, the hard-nosed and hard-working former captain of the Tampa Bay Lighting, thought retirement was going to be all about snowboarding, skiing, summers at the cottage by the lake and various other long vacations.
"Turns out that's not the case when you have two children playing travel hockey," Taylor said of retiring back home to Stratford, Ontario. "The first year of retirement was easy. I really liked it. Then, the city got a new rink. My daughter, Brittany, 15, and my son, Wyatt, 12, are both playing. My wife, Jodi, and I forgot how much moms and dads travel in hockey. We left our house in Tampa closed up for a year, thinking we'd get back there for some vacation. No chance!
"We bought seven acres in our hometown of Stratford in 2001 because our dream was to build our own house so we could give our kids the opportunity we had, to grow up in a small town and be around their grandparents. Jodi's parents had moved four hours away, but they moved back to be able to watch the kids grow up."
Taylor says there's an awful lot to like about Stratford, but he always felt frustrated in trying to describe his hometown to others. Now, the CBC is going to help him do it. And, he's helping the CBC get the word out.
Stratford has been chosen to be the host city for the 2010 Tim Horton
's Hockey Day In Canada this Saturday. The CBC will broadcast 13 1/2 hours of hockey, including three NHL games between Canadian teams. Hosts Ron MacLean and Don Cherry
will anchor the broadcast from the Allman Arena in Stratford, where youth-hockey games will be played from 6 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. ET.
"The CBC has a process and they announced last year that the host city would be from Ontario," Taylor said. "Our steering committee, the mayor, me and five other people, put together a package that blew the CBC away. We are the biggest city so far to host Hockey Day In Canada. It's usually a town of 4,000 people or so but we're 32,000 people and only about an hour and 15 minutes from Toronto.
"That means the executives from CBC and Tim Horton
's and their sponsors can get here. We added a couple of extra days. We had the alumni game on Tuesday and a Randy Bachman concert on Wednesday. We have clinics and school visits every day this week. Kevin Weekes
was the MC at the schools on Wednesday and Ron MacLean will MC on Thursday. We've got Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Wendel Clark
and Steve Miller, a Stratford native who was a linesman for over 600 NHL games, helping with that. The schools were thrilled to have the speakers and we'll do that through Friday."
Taylor said they knew they had a lot of work to do, but Mayor Dan Mathieson delegated responsibilities through committees and things have gone smoothly.
"The mayor is a young guy with a great attitude and ideas and the city has thrived from that," Taylor said. "He and John Kastner, the editor of the Beacon Herald went to Campbelltown last year and put Stratford's name out there. They went to let the CBC know about us and to learn the ins and outs of how to get it. Michelle Smibert works at City Hall and she brought all the city people together. When it came time for media relations, she got Stratford's name out there.
"Everyone is jumpy and excited about this day. Starting from nine, 10 months ago, when we found out we would celebrate this day with CBC and Tim Horton
's, it was so far away, at a distance, it was hard to think about it, but with it fast approaching, with all the meetings, the process of getting volunteers, people are so excited.
"We had 2,400 people Tuesday night at the alumni game and there were hundreds on the waiting list. It was a great night and the buzz around the city is pretty incredible. Ted Lindsay
and Nick Libett -- he's from Stratford and played a long time with the Red Wings -- were the coaches. Sean Burke
was here. Ed Mio was in net. We had Doug Brown, Darren McCarty
, Joe Kocur
, John Ogrodnick
, Mike Krushelnyski
, Gary Leeman
, Mike Johnson
, Todd Harvey
, Rick Vaive and Dennis Maruk
. It was great to see that kind of support from NHL players. They couldn't tell me enough good things about how impressed they were with the game and with the fans."
Stratford has a great hockey tradition. Howie Morenz
, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Montreal Canadiens
and a three-time NHL MVP, was born in nearby Mitchell and played in Stratford, hence the name, "the Stratford Streak." In 1950, the Canadian Press named him the best hockey player of the first half of the 20th Century.
"Every road into Mitchell has a sign celebrating Howie Morenz
," Taylor said. "My fondest memories as a kid were playing road hockey with my brothers. I loved the NHL, but my biggest thing was to play for my hometown and the fans here. I wanted to play at the big rink, the Allman. Once I made the All-Star team, it was a big deal to play at the Allman in front of my friends and my family. I was fortunate to grow up next a rink and I was there every day. Hockey is everything to the people of this city. There's a long history of players coming from here going to the NHL, like Morenz, Libett, me and Craig Hartsburg
"A lot of players come from all over North America to play for the Stratford Cullitons Junior B team, like Nelson Emerson
, Rob Blake
and Louie DeBrusk
. I think 26 Cullitons have made the NHL, including me.
"Friday night at the Allman gets 1,000-1,500 fans consistently to see the Cullitons. They have their own dressing room and supplies. Not too many franchises do as much or have as much history as the Cullitons. They're down in the standings this year, but most years, it's unusual to see them have more than two or three losses. Two when I played there. We got used to Waterloo and Stratford playing for the championship. It's an organization that demands success. They thrive on it and the people expect it."
Taylor, who won the Stanley Cup with the 1997 Red Wings and 2004 Lightning, was long known as a "character guy" in the NHL, a player you could count on for his best effort, a supporter of teammates, someone who instintively did the right things. He said Stratford had a hand in that, along with his family.
"You are a product of your environment and coming from a blue-collar city like Stratford shaped me," Taylor said. "We're just blue-collar people who grew up loving hockey."