TORONTO - Right winger Colby Armstrong wasn’t kidding last year when he said he was going to change his sweater number to break an injury hex.
But two things have changed his mind: The clear protective ankle guards he’s now adopted to prevent broken bones on shot blocks, and the realization he didn’t want to part with No. 9.
“I thought about the number long and hard,” said Armstrong, who suffered two broken feet, a broken hand, a busted finger and a bleeding eye.
“But I’m glad I stayed with it. Nine is an unbelievable number, a real historic number for the team. It was worn by Teeder Kennedy, from what I know, one of the greatest captains in Leafs history. You see it honoured in the rafters every night you play.
“When I’m wearing a number like those guys, it’s crazy. So I don’t want to be too superstitious.”
But down a stall or two, Mike Brown was saying he shaved his famous moustache this week in hopes of averting his misfortune with injuries last year.
Armstrong finally adopted the extra leg protection, though it was a hard sell for him and other NHLers.
“If you’d asked me last year, I’d say, ‘no way, I don’t feel comfortable wearing these. But this summer I tried them on and I’ve been wearing them ever since and I’m not comfortable without them. I’ve always been that way about new equipment, I just like my old stuff.
“In my (third line/penalty killing) role, I know what I have to do (block shots). It’s a no-brainer really. I blocked a couple with them already and I can’t say they weren’t hard, because last year, one that broke my foot wasn’t hard. It just got me in the right spot and I don’t want to take the chance.
“You talk to any of our defencemen such as Luke Schenn, who blocks a lot of shots, and he swears by them. For guys put in that situation, anything can happen, so you might as well cut down on the percentages.”
CHANGES AT ACC
You’ll have to look closely, but there will be a few changes around the Air Canada Centre when the NHL regular season returns Thursday against the Canadiens.
The curved glass that will protect the previously exposed stanchions on each bench have been installed, but it was a close call to install it in many of the 30 rinks.
“There was only one supplier for the league,” explained Bob Hunter, executive vice-president of venues and entertainment for MLSE. “But ours is in and we’ve also installed the league’s new overhead cameras for replays.”
Last-minute approval is pending for the green verification line, the clear side skirt on the net and the thinner mesh on top said NHL vice-president, hockey operations, Mike Murphy.
“We hope to finalize our decision to move forward,” Murphy said. “We are still working through details and are not ready to move on all of them at this time. So it will be a work in progress, as will the new net cameras, which will provide us with an upgraded view of pucks in the corners of the net, near the posts.
“The new curved stanchions should be in all rinks by the start of the season.”
The Leafs and Canadiens will be meeting for the 709th time in the regular season and the fourth consecutive year in a Toronto home opener. The bagpipes of the 48th Highlanders will usher in the season, as in the past 80 years, and there will be full Toronto player and staff introductions.
The Leafs are keeping the opening puck drop ceremony a secret.