Baron's death hits Kaberle hard

MIKE ZEISBERGER

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

BUFFALO -- Tomas Kaberle was devastated.

"It's so sad, so very sad," the Maple Leafs defenceman said yesterday upon being informed by Sun Media of the passing of long-time columnist George Gross.

Kaberle's relationship with Gross dated back to the blueliner's rookie season of 1998. Coming over from the Czech Republic to a strange country, Kaberle found an ally in Gross, a journalist who himself had emigrated to Canada almost five decades earlier.

"I got to know him my first year here," a misty-eyed Kaberle said. "He always offered his help to me right from the start. He would always say to me: "If you need anything, just call.

"He wanted to work until the end. I guess that's what he did."

Leafs captain Mats Sundin was floored by the news.

"We just had lunch a couple of weeks ago," Sundin said last night. "I had a lot of respect for George. I think he felt like I did, being a European who made the transition to North America.

"It's heartbreaking."

Former Leafs general manager/coach Pat Quinn echoed Sundin's sentiments.

"I, like so many other people and the whole sports community, will miss him," Quinn said from Vancouver. "He had a respect for the players and the game, and I think there was a mutual respect on our part for him as well because of it."


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