Giving thanks on Thanksgiving
Happy Thanksgiving, Leafs Nation!
If you want to join me for dinner tonight at the in-laws' abode, do not hesitate to ask. Seriously. I will provide transportation and even let you have the chair that doesn't tip over. Wine, turkey, stuffing, a mashed starch and an unlimited supply of awkward banter – what more could you possibly want?
No, thanks? You already have plans? Fine. Before we go our separate ways, let us bow our heads and give thanks:
1. Now in his 12th season with the Leafs, he's skating like a kid again. He has re-attached the laser-guide to his blade and is making cross-ice, long-distance passes with an accuracy that would startle military commanders. He's quarterbacking the PP with Dion Phaneuf. When 5-on-5 with Luke Schenn, he's enjoying the kind of chemistry you usually find in a buddy cop film. Thank you, Tomas Kaberle, for showing real class as you travel the high road this season.
2. For Colby Armstrong (1982), Tyler Bozak (1986) and Luke Schenn (1989), a big Hogtown thanks to you, Saskatchewan!
3. Since entering the league in 2005, Dion Phaneuf leads all NHL defencemen in goals (77), power-play goals (48), game winning goals (22) and shots (1,237). Thank you, Dion, for this firepower and for your lead-by-example in the room. (But, please, re-record that "Let's get LOUD!" video message they play at the ACC during TV commercial breaks. You sound like someone from tech support.)
4. This makes perfect sense: Colton Orr's favourite movie is Gladiator. Thank you, Colton, for thriving in one of the game's toughest and least appreciated roles: Enforcer. (A pre-Leafs tribute to this blue-and-white gladiator.)
5. Brian Burke once told me Jean-Sebastien Giguere is the hardest working goaltender he's ever known. Thanks to Jiggy and all the Leafs for embracing the words printed in big, bold letters in the dressing room: "THE PRICE OF SUCCESS IS HARD WORK."
6. Yes, we're only two games into the season. But thank you, Clarke MacArthur, for being only one point away from the NHL scoring leader! Come on, man, you can do this!
7. Thank you, Phil Kessel, for suffering from a near pathological obsession with scoring goals. Keep banging your stick on the ice and demanding the puck. Keep roaring up and down the wing like a runaway locomotive. When you are within a snap shot radius of the opposition net, Leaf fans are getting conditioned to do this.
8. I don't know why Mikhail Grabovski's faovurite actor is Leonardo DiCaprio. But thank you, Mikhail, for forechecking, backchecking and setting up plays with Nikolai Kulemin in a way that gives newfound hope to fans who once viewed this franchise as the Titanic.
9. Thank you to Kris Versteeg for the memorable quotes he will undoubtedly supply to reporters this season. It's nice to hear a player reject most of this and say something other than, "We all gave 100 per cent" or "Our backs were up against the wall."
10. Last season, the Leafs lost 177 man games to injury. So touch something wooden before reading this: Thanks to the hockey gods for keeping this team healthy in the weeks and months ahead.
PHOTO: BERNARD WEIL/TORONTO STAR