Words have a ring of truth

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:28 PM ET


 Like so many kids growing up in southern Ontario, Whitby's Joe Nieuwendyk sometimes would close his eyes and dream of the Stanley Cup coming to Toronto.

 Three decades and three rings later, he still does.

 "We've even talked as players what (a Stanley Cup) would mean to the city and the excitement it would create," Nieuwendyk said. "I certainly hope it happens. I'd like to see it just to witness it. That's the goal."

 Think about it. Millions of jubilant fans pouring into the streets. A victory parade down Bay St. A party that might never end. A place in Toronto history.

 For the past 37 years, Maple Leafs fans have fantasized about such a moment. What else could they do? Toronto has not won hockey's most coveted prize since 1967, much to the glee of many snickering Habs fans out there.

 Don't be fooled. The drought bothers the players, the coaches and especially rookie general manager John Ferguson Jr., who attempted to do something about it.

 By bringing in Nieuwendyk, Brian Leetch and Ron Francis during his short tenure at the helm of the Leafs, Ferguson added three future Hall of Famers who have a combined six Stanley Cup rings.

 Three of those belong to Nieuwendyk, who can put his name into the record book by becoming the first player to win the Cup with four different teams. That the fourth potentially would come as a Leaf -- the team he lived and died with growing up -- is a scenario he longs to play out.

 "It's something I could say was an accomplishment that was in stone or concrete and you could look at when all is said and done," he said. "I'm going to enjoy my career either way, but that's something that would really top it off nicely.

 "To me it's the greatest feeling in sports, the greatest accomplishment in sports, the greatest trophy in sports."

 Nieuwendyk's exploits with the Cup have been colourful, to say the least.

 He hoisted it over his head as a 22-year-old with the Calgary Flames.

 Ten years later he celebrated his championship with the Dallas Stars by lugging it to North End Burger -- a hangout during his younger days in Whitby -- where he filled the Cup with gravy, then dipped french fries in it.

 After winning it as a New Jersey Devil, he brought the mug to a charity hockey game in upstate New York last summer to help raise funds for a seriously injured friend.

 Is the top of the CN Tower the Cup's next destination? Nieuwendyk won't speculate on such things. That's much too far down the road. Just getting past the Ottawa Senators in the first round is enough of a daunting task.

 Nieuwendyk's resume has made him a highly respected figure among his teammates. To that end, he played a significant role in having newspapers banned from the dressing room in order to limit outside distractions.

 "He is a winner," forward Tom Fitzgerald said. "He knows how to win, he knows the ingredients, he knows the dedication and the determination, and he knows the (horsebleep) that does not need to be in the locker room. He has brought all that knowledge with him and he has laid it out to us. It has worked for him.

 "It's ingredients that in the past we have got away with, from newspaper clippings to gamesheets. Those are individual things and you would look to see how you did. It's not about how you did. It's about how the team did. There is no need for those sheets. No need to read articles."


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