Game Day: An email from Conn Smythe's granddaughter
Dear Mr. Menon:
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Elizabeth Brinton, nee Smythe. I am the youngest daughter of Stafford and granddaughter of Conn. Pictures of both men surround me in my blue and white study where I am currently working on a memoir. While I grew up in Maple Leaf Gardens and thought of it as home, my feelings for the grand old lady and for the era of the sixties are similar to those of fans everywhere.
The Leafs loomed as heroes to me, but as a young girl, I felt so drawn to them as men of great character. We were indeed, as many have written, a brotherhood. To say that we were a competitive family would be the understatement of the century, but in truth, both my paterfamilias as he referred to himself, or my grand sire as he called himself, wanted those in their midst to achieve great things for their own sakes, as well as for everyone else around them.
Once you get a taste of success, you crave it again and again, and the belief in how it will change your life is infectious. I, too, am quite taken by the Leafs of today. My hope is constant. I live far away and listen to the games on the radio but my blood still runs true blue.
Fans who are kind enough to write me, ask questions such as this: "Do I see another Tim Horton?" Of course, I can only reply in the words of Shakespeare: "We shall not look upon his like again."
To answer the question of whether or not we have what it takes, I would say "yes." We have Luke Schenn. We have Clarke MacArthur. We have Dion Phaneuf. I took an instinctive liking to Joffrey Lupul.
Conn Smythe said, "A collection of stars will never bring victory." The greatest moments in the history of the game occur when something else begins to happen, when many parts become one body, when players throw themselves, flat out, as Bill Barilko did, prostrate their bodies, exist on the horizontal plane, unconscious of their individuality and given over entirely to the game.
How do they get there? That is the great question.
Conn told his players that they would stretch themselves until they were as thin as a streak. When Brian Burke said he would build the Leafs from the goal out, I thought it was something my father would have said. While he sat in silence through the games, Dad would sometimes stand and roar, "It's yours!"
Inevitably, we would see a breakaway go into a new gear with a goal to follow.
Personally, my tastes have always run to my great protectors first. Show me a man who will dance on one leg with a frozen, broken ankle dangling, dance the twist with a 10-year-old girl because she asked him to, dance into the night as Bobby Baun did with me all those years ago; show me that man and I will say with him protecting us, no one will take the Cup away in their car tonight. It's coming home with us. Any threat will be met, dealt with and stopped. Defeat does not rest Lightly on their Shoulders.
Secondly, I have always had a thing for the fast ones, the ones with fire, and juice. I favor a slightly wild streak. Dickie Duff and Davey Keon, quite simply, could take my breath away. Regardless of position, it is the quality that made Conn leave the trenches and run into the fight. He did not wait for it to come to him. Darcy Tucker, Doug Gilmour, and of course, his Royal Highness, Prince Edward Shack, all had one quality in common: zeal.
Phil Kessel, Mikhail Grabovski and Colby Armstrong have this talent. I believe it is God Given.
Thirdly, my heart is taken with people who are stalwart and true, men like Alan Stanley and George Armstrong who simply will not falter. The rocks of my young world whom I could only thank over and over and over.
Clarke MacArthur strikes me as such a man.
My faith in Brian Burke is absolute. I pray for him every night. If I could say one thing to him it would be this: "Happy St. Patrick's Day, Mr Burke." To Ron Wilson, my hopes and dreams are with you too. I have faith. I believe. Will we make the playoffs this year? We have to. Every step you take brings you closer. Each time we go around we come away stronger.
We have a new generation in our family now. Little boys who sit watching the games on TV with their Dads who have spent their entire lives yearning for victory. May my father's great grandsons, schooled in the stories of when the Cup was in the living room, see Lord Stanley's trophy come back to us at last, to the place where it lives.
What I tell the little ones and what I told my children is that it was all created from the imagination of one man and to never forget that it was once a dream.
Best of luck to you,
Elizabeth S. Brinton
In the top above, she writes: "You see my father crouched in front. Behind him stands my sister, the late Victoria Rose Smythe. My brother, the late Thomas Stafford Smythe has me in hand and beside him in the little navy coat and white hat is my sister Mary Smythe. The rest of the crowd would consist of the families of the Marlies, celebrating as was so often the case in my young life, a championship victory."
The portrait on the left was painted by artist Kelly Sullivan. This email was reprinted with Elizabeth S. Brinton's permission.