Mob backs Leafs

JOE WARMINGTON -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:23 AM ET

 Who knew the Maple Leafs had the mob on their side?

 It turned out Donald Brashear wasn't the only thug in the house last night.

  Yes, this guy is even tougher than the penalty-box man Chris Falcone, who was on hand courtesy of Tie Domi.

 When it comes to being called Uncle Junior -- famous for being the kingpin of TV's Soprano Mafia family -- it's all right by Dominic Chianese. "I love it," the actor said last night at the Hangar. "And I love the Maple Leafs."

 So don't be messing with us, Mr. Bettman. The boys from New Jersey may come calling. How many teams can say they have the Dalai Lama and the Soprano family wishing them well?

 Chianese is in town, filming a movie, and called CTV boss Ivan Fecan in the afternoon about coming to see the game.

 He was sitting along the glass, so it must have been strange for Jeremy Roenick and the boys seeing Uncle Junior cheering against them. It wasn't a hard decision for Chianese.

 "I filmed the movie Gotti here," he said. "Toronto has been very good to me."

 See you at the Stanley Cup parade, Uncle Junior.

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 Man, is this playoff time of year awesome. And what a week at the Royal York. Not only has the hotel had Prince Philip in, the Dalai Lama and the Philadelphia Flyers, but it has also been home to Hollywood star and spiritual Buddhist Richard Gere.

 This picture, provided to Scrawler exclusively by B.B. Authenticated, shows him posing with Toronto's own Billy Rosemberg. Gere may not have realized it, but Billy is a star in his own right here in Canada. The young actor is the voice of Jacob on the YTV animated show Jacob-Two-Two.

 Who knows what will happen -- maybe one day they'll even make a movie together.

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 One of the neat things about hockey players is they are normally so accessible to the fans.

 And even though they are the enemy, hats off to the Philadelphia Flyers, who have been terrific about signing and posing for pictures for fans and autograph hounds.

 Even Bobby Clarke was willing.

 Flyers goalie Robert Esche may be under the most pressure, but seems like a nice guy, and the absolute best is none other than Jeremy Roenick, who walks around town carrying a coffee and signs everything for everybody. Note to Vince Carter: This is how a professional does things.

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 Speaking of professionals, I was pleased to run into Kelly Hrudey at the game last night. On the nights when Don Cherry's not on, Kelly does a terrific job of the first-period intermission. Either Kelly or TSN's Pierre Maguire would definitely be candidates to replace Grapes should he not be on Hockey Night in Canada next season -- although I don't think either guy would want to be put in that hot seat. They are too good at what they do already to be put in that position.

 I still don't think the CBC will dust Don. He's just too important to the show and to Canada. One person approached me at the game with a terrific idea. "The CBC has this Greatest Canadian Contest going right now," he said. "Why doesn't everybody vote for Grapes.That would show em'."

 I like that one. Go for it.

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 And last but not least, a number of former Leaf players asked me to put a little thing in on former Leaf great Sid Smith, who died this week and was missed up in the alumni box. As Harry Neale said so well, "He was a good hockey player but even a better person."

 Tomorrow afternoon is a big game. I'll bet Sid Smith will be up there rooting for the buds.

 Enjoy the game. Have a good weekend everybody. Scrawler out.


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