Wednesday, 13 August 2014

A Statue That Means More

It was announced today that the Toronto Maple Leafs are planning to introduce three statues outside the Air Canada Centre to honor former greats who have worn the blue-and-white of the Maple Leafs. While there would be many names to choose from based on their lengthy history as an NHL team, the three statues pictured to the left are probably the best representation of the three greatest Leaf players of which I can think (ZING!). In all seriousness, though, it got me thinking as to who should appear as one of the Leafs' honoured men, so let's take this one to task.

Through the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs, there have been a number of players who deserve to be honoured. Whether it be because of their point totals while wearing the blue-and-white, the awards and accolades they brought to the team, or the longevity of their careers as a member of the Maple Leafs, I can count at least a dozen player who deserve a shot at being immortalized.

Personally, the first men who should be honoured are the more memorable captains of the team. These are men who not only were beloved by the fans, but carried the torch for the Maple Leafs throughout their eras, holding the light high for all to follow. Three stand out in their eras, but one of these three men should be absolutely be honoured after having been slighted for many years.

Personally, Darryl Sittler and Doug Gilmour deserve two of the three first statues. Gilmour was the man that most ticket-buying Leaf fans grew up with, and there was no doubting that the heart-and-soul of the 1990-era Leafs saw his number worn on the backs of many fans during his time in Toronto. Sittler, who still holds the NHL record for the most points in one game, was the one of the few bright spots in the Toronto Maple Leafs' lineup during the dark Harold Ballard years. Sittler is still one of the few Leafs that people talk proudly about from that era, and his best years came in the blue-and-white uniform.

Those two men would see their statues unveiled as the second and third statues in the series, though. One man, though, should be honoured first. He's still the last captain to lead the Maple Leafs to a Stanley Cup, and he's last Maple Leaf to have won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He should be, in this writer's opinion, the first man to have his likeness in bronze.

Dave Keon should be a legend in the Maple Leafs community. He is a four-time Stanley Cup winner with the Leafs, and he did earn the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1967. He's the last Maple Leaf to win the Calder Trophy in 1960-61, and won back-to-back Lady Byng Trophies between 1961 and 1963. Keon was a different player in the expansion era in that he played the game hard without being violent, and it was hard work, dogged determination, and a nose for the net that put Keon in the Leafs' lineup originally.

"I think Keon was the most complete hockey player," author and rock star Dave Bidini told Michael Enright, the host of The Sunday Edition. "Harry Neale told me that if you were down by a goal, he was the player you most wanted out on the ice to score. If you were up by a goal, he was the player you most wanted out on the ice to protect the lead. He played a very tough, fierce game, but an honourable game."

It's true that Bidini is a fan of Keon, but the truth remains that Dave Keon has been in self-imposed exile from all things Maple Leaf for a long, long time after he and Harold Ballard found themselves at odds in 1975. Keon left the team after Ballard had publicly denigrated his star, and he landed in the WHA after Ballard set the price for a trade for Keon at an insanely high price. Essentially, Ballard forced Keon out of the NHL by preventing him from moving to another team after Ballard publicly humiliated the star.

Tim Leiweke has a chance to right a major wrong in the team's timeline. By honouring Keon, he can begin rebuilding a bridge that was burned and destroyed decades ago. Keon deserves to be honoured for the years of service he put in wearing the blue-and-white, and the current regime at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment can take the first step by showing how much they respect his efforts.

Make it right, MLSE. Name Dave Keon as your first statue.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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