Hockey Legends

of Grande Prairie

Have we had enough  Phaneuf Yet?

Yesterday a flood of texts and emails filled cyberspace destined for my Inbox. I figured they might be invitations to lunch. Not so. Most were sarcastic comments about the Dion Phaneuf trade. You can only imagine.

This made me think back to the game my son, Chuck and I attended at the old Maple Leaf Gardens. I’m reminded that Leafs won the Stanley Cup 11 times  from 1932 to 1967 in that legendary building. I even had dinner with my son in the famous hot stove lounge. I’ve been to Rexall Place twice in the last few years to watch the Leafs and Phaneuf perform in front of a sea of blue and white with mostly Toronto fans chanting “Go Leafs go.”

Ok - I'm a  loyal Leafs fan. I had the Leafs logo on my diapers growing up. Growing up it was  either the Leafs or Habs. For road hockey you had to choose one team name or the other. For me it was a no brainer. Think about it.  NHL stars like Bobby Baun, Tim Horton, Johnny Bower…ice heros all! 

Not everything went smoothly growing up as a Leafs fan. When I registered for the first ever organized minor hockey at the Flats in 1960, almost half a century ago I thought I had an “in” with GPHM commissioner Roy Peterson. We were neighbours so made it known that I wanted to be signed up with the Leafs. Roy remained unmoved and for that entire season I had to wear a Habs uniform and played against my favourite team. To add insult to injury, I even had to pay 50 cents that first season - to wear a Habs jersey. 

There are certainly ups and downs being a loyal Leafs fan.  I admit it - this  year has been a tough season. I’ve had to buy my two Hab fan friends Marty Tingstad and John Lehners numerous lost-bet lunches. The Food was good but the company and conversation was painful. I have a Leafs Zamboni piggy bank-saving up for the Leafs run to the Stanley cup. One problem is company like Marty and John refuse to contribute to my fund raising campaign. In fairness they did give me a Leafs mug and picnic Leafs  lawn chair for Christmas. This chair will go very well with my Leafs fire pit that sits in my back yard thanks to Darren Cruse who even welded on names of a few of my old time favourites like Bower, Dave Keon and Darryl Sittler.

Dion Phaneuf
Now back to Dion Phaneuf. I've got his stick and sweater, both signed. On the guest list to visit the NHL stars behind closed doors. I’ve met Dion at Rexall Place twice after games. My last visit was thanks to my two lifelong pals Dave and Danny Johnson. Now that Dion has been traded to the conference rival Ottawa Senators does this increase or decrease the value of these items signed by Dion himself? According to one of my other friends Jay Smith, former mayor Rob Ford's tie has more sweat on it and worth more than anything  Phaneuf has signed.

What happens to my Leafs heading forward?  Well-my team is rebuilding. Now that we have another draft pick in 2017 and a bulging bank account things are looking up. We don’t have to retain Dion’s salary like we do for Phil Kessel which  certainly improves our cap position. Along with the draft pick in 2017 let’s not forget the five Leafs prospects who represented their respective countries at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships - the likes of Mitch Marner, Travis Dermott, William Nylander, Dmytro Timashov and Kasperi Kapanen. The trade wasn’t meant to better the Leafs for today but when boss Lou Lamoriello and coach Mike Babcock complete their long term plan for a run at the cup in a few years Marty and John will be buying me a lot of lunches. 

Bring it on - maybe even see hometown boy Steven Stamkos in blue and white. But Leafs could be blowing in the wind with more changes every day as management rebuilds this legendary team.

And by the way - I watched #2 in his debut with the Senators tonight.

Stan Neufeld