The Leafs Actually Made It a Centennial Classic
Maybe things really are changing in TO.
This is the 100th year of what's now the Toronto Maple Leaf franchise.
They're playing like there's something to celebrate this year.
And not just yesterday's Leafs.
The NHL's promotional focal point over the New Year's weekend is the highly successful Winter Classic, being held this time around in St Louis.
However, New Year's Eve belonged to Toronto, and it was more than a sideshow.
But first, the Centennial even had a sideshow in the form of an alumni game. Lotsa A-listers hit the ice once Exhibition Stadium was transformed. That included the Wings' first real Red, Igor Larionov:
Well, dude is 56 now.
Still, he looked more spry out there than Russia's No 1 player:
And Larionov didn't have the luxury of jailing anyone who stopped him from scoring.
A couple of participants got a little spicy, too.That had to be a first for an outing like this.
One other name that has to be mentioned is legendary hard man Al Iafrate, he of the mega-heavy shot before there were mega-heavy shots.
Incidentally, that's the only time dude ever shot at an empty net. In games during his career, when the opportunity arose, Iafrate merely slammed the puck into the end boards.
He didn't think those sorts of goals were very manly. Which is how he put it, in a way.
On to the main event.
In a reversal of a couple decades' results, the Maple Leafs came into the day two spots ahead of the Red Wings in the Atlantic Division. Word had it that Mike Babcock's reign -- illustrious as it was -- had worn thin in the Motor City. Still, it seemed like they provided the opposition for this game as a sorta tribute to his years there.
Detroit's re-tooling is coming along, but not as dynamically as Toronto's:
Arizona is light years away from hockey's self-proclaimed center of the universe, but the Yank who grew up there is already making a case for being atop the leaderboard when the Leafs get around to naming their greatest players of their second 100 years.