Leafs celebrate with ceremony

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:31 PM ET

TORONTO - For one night, the Maple Leafs certainly looked like they were Canada’s team.

In a special ceremony to mark the 94th season of NHL hockey, the Leafs invited an alumnist from every province in Canada to take part in the opening ceremony against the Montreal Canadiens.

It began with a young woman in a Leafs sweater pouring a vial of water at the centre of a map of the country, which had been projected on to the Air Canada Centre’s ice surface.

With the colours changing from summer to fall, Hall of Fame goaltender Johnny Bower appeared unannounced on the carpet with a vintage goal stick to tap the water and magically ‘freeze’ it.

The parade of old Leafs then began, starting with Bob McGill and Russ Courtnall from Alberta and British Columbia, respectively.

Newfoundland was represented by Hockey Night In Canada legend Bob Cole, while old scrapper Forbes Kennedy took the bows for New Brunswick.

The loudest ovations were for Ontario and Quebec, goaltenders Mike Palmateer and Felix Potvin in matching No. 29 sweaters, while Bower came out again in honour of Saskatchewan.

Dion Phaneuf, in his first official on-ice duty as Toronto’s captain, took the ceremonial faceoff with newly minted Habs captain Brian Gionta. During O Canada, which was sung unaccompanied by the nearly 20,000 fans, giant Canadian and Leafs flags were passed through the stands, a tradition borrowed from soccer games.

The Leafs were introduced seperately, with muted applause for the assistants, a few boos for head coach Ron Wilson, but surprisingly loud hands for defenceman Tomas Kaberle, who is villified in some quarters for sitting on his no-trade clause so often in past non-playoff years.

Cambridge’s Tim Brent had a nice reception, too, and tipped a Phaneuf shot home at 6:42 of the first to get the season underway.


Videos

Photos