Carter knows Leafs Nation

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Anson Carter has played for six National Hockey League teams, but it seems he'll never separate himself from his hometown Maple Leafs.

Though a deal to bring him back as a free agent last summer fell through, perhaps no Canuck was better qualified to discuss the ongoing Leafs phenomenon than the kid who shot tennis balls on ex-Maple Leafs goalie Mike Palmateer on Puma Dr. in Scarborough back in the early 1980s.

"I've played against them in a few cities, in Canada and the U.S. and (the excitement) has always been the case," Carter said yesterday at GM Place. "It's like they have their own travelling fan club. Or the home side turns in their jerseys and brings Leafs sweaters out of the closet. But it adds to the atmosphere, and creates a hostile environment, more of a 50-50 split than 95% for the home team.

"It has been awhile since they won a Cup, but I think (they retain appeal) because they have a great organization, with so much history, like the Canadiens. People are rabid hockey fans in Vancouver, too, but we just haven't won the Cups over the years as they've done in Toronto.

"But it always cracks me up when I hear my friends talk about Leafs Nation. It's like being a Yankees fan. The Leafs have had great teams over the years, they've had 100-plus points, but they weren't able to close the deal."

Carter, now 31, never forgot the kindness that former Leafs goalie Palmateer showed the neighborhood children when he came out to join their street hockey games.

"He let us score on him and I'd go home and think 'Mike Palmateer isn't very good'. So I promised myself if I ever got to the NHL, I'd never let any little kid take the ball away from me and trash talk me to his friends."

Carter did make it to the bigs after being a long shot draft pick of the Quebec Nordiques. He went on to play almost 600 games for Washington, Boston, Edmonton, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and now the Canucks. Talks with the Leafs came too late in the free-agent shopping season to bear fruit.

"I really wanted to go there and the interest was there from them, though we didn't really get into dollars and cents," Carter said.


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