The love-in for Mark Messier, whose No. 11 was retired last night by the New York Rangers, stretched inside the Maple Leafs dressing room.
"He was a guy I grew up wanting to be like," forward Eric Lindros said. "For my 16th birthday I got an autographed stick which he signed: 'See you soon.'
"I had the opportunity to play with Mark for three years (with the Rangers). It was fun."
Tie Domi recalled an incident in which Messier told him to cut out the hot dog antics. Both were with the Rangers at the time and Messier didn't appreciate the way Domi rode his stick, a la Tiger Williams, after scoring a goal.
"He told me such actions were disrespectful to the game and those who played it," Domi said."He taught me a lot."
Pat Quinn never came closer to winning a Stanley Cup than in 1994 when his Vancouver Canucks lost to Messier's Rangers in a seven-game final.
"He was such a part of the (Rangers) mystique that year," Quinn said.
"I remember when I was coaching in L.A. and he was with the Oilers. We concentrated on smothering (Wayne) Gretzky's line but, unfortunately, Messier's line stepped up."
GOING, GOING, GONE?
Call it the Curse of the former Leafs.
Both the New Jersey Devils' Alex Mogilny and Dave Andreychuk of the Tampa Bay Lightning were placed on waivers in the past week, causing a buzz throughout the Leafs dressing room.
"When Dave left Toronto we thought he was done and that was almost a decade ago," Domi said. "As for Almo, he's had some health problems with (his ailing hip and back)."
Wade Belak knows how tough Coventry hockey fans can be. Belak played for the England-based team during the lockout, so he wasn't surprised at hearing how the crowd recently heckled Theo Fleury, who plays for the Belfast Giants .
"My younger brother Graham plays for Coventry and told me about it," Wade said. "The fans were saying things like: 'The lines on the ice are the first lines Theo has seen since the ones he put up his nose.' It was so bad, they had a cab waiting for him at the end of the second period."