Images of 2011-12 Leafs Season – Part 1

By HOWARD BERGER

LOS ANGELES (Aug. 9) – It is just a tad uncomfortable here in Southern California this week. With temperatures in the San Fernando Valley topping out at 110 degrees Fahrenheit, a snow-bird from the north is all-but obliged to think cool.

What are my alternatives?

I could go trekking through the local mall, but the pavement temperature at nearby Topanga Plaza – where parking is always an issue – is said to be 135 F during the day. I’ll let someone else walk from car to Nordstrom. The beach is always a desirable option, though sitting in Los Angeles traffic in searing heat makes little sense – even with the air conditioning at full-blast. Besides, I made the 28-mile drive to Chavez Ravine in late-afternoon yesterday for the baseball game between the Dodgers and Colorado Rockies. Had I bothered to check the 10-day weather-pattern before logging onto StubHub last week, my ticket-order would never have been processed (though it turned into a delightful evening with my family).

Given the scorching conditions, there really is only one answer: hockey. Merely looking at the photograph of a professional athlete on skates in the midst of Canadian winter is comforably sublime.

RESPECTIVE CAPTAINS DANIEL ALFREDSSON OF THE OTTAWA SENATORS AND DION PHANEUF OF THE MAPLE LEAFS SHAKE HANDS WITH THE HOCKEY HALL OF FAME’S 2011 CLASS IN A PRE-GAME CEREMONY AT AIR CANADA CENTRE LAST NOV. 12. INDUCTEES FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: JOE NIEUWENDYK, DOUG GILMOUR, ED BELFOUR AND MARK HOWE.

EARLY-AFTERNOON TEMPERATURE HERE TODAY… IN THE SHADE.

For the past several weeks, it has been my intention to review, and share, a selection of images I snapped with my trusty Nikon during the 2011-12 National Hockey League season – primarily involving the Toronto Maple Leafs. Throughout the regular schedule and playoffs, I attended nearly 70 games, including all 20 the Los Angeles Kings played while romping to their first Stanley Cup championship.

Please enjoy this first of two parts… and try to stay cool!

MONTREAL (OCT. 22) – EMPTY, HISTORIC BELL CENTRE (ABOVE) AND ARGUABLY THE DEFINING MOMENTS OF LEAFS SEASON (BELOW): JAMES REIMER LAYING PRONE AFTER BEING STEAMROLLED BY HABS FORWARD BRIAN GIONTA JUST MORE THAN A MINUTE AFTER OPENING FACE-OFF. REIMER WOULD BE SIDELINED FOR SIX WEEKS WITH A NECK AILMENT THAT YIELDED CONCUSSION SYMPTOMS. HE WOULD NOT REGAIN HIS ROOKIE FORM.

MONTREAL (OCT. 22) – MIKHAIL GRABOVSKI AND HIS SILLY SMILE, MOMENTS AFTER SCORING THE OVERTIME GOAL THAT LIFTED LEAFS PAST CANADIENS, 5-4, IMPROVING TORONTO’S EARLY-SEASON RECORD TO A DECEPTIVE 5-1-1.

PHILADELPHIA (OCT. 23) – THE FLYERS HAVE TURNED BACK THE CLOCK BY DONNING THEIR ORIGINAL, EXPANSION-STYLE UNIFORMS AND THEY REALLY WENT INTO RETRO-MODE ON THIS NIGHT, AS ANCIENT JAROMIR JAGR SCORED THREE GOALS IN A 4-2 VICTORY OVER THE LEAFS AT WELLS-FARGO CENTER.

TORONTO (OCT. 30) – ON FLIGHT TO OTTAWA FOR A SUNDAY-NIGHT LEAFS-SENATORS GAME, WE SOARED OVER DOWNTOWN: ROGERS CENTRE; C.N. TOWER; AIR CANADA CENTRE (AT BOTTOM-RIGHT) AND TORONTO CITY HALL (TOP-RIGHT) AMONG THE VISIBLE LANDMARKS.

NEW YORK (NOV. 1) – YANKEE STADIUM IN THE SOUTH BRONX (TOP-LEFT) AND CENTRAL PARK IN MID-TOWN MANHATTAN (RIGHT) ON A CRYSTAL-CLEAR DAY, AS AIR CANADA FLIGHT FROM OTTAWA LINES UP FOR APPROACH TO LaGUARDIA AIRPORT IN QUEENS.

NEWARK (NOV. 2) – NEW JERSEY DEVILS CELEBRATE THIRD-PERIOD GOAL, AS NIKOLAI KULEMIN (41), MIKHAIL GRABOVSKI (84), DION PHANEUF (3) AND JONAS GUSTAVSSON (50) LAMENT. BUT, LEAFS WOULD WIN THIS GAME, 5-3.

COLUMBUS (NOV. 3) – UBIQUITOUS MAPLE LEAF FANS APPROACH NATIONWIDE ARENA FOR ROAD ENCOUNTER WITH THE BLUE JACKETS. A 4-1 VICTORY (BELOW) IN GOALIE BEN SCRIVENS’ NHL DEBUT WOULD VAULT LEAFS INTO FIRST PLACE IN THE OVERALL NHL STANDINGS AT 9-3-1 AFTER 14 GAMES – UNQUESTIONABLY, THE SEASON’S HIGH POINT.

ST. LOUIS (NOV. 9) – ARRIVING AT DOWNTOWN HOTEL WITH FULL-MOON RISING AND SETTING-SUN REFLECTING OFF ALUMINUM SKIN OF THE GATEWAY ARCH.

ST. LOUIS (NOV. 10) – SCOTTRADE CENTER (ABOVE) REFLECTS COLORS OF ITS PRIME TENANT. ST. LOUIS BLUES AND LEAFS FACE OFF IN THEIR LONE MEETING OF THE SCHEDULE.

TORONTO (NOV. 12) – REFEREE DON VAN MASSENHOVEN ENDURES GRIEF FROM COACH RON WILSON, AS PHIL KESSEL (81) LOOKS ON INCREDULOUSLY DURING 5-2 LOSS TO OTTAWA.

NASHVILLE (NOV. 17) – DOWNTOWN HILTON SUITES HOTEL AND GIANT A T&T TOWER (ABOVE) ON A SPECTACULAR, MID-AUTUMN AFTERNOON IN MUSIC CITY U.S.A.

NASHVILLE (NOV. 17) – REPORTERS AT BRIDGESTONE ARENA ARE NESTLED IN UPPER-CORNER OF THE THIRD DECK (ABOVE), PROVIDING VIEW (BELOW) OF LEAFS AND PREDATORS.

CHARLOTTE (NOV. 18) – AUTUMN COLORS IN SOUTHEAST WERE IN FULL-BLOOM AS MY USAirways FLIGHT FROM NASHVILLE APPROACHED THE RUNWAY AT CHARLOTTE-DOUGLAS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT FOR CONNECTION TO TORONTO.

TAMPA (NOV. 21) – DEFENSEMAN LUKE SCHENN CHECKS HIS I-PHONE AS TEAMMATE TIM CONNOLLY LOOKS ON IN LOBBY OF THE LEAFS HOTEL.

TAMPA (NOV. 22) – TAMPA BAY TIMES FORUM HAS BRILLIANT WRAP-AROUND VIDEO-BOARD ABOVE CENTER-ICE – BEST IN THE LEAGUE, ALONG WITH H.P. PAVILION IN SAN JOSE.

TAMPA (NOV.22) – AFTER BEING SEQUESTERED FROM REPORTERS BY THE MAPLE LEAFS FOR A FULL MONTH, JAMES REIMER (ABOVE) WAS GIVEN THE GREEN LIGHT TO DISCUSS HIS ROAD BACK FROM NECK AILMENT AND CONCUSSION SYMPTOMS INCURRED OCT. 22 AT MONTREAL.

TAMPA (NOV. 22) – TEAMMATES CONGRATULATE JOEY CRABB (ABOVE) FOR NOTCHING FIRST-PERIOD GOAL IN LEAFS 7-1 OBLITERATION OF THE LIGHTNING. UNIMPRESSED IS LIGHTNING RADIO BROADCASTER PHIL ESPOSITO (BELOW), WHO WILL CELEBRATE – NEXT MONTH – THE 40th ANNIVERSARY OF HIS LEADING ROLE IN TEAM CANADA’S 1972 SUMMIT SERIES VICTORY OVER THE SOVIET UNION. NO ONE PLAYED BETTER FOR OUR COUNTRY.

DALLAS (NOV. 23) – DOWNTOWN CORE OF THE DALLAS METRO-PLEX IN LATE AFTERNOON FROM HOTEL OFF STEMMONS FREEWAY: AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER, HOME OF THE STARS AND NBA MAVERICKS, IS RED-BRICK BUILDING AT FAR LEFT.

DALLAS (NOV. 24) – SITTING ALONE IN EMPTY, DARKENED AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER AFTER LEAFS PRACTICE, BANGING OUT A STORY ON MY LAP-TOP FOR NATIONAL POST.

ARLINGTON, Tex. (NOV. 24) – THANKSGIVING DAY FOOTBALL IN THE U.S. AT THE MAGNIFICENT COWBOYS STADIUM, WITH ITS GINORMOUS VIDEO-BOARD ABOVE MID-FIELD. DALLAS COWBOYS BEAT MIAMI DOLPHINS, 20-19, ON LAST-PLAY FIELD GOAL BY DAN BAILEY.

DALLAS (NOV. 25) – TIM CONNOLLY (ABOVE) WHEELS AWAY AT AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER AND DION PHANEUF IS CONGRATULATED BY TEAMMATES (BELOW) AFTER FIRST-PERIOD GOAL ON KARI LEHTONEN. TORONTO WOULD BEAT DALLAS IN A SHOOT-OUT.

ANAHEIM (NOV. 26) – PALM TREES REACH TOWARD PERFECT CALIFORNIA SKY (ABOVE) OUTSIDE HONDA CENTER, HOME OF ANAHEIM DUCKS. INTERIOR OF THE DUCK-POND (BELOW).

   

ANAHEIM (NOV. 27) – WEATHER WAS STILL PERFECT ON GAME-NIGHT (ABOVE) AS LEAFS AND DUCKS SQUARED OFF IN RANDY CARLYLE’S LAST GAME BEHIND ANAHEIM BENCH. HE WOULD BE FIRED AFTER 5-2 TORONTO VICTORY AND REPLACED BY BRUCE BOUDREAU. CARLYLE WOULD THEN REPLACE RON WILSON BEHIND LEAFS BENCH IN EARLY-MARCH.

ANAHEIM (NOV. 27) – RON WILSON IN FULL-“MOVEMBER” AFTER VICTORY OVER DUCKS.

LOS ANGELES (NOV. 29) – TAKING OFF FOR HOME OVER PLAYA del REY AND PACIFIC OCEAN.

   

WASHINGTON (DEC. 9) – THE UNITED STATES CAPITOL AND THE WHITE HOUSE DURING PRE-GAME WALK ON A COOL, CRISP AFTERNOON.

WASHINGTON (DEC. 9) – UNDER SIEGE ALL NIGHT, LEAFS LOSE, 4-2, TO CAPITALS AT VERIZON CENTER – FANS (ABOVE) CELEBRATING WHAT THEY BELIEVE TO BE HAT-TRICK BY DEFENSEMAN DENNIS WIDEMAN. GOAL WAS LATER CHANGED.

BUFFALO (DEC. 16) – LEAFS TAKE THEIR MORNING SKATE LESS THAN A MILE FROM ART-DECO CITY HALL; EX-SABRE TIM CONNOLLY – WHILE TRYING TO ESCAPE UNNOTICED – IS NABBED BY REPORTERS NEAR EMPLOYEE EXIT OF FIRST NIAGARA CENTER.

BUFFALO (DEC. 16) – PUCK IS VISIBLE ABOVE GOAL-APRON INSIDE LEFT POST AS MIKHAIL GRABOVSKI SCORES IN THIRD PERIOD THROUGH A SCREEN PROVIDED BY TEAMMATE JOEY CRABB. BUT, THREE POWERPLAY GOALS LIFT SABRES TO 5-4 VICTORY.

TORONTO (DEC. 17) – LUKE SCHENN KEEPS AN EYE ON VANCOUVER’S RYAN KESLER WHILE JONAS GUSTAVSSON GUARDS HIS CAGE IN CANUCKS 5-3 VICTORY AT AIR CANADA CENTRE.

TORONTO (DEC. 19) – WHO WOULD HAVE KNOWN, PRIOR TO CHRISTMAS, THAT THE EVENTUAL STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS WERE VISITING THE ACC? LOS ANGELES KINGS HAD JUST MADE A COACHING CHANGE, HIRING DARRYL SUTTER. THE REST BECAME HISTORY, WITH GOALIE JONATHAN QUICK (BOTTOM-RIGHT) LEADING THE WAY. KINGS BEAT THE LEAFS, 3-2, IN A SHOOTOUT, DROPPING TORONTO’S RECORD TO 1-3-2 IN ITS PREVIOUS SIX GAMES.

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (DEC. 23) – AIR CANADA JET MAKES RIGHT TURN OVER CENTRAL PARK AND WEST SIDE OF MANHATTAN (ABOVE) ON APPROACH TO LaGUARDIA AIRPORT. LATER ON, LEAFS EARN 5-3 VICTORY OVER NEW YORK ISLANDERS (WEARING GOD-AWFUL THIRD JERSEYS) AT NASSAU COLISEUM IN THEIR FINAL MATCH BEFORE CHRISTMAS BREAK.

MIAMI BEACH (DEC. 25) – CHRISTMAS NEVER LOOKED LIKE THIS WHEN I WAS A KID. WAITING FOR LEAFS TO ARRIVE IN FLORIDA, I SNAPPED ABOVE PHOTO FROM 44th FLOOR OF A FRIEND’S CONDOMINIUM – ITS SHADOW EXTENDING BEYOND BEACH TO THE ATLANTIC OCEAN.

   

SUNRISE, Fla. (DEC. 27) – AFTER THE LEAFS MORNING SKATE AT BANKATLANTIC CENTER (ABOVE) – HOME OF THE FLORIDA PANTHERS – RON WILSON DISCUSSES HIS CONTRACT EXTENSION… THE ONE HE ANNOUNCED VIA TWITTER ON CHRISTMAS DAY.

SUNRISE, Fla. (DEC. 27) – A GOOD BATTLE TO BEGIN SECOND PERIOD (ABOVE) QUICKLY TURNED AGAINST LEAFS (BELOW), AS PANTHERS SCORED GOALS 1:43 APART TO BREAK 1-1 TIE AND CHASE JAMES REIMER FROM THE VISITORS’ NET. FLORIDA WON THE MATCH, 5-3.

RALEIGH, N.C. (DEC. 29) – LEAFS GO THROUGH THEIR MORNING PACES AT EMPTY RBC CENTER, PREPARING FOR NIGHT ENCOUNTER WITH CAROLINA HURRICANES.

   

RALEIGH, N.C. (DEC. 29) – LUKE SCHENN LEAVES THE RBC CENTER ICE AFTER MORNING SKATE (ABOVE) IN COMPANY OF RADIO ANALYST JIM RALPH, WHILE CLARKE MacARTHUR MAKES TELEPHONE CALL OUTSIDE THE ARENA (BELOW) – SITTING ON A MULE.

RALEIGH, N.C. (DEC. 29) – ICE-SURFACE AT RBC CENTER GLEAMS (ABOVE) JUST PRIOR TO GAME TIME. JAMES REIMER IS VISITED BY ANTHONY STEWART OF HURRICANES (BOTTOM-LEFT) AND IS BEATEN BY ERIC STAAL AT 3:09 OF OVERTIME (BOTTOM-RIGHT), CAPPING CAROLINA’S REBOUND FROM 3-1 THIRD-PERIOD DEFICIT.

TORONTO (DEC. 30) – QUITE THE CONTRAST: HEADING TO THE AIRPORT IN NORTH CAROLINA ON A GORGEOUS, EARLY-WINTER DAY (ABOVE) AND TAXIING TO THE RUNWAY AT PEARSON AIRPORT FOUR HOURS LATER (BELOW) FOR A CONNECTING FLIGHT TO WINNIPEG.

WINNIPEG (DEC. 31) – APPROACHING THE MTS CENTER (ABOVE) IN A TAXI TO WATCH LEAFS PARTAKE IN AN OPTIONAL MORNING SKATE (BELOW).

WINNIPEG (DEC. 31) – LEAFS FIRST ROAD GAME AGAINST THE “NEW” WINNIPEG JETS BEGINS (ABOVE) WITH REFEREE TIM PEEL DROPPING PUCK BETWEEN TIM CONNOLLY AND TIM STAPLETON; IT ENDS WITH VISITORS ON WRONG END OF A 3-2 NEW YEAR’S EVE DECISION AND IN A 4-7-2 TAILSPIN DATING TO NOV. 22. THOUGH LEAFS WOULD RECOVER IN JANUARY, A TOTAL COLLAPSE WAS ON THE HORIZON.

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