O, land of blue unending skies,
Mountains strong and sparkling snow,
A scent of freedom in the wind,
O'er the emerald fields below,
For thee we brought or hopes, our dreams,
For thee we stand together,
Our land of peace, where proudly flies,
The Maple Leat Forever
-Revised lyrics by Vladimir Radian, 1997-
On October 23, 2016, the launch for "The Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club: Official Centennial Publication 1917-2017" was held in Toronto.
The launch took place at the home of Mike Wilson and Debra Thuet, which is also the site of Wilson's incredible collection of Maple Leaf memorabilia. So, the surroundings were perfect for an afternoon of Leaf talk.
The focus on this occasion was author Kevin Shea and his latest effort. Unfortunately, his co-author, Jason Wilson, was unable to attend due to a previous commitment.
Upon seeing and handling the "Official Centennial Publication" one quickly realizes the care and attention to detail behind its creation. You become aware of this when touching the raised Maple Leaf crest and lettering on the solid blue/grey hardcover. The cover is eloquently designed and void of any visible distractions.
And the attention to detail continues over the 375 pages of text. The Toronto Maple Leafs one hundred year story is nicely structured by featuring the different era's and decades. It begins with "The Noble Cause"(1917-18 to 1918-19) and ends with "Hope"(2015-16 and beyond).
Shea's solid and concise writing helps the reader connect with all the generations that make-up the Leafs story. It delves into an unknown past for many and recalls memories fans were able to experience. Shea, now with 14 books under-his-belt, delivered both an informative and fun read.
Concerning the unknown past, how many know that Toronto almost lost their NHL franchise in 1927. In the chapter "Blue and White" Shea documents how Conn Smythe and his associates came to the rescue and prevented the team from moving to Philadelphia.
Then, there are the personal stories of the players and what it meant to them to wear the Leafs' uniform. One of the most moving of these tales belongs to Kurt Walker, who skated for Toronto from 1976 to 1978. He told Kevin Shea about what happened before his first game at Maple Leaf Gardens. "These were the Toronto Maple Leafs, and I was now one of them! As I walked out to the ice surface with the team, I saw my dad standing in the runway with a big smile on his face. He leaned over to me and said, 'You made it! I love you!' I told my dad that I loved him, too."
There isn't a Leaf fan around that hasn't dreamed of sharing Walker's experience with their own father.
Another delightful part of the book is the glorious photographs. For example, one page is dedicated to showing two separate pictures of the Leafs captains through the ages. It pays tribute to the men that led the team in the dressing room and on the ice.
If Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment decides to put together a time capsule to mark their one hundred year history, this book deserves a spot. It weaves together the complete story of the Maple Leaf Forever.