From The Star
Who should be next to get the bronze-statue treatment on Legends Row outside the Air Canada Centre? Frank Mahovlich, Red Kelly, Charlie Conacher, Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark?
Leaf historian Paul Patskou said that Kelly’s name doesn’t often come up in these kinds of discussions, but he was undeniably a “great superstar.” He added that Gilmour and Clark are slam dunks despite falling short on championships.
“They were special players,” Patskou said.
The 15-member Leafs historical committee makes such determinations after meeting regularly and will make their next selections in 2017.
Patskou thinks there are two no-brainer inductees: Mahovlich and Conacher.
“Mahovlich is the biggest name. That’s an obvious one,” Patskou said. “As far as the superstars go, Charlie Conacher would be the other guy.”
Author and hockey historian Eric Zweig suggests Conacher has to be No. 1 on the next ballot.
“He was the Leafs’ biggest star in the era when they became a national institution,” Zweig said. “When it comes right down to it, he’s one of the only Leafs in team history that you can argue that, during his prime, he may have been the best player in the NHL.”
The Legends Row group has grown to 10 following the inductions of Dave Keon, Turk Broda and Tim Horton on the weekend. They join Syl Apps, Ted Kennedy, Johnny Bower, George Armstrong, Borje Salming, Darryl Sittler and Mats Sundin.
“We’ve looked at the past players and all their great statistics,” Hosford said, “and we’ve tried to mix in some players, like the Mats Sundins of the world so that we’re bringing a little flavour for current fans too.”
There is no cap on the number of inductees.
“We want this to be . . . something that the present players will aspire to in their career,” Hosford said.
“You can’t compete with Bower and Broda,” Patskou said.
If non-players are considered, Zweig would cast a vote for builders like Conn Smythe and Punch Imlach. He believes Hap Day might be the most important personality in Leafs history, although “borderline” as a player. “His front-office experience makes him hard to ignore.”
Zweig believes a “cool choice” would be legendary radio broadcaster Foster Hewitt. “It’s radio that really made the Leafs the national institution in the 1930s,” Zweig said. “Radio made them crazy popular and Foster was the guy that did that.”
How about a wild-card entry? Should we clear the track for Eddie Shack?
“He was a better player than people give him credit for,” Patskou said with a laugh when the idea was floated to him.
Reached at home for reaction, The Entertainer was amused but unconvinced.
“Why the hell would they want me for? I’m too old now. I’m 79 years old. Can you imagine my nose being in bronze? Jeeeez.”
Here are a few of the deserving candidates:
In 1957-58, the Big M was the NHL’s top rookie after a 20-goal season. In 1960–61, he scored 48 goals — a Leaf record that stood for 21 years. He won four Stanley Cups with Toronto.
He won four Cups with the Leafs as a defenceman-turned-forward. Kelly won his fourth Lady Byng Award as the league’s most gentlemanly player in 1961 with Toronto.
At 18, he played on the Kid Line with Busher Jackson, 18, and Joe Primeau, 23. He led the NHL five times in goals, and twice led in overall scoring.
At just five-foot-seven and 150 pounds, he led the Leafs to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title in 1932 and was a first-team all-star in 1931 and 1934.
Jackson led the league in scoring in 1931-32 and was member of Toronto’s 1932 Stanley Cup team. He was named to five NHL all-star teams.
Played eight years in Toronto. In 1928-29, he was the leading NHL scorer with 22 goals and 32 points — his first of three straight 20-goal seasons.
Played six seasons with the Leafs, including 1992-93 when he set a franchise record with 127 points. A scrappy player, he led the Leafs to back-to-back conference final appearances.
The rugged forward scored 34 goals in his first full season in 1985-1986. In the 1992-93 playoffs, Clark was at his best, scoring a hat trick in Game 6 of the conference final against L.A.