It's time for Vaive

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

Recognition has been a long time coming for Rick Vaive's 50-goal exploits with the Maple Leafs.

But tomorrow, the 25th anniversary of his first of three assaults on 50, the former captain will get some love from the team and the Air Canada Centre crowd via a scoreboard tribute. He has also been invited to sign autographs before the game.

"My one regret is that the Leafs never really acknowledged what I did, though at the time it bothered my wife more than me," Vaive said yesterday. "But there were a lot of things going on with the team at the time."

Today marks the 13th anniversary of Dave Andreychuk becoming the most recent Leaf to reach 50, but in between, only Gary Leeman managed the feat. Mats Sundin has come the closest with two 41-goal campaigns.

'I WAS AMAZED'

"Looking back to '82, I was amazed no Leaf had ever done it," said Vaive, now an analyst for Leafs TV. "When I got close to 40, people started telling me I could be the first and that was a surprise, considering the history of the franchise with 11 Cups and great scorers such as Frank Mahovlich, Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald."

Vaive set the table with a Gardens hat trick against the Chicago Blackhawks to reach 49, breaking Mahovlich's team mark of 48 in 1960-61. In the Big M,s time, only two others had made 50, Rocket Richard and Boom Boom Geoffrion, and Mahovlich succumbed to the pressure.

Vaive didn't wait very long to make Leafs history against the St. Louis Blues. At 14:57 of the first period, Bill Derlago deked two Blues and found an uncovered Vaive on his wrong wing. He snapped it past Mike Liut, who Vaive jokes still cowers whenever they meet.

"Bill and I had an uncanny chemistry," Vaive said of the centre who joined him in coming east in a trade with Vancouver in 1980. "We worked a lot in practice, using the faceoff dots as a reference and that's where Bill passed to me for that goal."

Vaive, who had just been named team captain, accounted for 18% of the Leafs goals that year with linemates Derlago and John Anderson. He had a fearsome slap with a heavy Titan stick -- which Leeman nicknamed The Log -- though Vaive used the snap shot, deflection and various body parts in his pursuits of 50.

But Vaive's 299 goals in 534 games, came during a turbulent period in club history with little or no playoff success. Stripped of his captaincy in 1985-86, he was traded to Chicago and ended his career with Buffalo in '92.

His first 50-goal stick is in the Hall of Fame, while he retains the puck and a few photos.

"I kind of forgot about the 50 for awhile, but like Sundin has been saying as he gets close to Sittler's records, these things mean more when you retire," Vaive said.

ME AND THE BOYS AND OUR 50

Maple Leafs scoring their 50th goal in a season:

DATE GOALIE TOTAL

Rick Vaive March 24/82 Mike Liut STL 54

Rick Vaive March 30/83 Gilles Gilbert DET 51

Rick Vaive March 14/84 Gilles Meloche, MIN 52

Gary Leeman March 28/90 Mark Fitzpatrick, NYI 51

Dave Andreychuk* March 23/93 Bob Essensa WPG 54

Dave Andreychuk March 24/94 Arturs Irbe SJ 53

* -- PLAYED PART OF SEASON WITH BUFFALO.


Videos

Photos