Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A First Leaf Game

The first time I saw the Maple Leafs play live was in April 1977. They tied the Sabres 1-1. I sat in the greens near centre ice. My father wore a tie.

It was the first time I’d been in Maple Leaf Gardens and my dad must have taken me down early as we had enough time to wander around the ground level to look at all the old photos of the Leafs. Teeder Kennedy and the Queen. George Armstrong embracing the Cup.

My dad was a big Dave Keon fan and I’m sure he pointed out a few photos of #14, but Keon to me was a foreign entity, a guy with a big moustache who played in the WHA. I was so Leaf obsessed that Keon might as well have been a cricket player.

I’d like to think I remember the startling site of the bright white ice that you could glimpse through the doors in the reds or the size of the score clock hanging over centre ice. I certainly remember the skinny stuttering single file escalators with their crenulated round tube-like handles that took you up from the golds through the reds and into the greens. I doubt those memories came from that first game but they’re certainly something I still carry with me.

I do know we were in our seats for the warm up. So many pucks on the ice, the silence of shots hitting mesh, maybe a little Jimmy Holstrom on the organ.

I don’t recall much about the game. I have no idea who scored, who started in net or who carried the play. I can picture the Sabres in their road blues and the Leafs in their beautiful home whites with those giant silver TV lights shining down…

Tonight, I’m taking my six year old daughter to her very first Leaf game.

We’ve been to the ACC for the Leafs skills competition and a Raptors game, but somehow those events don’t carry the same weight. They don’t seem like milestones in the life of a Toronto kid.

I won’t be wearing a tie, but we will get down to the rink early. I’ll show her pictures of Sittler and Salming; hopefully I’ll be able to find one of Palmateer, my favourite boyhood Leaf. If there’s one of Keon, I’ll be sure to point him out too. Her grandfather might like that. I know she’ll look for one of Mats Sundin, who remains her favourite Leaf.

We’ll take the thoroughly modern and boring escalators up to the Purples in time to watch the warm-up.

I don’t know if she’ll manage to stay-awake for the whole game, I don't even think that matters. I do hope the night creates a strong memory or two that she’ll carry with her the way I carry that memory of a long ago night in a hockey rink, sitting in the greens with my dad.


  1. There's something in my eye.

  2. Just read this article on why Leafs fans have reason to be optimistic next year. Pretty good.


  3. Awesome. Have fun tonight.

  4. Beautiful. With any luck you'll be able to celebrate your first Cup win together soon. I mean, as in 5 years or so.

  5. Enjoy the game with your daughter :)

  6. Thank goodness you don't have to explain the trough in the bathroom. Hope it's a good game tonight.