Toronto Maple Leafs Set to Honour Former Players


January 21, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Maple Leafs alumni Daryl Sittler (27) and Johnny Bower (1) and Darcy Tucker (16) and Felix Potvin (29) at the opening ceremonies for a game against the Buffalo Sabres at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a plan to construct a new monument to honour the great Leafs legends of the past. An announcement is scheduled for later today where team president Brendan Shanahan and members of the Leafs alumni will be on hand.

The Toronto Sun reports that the memorial is going to have three life-sized statues of players who will be sitting on a hockey bench.

The monument will be built in stages, adding three additional players to the monument every year up until the centennial anniversary of the Leafs in 2017-18. One of the players to be named is apparently a deceased legend, which lists players like King Clancy, Syl Apps and Tim Horton as potential players to be included. There will be another announcement scheduled to be made at Fan Fest in early September.

Sep 22, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera touches his newly unveiled retired number during a ceremony in Monument Park before the game against San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

This is not a rare way for sports franchises to honour their past players. The New York Yankees have Monument Park at Yankee Stadium, which features the retired numbers of great Yankees legends. It is considered the second highest honour in baseball behind the Hall of Fame. The Dallas Cowboys have their Ring of Honor, which includes many great football players from the Cowboys’ past and is similar to Monument Park.

Mar 15, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; A statue of Wayne Gretzky outside of Staples Center prior to a game between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports

Other cities have just statues of single players like the Los Angeles Kings, who have a statue of Wayne Gretzky. The Los Angeles Lakers have statues of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Boston Bruins also have a statue of Bobby Orr scoring his famous flying goal.

So why do this now? It is very surprising to see a high-profile franchise like the Leafs not have any monument to honour their best players at this point but I guess now is better than never.

For years, there has been some tension with the Leafs and their alumni group mainly because of how the players were treated in the past. Players like Dave Keon have not forgiven the Leafs for the way they were treated by former owner Harold Ballard. Keon has slowly made his way back to the Leafs organization, appearing at ceremonies honouring former Leafs Stanley Cup winners. Hopefully, Keon is one of the players to be honoured given that he was a central figure in the Leafs golden years in the Original Six era.

Feb 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain George Armstong (center) waves to the crowd as he is flanked by teammates (left to right) Eddie Shack and Red Kelly and Dave Keon and Frank Mahovlich during a tribute to the 1964 Stanley Cup Champion Toronto Maple Leafs prior to the first period against the Vancouver Canucks at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

There are many players that can be included in this ceremony but it will be interesting to see if players from the post-1967 era will be included in the monument. Will Mats Sundin, Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming, or Doug Gilmour get a spot on the monument or will it be reserved for the players that brought a championship to the Leafs?

Feb 2, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Former player Doug Gilmour (93) drops the puck during a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of Hockey Night In Canada as Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) and Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) take part in the ceremonnial face-off as Ron MacLean and Don Cherry look on at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Another curious thought is why the Leafs do not have a statue of Conn Smythe made. He is the reason why the Leafs have been a major part of this city. He changed the name and the identity of the club and it would be a shame if he was not given the same honour as the players who have played for the Blue and White.

The Toronto Blue Jays honoured former Rogers CEO Ted Rogers with a statue outside of the Rogers Centre, which is puzzling given that Rogers has not been a focal point of the Jays’ success in the city (the team was bought by Rogers in 2000).

Conn Smythe is way more deserving of this honour and hopefully MLSE recognizes this. Will this new monument be another way to honour key players along with raising their jerseys to the rafters? If it is, then it would be a nice touch just like the monuments in Yankee Stadium or just another way for the team to prepare for their centennial celebrations in 2017.

What are your thoughts? Who should be included? Players? Coaches? Management? Ownership? Fans?

Let us know in the comments section below.