Just south of 15 million people live in the expanse of Ontario, the nation’s hockey hotbed with almost 46% of all current NHLers born here.
That makes being inducted to the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame a big deal for three members of the Maple Leafs multiverse.
Club president Brendan Shanahan, broadcaster Joe Bowen and 91-year-old former Leaf Pete Conacher are getting the honour Thursday at the Carlu ballroom in Toronto, Conacher as part of the Hall’s team honour for the 1959 world champion Belleville McFarlands.
“Having roots here for me is important, but what’s more exciting is the people I’m going in with,” Mimico native Shanahan told the Sun ahead of the ceremony. “These were people I looked up to, in hockey and in sports in general.”
The class of ’23 extends to others in the greater hockey family, referee Bryan Lewis, national women’s team forward Jayna Hefford, retired NHLer Steve Ludzik (a community service award for his foundation raising awareness for Parkinson’s Disease) and Dr. Charles Tator for concussion research at the sport’s youth level.
Also inducted will be curler Marilyn Bodogh, late lacrosse legend Gaylord Powless, track star Perdita Felicien, Paralympian Jeff Adams and 2023 athlete of the year, world swimming record holder Summer McIntosh.
“I’ll give a special shout out to Gaylord,” Shanahan said of the Six Nations player from Brantford. “He was a hero to my older brothers, a legend in lacrosse circles as was the entire Powless family. There are still many playing and my brother Brian played with them.”
Lewis moved from the ice to the NHL’s officiating office around the time Shanahan broke in the NHL with the Devils.
“Bryan joins a long list of referees who put me in the box,” laughed Shanahan.
“Joe’s voice is synonymous with the Leafs and I’ll turn it back to lacrosse. I think he called some Toronto Rock games with my brother Brian.
“That’s the whole point of coming back home to something like the Ontario Sports Hall. The lives of all of us, including Jayna, are intertwined throughout several decades.”
EAGLE EYES HELP LEAFS
Head coach Sheldon Keefe, his assistants on the Leafs bench and eyes-in-the-sky Jordan Bean and Sam Kim are on quite a roll, winning 16 of 17 challenges for video review the past couple of years.
But Tuesday’s first period in Washington was more dicey than simply spotting a skate blade being offside. The whole crew had to agree there were grounds for goalie interference when Alex Ovechkin barged through the crease and disrupted Joseph Woll on a loose puck rebound goal that was initially counted.
Keefe burned his timeout so Bean and Kim could verify their evidence, while he checked his own tablet on the bench.
“We’re ahead on the scoreboard rather than chasing the game so to that end, it’s big,” Keefe said of the decision to stall and challenge. “I wasn’t confident, I needed time to process it. In conversation with our video people, I thought there was a good chance (to overturn it), but those ones are tough to call.
“Our guys felt strongly that it was (interference), they just needed time to convince me because I’ve seen a lot of those go the other way. Credit to them and our process to take time to breathe. Those are very stressful situations and the referees are under a mandate to get the game going.”
If it seems like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are omnipresent in the course of a game, NHL stats has the Leafs duo ranked 1-2 in the NHL among forwards in average ice time as of Wednesday afternoon.
Matthews, who has added penalty killing to his repertoire, is at 23:05 a night and Marner 22:54, with a 20-second drop to Jack Hughes of New Jersey in third. The ageless defenceman Drew Doughty of the Kings leads all skaters with 26:01.
William Nylander’s 182nd career goal on Tuesday passed Phil Kessel for 19th in franchise history … Matthews’ next power play goal will be his 80th, eclipsing Wendel Clark for fourth on the Leafs … Thursday in Dallas, Leafs should be wary of Tyler Seguin, with 35 points in 34 career games versus them, while Matt Duchene has six points in his last seven against the Leafs … Max Domi is still looking for his first goal here. Thursday will be 6,147 days since his father, Tie, potted his last for the Leafs on April 1, 2006, against Buffalo.
Recommended from Editorial
INSIDE THE LEAFS: Joseph Woll continues to roll in goal for the Leafs
oseph Woll is solid, but parts of Maple Leafs’ game aren’t as they roll into Dallas