs held a dinner-hour ceremony in Maple Leaf Square, in the shadow of their Air Canada Centre home, to celebrate three ferocious competitors who were cornerstones of their glory years in the 1940s and 1960s.
Keon, Broda and Horton joined seven previous Legends Row honorees, all cast in bronze: goalie Johnny Bower, defenseman Borje Salming and forwards Ted Kennedy, Darryl Sittler, George Armstrong, Syl Apps, and Mats Sundin.
"Hockey is and always has been a team game," said Keon, 76, a massively popular Hockey Hall of Famer who is back in the Maple Leafs family after an estrangement of nearly four decades. "I'm very grateful to join Legends Row and join this great team that spans many decades. To be recognized in this wonderful tribute for my many years playing with the Leafs is something that I will always cherish."
The ceremony was held under cloudless skies in a temperature of 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit), and that was only fitting -- it was No. 14 that Keon wore with distinction in winning the 1961 Calder Trophy as the NHL's most outstanding rookie, the 1962 and 1963 Lady Byng Trophy as the NHL's most gentlemanly player, and the 1967 Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Broda, a larger-than-life goaltender who won five Stanley Cup titles from 1942-51, and Horton, a hardrock defenseman who played with Keon on all four Stanley Cup winners of the 1960s, each was represented at the ceremony by his daughter. Each spoke eloquently of how her late father would have been overwhelmed by the honor of joining Legends Row.
The celebration of Keon was something truly special. This huge talent in an economy-sized 5-foot-9, 163-pound package was Toronto's captain from 1969 to 1975, played on four Stanley Cup champions between 1962 and 1967, and remains to this day most widely viewed as the quintessential Maple Leafs player, the greatest of the great.
It was the 1962 Stanley Cup that stands out most of all, Keon said in an interview following the ceremony.
"We won four but the first one was best," he said. "It's nice that we had some success. I always think that we left a few Cups on the ice, but we did succeed four times, and it's nice to have been a part of that in the 100 years that have just passed. We took great pride in winning those Cups and making a mark in Maple Leafs history."
Keon singled out fellow players and lifelong friends Dick Duff, who was in attendance, George Armstrong and the late Bert Olmstead as important figures in his life.
Also on hand were a number of Keon's friends and former teammates, including Bower, Sittler, Jim McKenny, Pat Boutette and Johnny McKenzie.
In the front row were Maple Leafs president and alternate governor Brendan Shanahan, general manager Lou Lamoriello, coach Mike Babcock and former Maple Leafs GM Jim Gregory, joined by scores of family members and friends, with jersey-wearing fans, many with No. 14 on their back, looking on from the background.
This was an especially proud moment for Shanahan, who is working diligently to bridge the Maple Leafs' past to what he hopes will be a successful present and future.
For the families, friends and fans gathered, the unveiling of three more Legends Row statues was a perfect way to start the Centennial Anniversary.