Like ol’ times

March 25, 2009

I wrote about Sundin’s return to Toronto, and how he rekindled fond memories for myself and fellow Leafs’ fans. Well, last night it was Cujo’s turn. In what was a really surprising turn of events, Cujo also gave Leafs’ fans a stroll down memory lane.

Curtis Joseph (who happens to be my childhood role model and the reason why I started to play hockey) had to fill in for Leafs’ net minder Martin Gerber after he was ejected from the game. Gerber made contact with a referee and shot a puck in his direction after a questionable goal. (From another goaltender’s perspective, I think that the goal should not have counted. Since when can you pitch fork a goalie and the puck into the net? Surely, that’s not right.) In any case, he was gone for the rest of the game (0:57 in the 3rd period). The game was tied, so Joseph had to essentially “close” the game. He received 9 shots in less than 6 minutes of hockey and played a spectacular OT/SO. In the end, he stoned the entertaining Ovechkin to earn the 2 points for the Leafs. He was also the first star of the game.

What was so special about last night was really the atmosphere at the ACC. It must’ve been quite something. As the game progressed, with every spectacular save, the cheers for “Cu-Jo” just kept getting louder and louder. I had never seen or heard such excitement in Leafs’ nation since his last run with the Leafs’. It was like watching the Cujo from 1999 era. You would’ve have never guessed it was a 41 year-old backup. It was a game to remember and Joseph definitely deserved it. I have never seen a hockey player so humble and with so much class. Good memories.

Today was CBC’s self-proclaimed “Hockey Day in Canada”. It was also Mats Sundin’s fist return to Toronto since joining the Vancouver Canucks. After spending 13 years as a Maple Leaf, this would be the first night Mats would step on the ice as a visitor and opponent. It was an emotional night to say the least. After watching Sundin lead the Leafs for so many years, I couldn’t help but respect the former captain and I believe the rest of Leafs nation felt the same way. During a commercial break, Leafs fans honoured Sundin with a standing ovation… and I could almost see a tear in his eye. this was quite unusual for Sundin who is known for his calm and collected demeanor.

But, hockey is hockey… a game still had to be played. And what a game it was; a close match, with many chances at both ends of the ice. In the end, a shootout was needed to decide the final outcome. Sundin was chosen as the third shooter for Vancouver and had the chance to win the game. And that’s what he did. What a finish! I’m just glad Sundin was given the respect he deserved.

“A class act for a class act” – Thanks Mats!