It is a sad day in Leafs Nation as we hear of the passing of Johnny Bower, he was 93. He was fighting a battle with pneumonia. Though I did not know a lot about him during his playing years, Bower was a constant ambassador for the Leafs organization. It seemed that every time the alumni were honoured at the ACC he was there to greet the fans with a wave and a smile, as his name echoed over the arena speakers.
Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976, Bower spent 12 seasons with the Leafs. During his time with the club he conquered many amazing feats. These achievements included 2 Vezina trophies as the leagues top goalie, 4 Stanley cups and he eventually had his number retired by the Leafs. Some even say Bower revolutionized the goaltending position because he was one of the first goalies to implement the poke check into his playing style. When the NHL announced it’s Top 100 Players of All Time, you better believe Johnny was a shoo-in. He was also given one of the highest honours for a Leaf by being named to Legends Row; a shrine of player statues that resides outside of the Air Canada Centre (which will forever be its name).
Growing up a Leafs fan, these players aren’t just regular Joes, they’re our heroes, celebrities even and Bower seemed to be one of the classiest ones. Attending the numerous ceremonies held by the Maple Leaf organization, he left his mark as one of the greatest goalies to put on the Blue and White, both on and off the ice. Every run in that I have had with a Toronto Maple Leaf alumni, whether it was Wendell Clark or Lanny MacDonald, I received nothing but respect. I am sure the people who met Bower would have the same to say for him. The Maple Leafs aren’t just a team, their fan base isn’t just a bunch of bandwagonners pulled off of the street, it’s a culture, its an attitude, some would even say it’s a lifestyle. If you haven’t had the privilege to be apart of Leafs Nation, I am sorry for you because there is no other team I would rather support, through the good times and the bad. Yea, pretty much a marriage.
Anyway, I am sure Johnny is in a better place, he lived a great life and I know he will be sending all his best wishes to the Leafs organization and their fans.