|An emotional Maple Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe tries to collect himself after revealing yesterday that it was his wife's surgery that was at the root of the highly publicized delay in his signing a new contract with the NHL club. (Toronto Sun/Veronica Henri)
AURORA -- With tears welling up in his eyes, a normally steel-faced Bryan McCabe could not hold back his emotions any longer.
His voice cracking, the Maple Leafs defenceman excused himself from the media throng on the patio at King Valley Golf Club and turned away from the cameras and microphones.
Then came a moment you had to see to believe.
Bryan McCabe broke down and started weeping. This is not a man who normally cries. Whether he gets a high stick in the face or takes a slap shot on the foot, he always seems to keep his composure no matter how severe the pain.
Perhaps the world now will understand the personal hell he has been going through.
For the past month, McCabe was forced to listen to the wild speculation rippling through Toronto concerning his delay in signing the Leafs' five-year, $28.75-million US contract offer.
There were suggestions his wife, Roberta, did not want to leave Long Island, where her family is based.
There were reports McCabe had changed his mind about the deal, which he first agreed to on May 31, and was going to wait until free agency opened tomorrow to see if the Islanders or Rangers were interested.
All the while, McCabe and Leafs general manager John Ferguson were among the few who knew the real story.
"(Roberta) was scheduled to undergo major surgery June 22 and I didn't feel it was appropriate (to sign) until I knew everything was in order," McCabe said, struggling to maintain his composure. "So I put it on hold.
"Meanwhile, all these reports going around were erroneous and disappointing. No one knows what my family has gone through recently, but at least my wife is on the road to recovery.
"It's very difficult to deal with these issues while your family is being ripped in the press."
Roberta McCabe's health issues surfaced nine months ago during the birth of the couple's daughter, Stevie.
Complications from the birth forced Roberta to use a walker for the next three months, McCabe said yesterday. Now he hopes the worst is behind them.
"Everyone took hits in the media while this was going on, even (Ferguson) and my agent (Jeff Solomon)," McCabe said.
"But it had nothing to do with them. At least now we can go forward. I'm very happy with this deal. The biggest part of it is the no-move clause because if I signed here, I wanted to stay here."
Solomon praised Ferguson yesterday for exhibiting compassion and patience while McCabe ironed out his family issues.
At the conclusion of the news conference, McCabe headed back to Long Island to be with his family.
But before leaving King Valley -- site of the Leafs' alumni golf tournament -- he offered his two cents concerning a potential deal that could land stud defenceman Chris Pronger in Toronto.
"Obviously (Pronger) is one of the top players in the league," McCabe said.
"But I love (Tomas Kaberle). I wouldn't get rid of Kabby for the world."