Turnout amazes Joseph

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

At first, Curtis Joseph seemed ready to blush. Then the 41-year-old goaltender realized he was home again.

Nowhere but Toronto, after all, would the return of a backup goaltender be the showstopper at a ticket promotion on one of the steamiest days of the summer.

But the hundreds of fans crammed into the Air Canada Centre galleria yesterday couldn't resist several spontaneous "Cujo" chants, making him easily the most popular among half a dozen past or present Leafs on hand.

"It's incredible," Joseph said after appearing at the team's announcement for a free ticket pre-season game. "This is Broadway for hockey, no question. It's the centre stage. Being back in Toronto, to be playing hockey, there's nothing better for me."

ACCEPTS ROLE

Though Joseph has been brought in to back up Vesa Toskala -- a role he accepts willingly -- it says something about the starving fan base that it may be the most popular move of the off-season to date.

Joseph is hoping that general manager Cliff Fletcher will be able to trump that by bringing back captain Mats Sundin. But Fletcher has no idea if it's going to happen and, of more pressing concern, when he might learn of Sundin's decision.

"I couldn't begin to guess when it might be," Fletcher said. "We're planning for next year now. If he comes back, great. He is a great hockey player and he is a great Maple Leaf. But if he chooses not to come back, then we're moving forward.

"You would rather it be resolved rather than not resolved, but Mats doesn't feel comfortable making the decision at this time and it's his career."

As for the reaction to Joseph yesterday, Fletcher wasn't surprised.

"Curtis had a lot of great years here and is very popular," Fletcher said. "For us bringing him back, he offers leadership and stability in the dressing room. "When he is called on to put the equipment on and play between the pipes, you can guarantee he will do a good job."


Videos

Photos