Joe Nieuwendyk and I were discussing it out on the ice as we were waiting for the ceremonial faceoff. Once you get out on the ice again and hear the crowd like we did on Saturday, you start to remember how you took all that time on the ice for granted. Itís just the aura. Itís something you canít replace.
It was incredible to meet all those greats on the Air Canada Centre ice like Howe, Salming, so many.
But most of all, I want to pass on my appreciation to the crowd. Your reception was incredible.
Then again, I wouldnít expect anything else from Leaf fans.
YES, GRETZKY THE GREATEST
Of all the guys I faced, Wayne Gretzky definitely was the best I ever played against. And the hardest.
I learned that the hard way.
When I first entered the NHL with the St. Louis Blues, coach Jacques Demers put me in a defensive role. The first time we faced No. 99, coach Demers told me that if Gretzky went to the bathroom, I was to follow him in there.
I remember we were beating them 5-2 when, all of a sudden, they picked it up. I recall people saying he wasnít the fastest guy, but they didnít have to play against him. He was plenty fast.
At one point, he started skating in circles. He did three of them. Each time I followed him. Finally I had to stop. Why? Because I was dizzy. Wayne had left me that way.
Of course, Iím not the only opponent whose head was left spinning by The Great One over the years.
WAITING FOR YOU, BURNSIE
One day, Iím confident Pat Burns will be in the Hockey Hall of Fame along with myself and so many others whose lives he touched so significantly.
He deserves it.
During my induction speech on Monday, I will definitely acknowledge Burnsie. Like many others, I miss him.
Burnsie was all business. If we lost badly, there were times heíd make players stay in front of their lockers. In his mind, if he had to face the press after a loss like that, so did we.
Before he tragically passed away from cancer, he attended ground-breaking ceremonies for the soon-to-be-built Pat Burns Arena in Stanstead, Que., in October of 2010. He had no idea that a number of those who had played for him, including myself and Guy Carbonneau, were there to see him.
He was really surprised. He had photos taken with us. And in typical Burnsie manner, with reports having surfaced that he had died weeks earlier, he told reporters: ďIím still alive.Ē
Rest in peace, Burnsie. Hereís hoping you join us in the Hall one day. I know youíll be there with me on Monday.
AND FINALLY, A WORD FROM CUJO
Itís been 18 years since Doug Gilmour scored the famous wraparound goal people always remind me about.
In that time, our lives continue to be intertwined.
In fact, we each had a son who played together on the same minor hockey team for a time, a team coached by the late Peter Zezel.
Even today, our paths frequently cross. I am the goaltending coach of the Kingston Frontenacs, the Ontario Hockey League team that Doug is the general manager of.
Given our history, I just want to take time out to extend my hand to Doug for being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. From my point of view, the honour is both well-earned and well-deserved.
As a player, I mostly remember Doug in his Toronto days playing alongside the likes of Wendel Clark and Dave Andreychuk. I was with St. Louis at the time, so we faced each other a lot back in the days of those Norris Division showdowns.
One of the things I remember most about Doug is that when he came over the blue line, it was like he had the puck on a string. He was fast. He was determined. And he was dogged. He never let up.
Of course, everyone wants to bring up the goal he scored in double overtime in the opening game of the second-round series between the Blues and Leafs in 1993.
To be honest, I was reading off my defenceman a bit while Doug was shifting back and forth behind the net, trying to get a hint of which way he might go. If I recall correctly, I believe it was Bret Hedican. I think Doug sucked us both in a bit.
I have no regrets about the way I played in that series. Dougís goal, which gave the Leafs a 2-1 victory, was the 63rd shot I faced in that game. We ended up winning Game 2 in double overtime by the same 2-1 score. I ended up facing 121 shots in those first two games and ended up stopping 118 of them. Thatís a lot of rubber.
I really wish we had won that series, though. They ended up beating us in seven. I know I left it all on the ice in that series, just like Doug did.
Doug was at his best at that time. Maybe he wasnít the biggest guy, but you canít measure a guyís heart. And he had a huge one. No wonder he was so popular during his days with the Leafs.
I know what makes Leaf fans tick. They appreciate guys who play hard every night, guys who are always determined, guys who play through injury.
That was Doug, for you.
Congratulations Doug. Itís official. You are now a Hall of Famer.
ó Curtis Joseph