One of the most exciting things to see is the turn-around of my hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, mainly due to the historic and unbelievable season performances of rookies Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. Nazeem Kadri is having a pretty amazing year as well.
Last night, I bought my first NHL jersey in 29 years. I picked up a Auston Matthews #34 jersey at the Leafs/Lightning game. It’s a pretty exciting thing to see this young man, in his first year, score so many goals, night after night. I’m looking forward to cheering him on throughout his career.
I did have a wool, knit Leafs jersey when I was six years-old.
It got me to reminiscing about my favorite hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky. During my childhood, I watched as many Oilers and Kings games as I could on satellite TV and read the NHL Scoring Leaders section of The Nugget everyday. A few weekends after he was traded to Los Angeles in 1988, I bought the Gretzky # 99, white home jersey, marked with the captain’s ‘C’. To this day, my favorite NHL teams are Toronto, Edmonton and LA.
I was Youtube-ing some of Gretzky’s highlights and I came upon the night he broke Gordie Howe’s record. I remember that night very well, October 15, 1990, because many of us Gretzky fans had been following and awaiting the feat where our hero would surpass Gordie Howe to become the highest scoring NHL player of all time.
Classic Gretzky… late in the 3rd period, the Kings goalie is pulled… he comes out from behind the net, parks to the open side of the Oilers net and pounces on a backhand into a wide open net. It was historic. The league actually stopped the game in the 3rd period, with a 2-2 tie, to honour Gretzky. Gretzky addressed the cheering crowd in Edmonton. He was classy. The Oilers were classy. And the fans were classy. You can see the genuine smiles and congratulations offered by Oilers captain Mark Messier and teammates on both sides. By the way, a few minutes after the ceremony, Gretzky scored the game winner. Amazing.
Of course, Gretzky had many a career moments like that. Dozens of NHL records and milestones. Plenty of memories for a hockey fan. I was fortunate enough to see Wayne Gretzky play in Toronto in 1998. It was the only time I seen him in-person.
The Leafs may never lift the Stanley Cup anytime soon and Austin Matthews isn’t likely score 92 goals in a season. But things are certainly looking up for Leafs fans in Hogtown.