Back when sticks were heavy and paycheques light

JODY VANCE -- 24 Hours Toronto

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

The Toronto Maple Leafs opened their 2006 - 07 season last night and prior to puck drop, honoured a pair of fours and a 21.

Three more banners joined esteemed company among the rafters of the Air Canada Centre. Clarence "Hap" Day was the first man to wear the "C" for the Toronto Maple Leafs and he did so for a decade.

The nickname "Hap" was bestowed on the Owen Sound native due in no small part to his perpetually positive demeanour. Hap Day, however, was at least one-part taskmaster - "nice guys" don't win five Stanley Cups. Over his thirty-plus years, this player, coach and eventual Assistant GM touched all corners of The Toronto Maple Leafs.

The other number four to be honoured last night, Red Kelly, is quick to share stories of his time playing along side Frank Mahovlich not to mention the four cups he raised in Toronto.

Kelly, who won four more Cups in Detroit, earned his 8 'the hard way' as he is the only player to win 8 Stanley Cups without having done so playing for the Montreal Canadiens.

Anders Borje Salming, one of the first European born players to find success in the NHL, was anything but the poster boy for Don Cherry's "wimpy European". Over his 17 seasons with Toronto, Salming, number 21, racked up 787 points in 1148 games with 1344 penalty minutes.

Known as one of the very best blue-liners of his time Salming is and was so well loved that when he represented his home country of Sweden in the Canada Cup, fans here gave him a 5 minute standing ovation. Salming still points to that experience with disbelief as his ovation was longer than any Canadian player.

In this day of "the new NHL" it's fun to remember a time when rink boards were white, helmets were optional and goalies didn't look like they wore armour. A day when the sticks were heavy and paycheques were light.

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Jody Vance is a sportscaster with Leafs TV. Her column appears Tuesdays and Thursdays in 24 hours. jody.vance@tor.sunpub.com


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