It’s always fun to catch a glimpse of the awesomeness as you lace up your skates.
It was interesting to watch the next budding NHL superstar walk out of the visitors’ locker room for Monday night’s game, past two legends who were at that door more than 30 years before he was born. In fact, Mike Davies and Craig Palfrey have been working Maple Leafs games since before Connor Bedard’s parents were born.
“I’m in my 49th yearTh year and Craig is in his 50sThsaid Davies.
That’s 99 years of NHL experience. Matching number.
Even if they aren’t newbies like Bedard, They were still excited to see the kid make his Toronto debut in his young NHL career, as was Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
“He’ll be fine,” Davies said. “The Chicago Blackhawks will take care of him.”
“It’s a great organization and they’re going to help him become the best player he can be,” Palfrey said.
Of course, these guys have been working the opposing locker room door for over half a century and know a few things. You remember Wayne Gretzky’s first game at Maple Leaf Gardens. You have also worked with Mario Lemieux, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.
“It’s fun to see them grow up over the years,” Mike said. “It takes some time to get used to the NHL, but they all do.”
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Mike tells a great story about Gretzky’s first game at Carlton Street.
“He asked me if I wouldn’t mind getting him a taxi,” Mike said. “I said sure and went to Church Street to summon one.”
As Wayne went out to get it, he stopped and went back to the locker room.
“He came out with a signed stick and gave it to me,” Mike said. “It was great of him to do that. I still have that stick and I will never let it go.”
Palfrey said he remembered early in his administration when “Gordie Howe and his sons came in with Hartford.”
He said Gordie’s presence is still with him even after all these years. Needless to say, they were happy to extend their best wishes to the NHL’s youngest first-over pick as he was only playing his third game.
“We wished him good luck,” Palfrey said.
Everyone in attendance at Scotiabank Arena seemed to wish Bedard the best. Sure, they were there hoping Auston Matthews would get his third straight hat-trick, but there was a lot of excitement about how No. 98 would bring his talents to The Vault.
“We hope he has a great career,” said Lukasz Wagner, who along with his brother Dan are lifelong Hawks fans from St. Catharines. They were in Chicago when their team won the Stanley Cup in 2005.
It was ironic that Corey Perry had such a great game for the Hawks. Nobody talked about him, but this guy was always a Leaf killer. He has always been one of my favorites since I saw him play against Crosby in the Memorial Cup with the London Knights in 2005, before Bedard was born.
A lot of time passes that night. Although anticipation was high for Bedard, who played well, most of the attention was undoubtedly on Matthews.
“I have my hat ready,” Burlington native JJ Shanlin teased.
He was hoping to throw it onto the ice. The same goes for James Parr of Oshawa, who celebrated his 11th birthdayTh Birthday.
Whatever happens, one thing is certain: many memories have been made at Maple Leaf games throughout the ages.