George Armstrong appeared in a record 1,187 games for the Maple Leafs. Fellow Aboriginal Colton Yellow Horn might never play in one.
But Yellow Horn will know more about his chances to at least make the Marlies this weekend as the 19-year-old unsigned forward from the Peigan (Blackfoot) reserve in Brocket, Alta., checks in for the Leaf-hosted four-team rookie tournament.
"Yes, I've heard about Armstrong," an enthusiastic Yellow Horn said. "I've been to Toronto once before (for training camp with the Canadian under-18 team in 2005), but this will be different and I'm very excited. The Leafs invited me to try out and, hopefully, I can play the way that they expect."
Yellow Horn is listed at 5-foot-7, which probably contributed to him being passed up in two National Hockey League drafts. But his playmaking skills and his 75 points in 67 games stood out last season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He placed 12th in Western Hockey League scoring, a year after he was an early cut of the Edmonton Oilers as a training camp walk-on.
"We had scouts watching a lot of his games and he's just one of those guys that makes an impression on you by the end of the night," said Mike Penny, the Leafs' director of player personnel.
"You look at his stats through junior and his name kept popping up in the draft, but he went right through twice. Maybe players his size have it tougher, but he signed our ATO offer (amateur tryout contract) and we'll see what happens."
The Leaf rookies open the tourney at Ricoh Coliseum tonight against the Montreal Canadiens, meet York University tomorrow and wrap up against the Florida Panthers on Monday evening.
Expect plenty of interest back home in Yellow Horn's progress. The 25-goal man is known as the Brocket Rocket and after he was kayoed by a hit from behind into the boards during Canada's loss to Team USA at the world under-18 final in the Czech Republic in April 2005, two buses from the reserve totalling 75 people greeted him at Calgary's airport. He was presented with an eagle feather and greeted by beating drums from the greater Blackfoot band.
Lethbridge, which is a half-hour drive away from Calgary, built a strong native Canadian fan base thanks to Yellow Horn, who has said in the past that he hopes a more positive image will be generated for Aboriginal players through such names as Jonathan Cheechoo and Jordan Toottoo.
"You hear racial slurs but not too often," he told the Calgary Sun. "You hear stuff like that once every three or four years. It's not from the players, though, it's the fans."