The Right Stuff
Having slagged the Leafs so often for their pre-game ceremony abilities, it seems only fair to give them credit when they get it right.
Or fairly right, at least.
Sure, the Leafs never do this stuff as well as the Montreal Canadiens, and probably never will. Greatness was 45 years ago, and it has faded away. During the Ken Dryden years, these efforts often turned into long, windy drones that read more like political speeches than rallying cries, and who can ever forget the bizarre flag pulled out to mark the end of Maple Leaf Gardens.
Old habits die hard. Referring to Darcy Tucker and Felix Potvin as Leaf "greats" on Monday night was hyperbole; couldn't they have called them stalwarts, or simply popular?
But the meat of the effort was good, all good.
It started with the 48th Highlanders, no everyone's cup of tea, which I get, but a personal favourite I looked forward to at my 25th Leaf opener. Best of all, they gave them enough time to play three full songs songs rather than rushing them on and rushing them off, as happened a few years ago.
Tradition doesn't simply have to come from introducing players of the past, although it was good to see Red Kelly introduced later in the night.
There was a light show projected on to the ice, and a good one. Then came the introduction of the Leafs, and isn't it always interesting to see which players get the biggest cheers, and which ones don't. On this night, they seemed to love Mike Kostka - after one game! - Nazem Kadri and Ben Scrivens the most, although Phil Kessel got a fair bit of love, as did warriors Mike Brown and Colton Orr.
The ceremonial puck "drop", featuring Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield in the international space station, might have been awkward and goofy but actually worked well, and surprised even the players. Hadfield "dropped" the puck to Potvin, who gave it to Tucker, who took it down on the elevator to Darryl Sitter, who ran it out on to the ice to a waiting Johnny Bower.
You can never, ever go wrong with Johnny Bower.
All in all, it was worth a smile and a grin, and if you can't do pomp and circumstance, why not do fun?