TORONTO - Every time Anne Klisanich sees the No. 5 Barilko banner in the rafters at a Leafs game, she gets the same urge.
“I want to jump up and shout, ‘That’s my brother Billy!’, ” Klisanich says, the pride still evident in her voice 60 years after his famous Cup-winning overtime goal.
The Leafs are hoping some of that Barilko mystique rubs off in Saturday’s game against the Bruins to sustain their playoff hopes.
Klisanich is being invited to the opening faceoff to mark the anniversary of the goal against Montreal, April 21, 1951. She will be accompanied by her son Barry and the Leafs also planned to fly in Barilko’s teammate Howie Meeker from British Columbia.
Klisanich, who now lives in Mississauga, listened to ‘Bashing Bill’s’ goal on radio in her hometown of Timmins, while their mother Fay, was at Maple Leaf Gardens.
“When it happened, I thought ‘Gosh, that was Billy who scored’ and everyone went outside and started celebrating with the neighbours.”
But joy turned to tears for his younger sibling a few months later when Barilko and a pal disappeared in a float plane while on a fishing trip in a remote part of Northern Ontario. The wreckage and the bodies were not discovered until the spring of 1962 near Cochrane, about a month and a half after Toronto won its first Stanley Cup since Barilko had been missing.
“I think it was Frank Mahovlich who first made the connection and said, ‘Holy cow, it’s because they found Bill’, ” Klisanich said.
“I know the Tragically Hip wrote a song about Bill (Fifty Mission Cap in the 1990s) and I’m told his grave is now the most visited one in Timmins. The Leaf fans leave pucks there and if someone takes it, another one is always put in its place.
“(Saturday) will be a special day. I feel deeply honoured that the Leafs would do this. It’s very heartwarming that he is so well-remembered. Bill was a very humble, wonderful man, on and off the ice, and he was also fearless. The icing on the cake for 60 years would be if the Leafs could make the playoffs.”