By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (Dec. 2) — It seems like every day, Maple Leaf fans are treated to the smiling face of the club’s all–time most popular player.
At 90, Johnny Bower is marvelously ubiquitous, showing up whenever and wherever invited. Not often, though, will you see Bower smile, sing and cry in the same day. I had that privilege on Monday at a gathering of National Hockey League heroes in Markham, north of Toronto.
As always, Johnny made himself available for countless photos. More than 150 admirers were also treated to a full, live version of Bower’s 1965 musical hit Honky The Christmas Goose. Then came a somber moment. As the goalie of all four Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup teams in the 1960’s spoke of the ailing Gordie Howe, he paused and choked up. “He’s a guy I didn’t like much when we played against one another, but Gordie…” said Bower, his voice trailing off; eyes tearing. Howe, 86, suffered a damaging stroke last month in Lubbock, Tex. that impaired the right side of his body and has left him unable to speak. Bower and Howe — both from Saskatchewan — were fierce rivals on the ice in the 60’s and fishing buddies back home during the off–season.
Otherwise, the first–Monday–of–each–month affair was lively; teeming with hockey stars of yesteryear. I was there with my trusty NIKON.
LIFE–LONG FRIENDS BOB BAUN (LEFT) AND JOHNNY BOWER EMBRACE DURING LUNCH ON MONDAY. THEY PLAYED TOGETHER ON ALL FOUR STANLEY CUP TEAMS WITH THE LEAFS IN THE 60’s — AS EVIDENCED BY THEIR CARDS (BELOW) FROM THE 1965–66 TOPPS HOCKEY SET.
BOWER AND BAUN SHARE A PRIVATE MOMENT.
NO GOOD MAN CAN BECOME GREAT WITHOUT A TERRIFIC WOMAN. THESE ARE TWO ULTRA–TERRIFIC WOMEN: SALLIE BAUN (LEFT) AND NANCY BOWER.
JOHNNY BOWER ENCHANTED THE LUNCH AUDIENCE BY SINGING ALL THREE VERSES OF HIS 1965 SMASH HOLIDAY HIT HONKY THE CHRISTMAS GOOSE (RECORD COVER BELOW).
BOB NEVIN (LEFT) AND DEAN PRENTICE WERE STARS OF THE 1950’s, 60’s AND 70’s. PRENTICE SCORED 391 NHL GOALS BETWEEN 1952 AND 1973. NEVIN HAD 307 GOALS FROM 1958 TO 1976 AND PLAYED ON THE LEAF STANLEY CUP TEAMS OF 1962 AND 1963. THEY WERE TEAMMATES FOR TWO SEASONS (1971–72 AND 1972–73) WITH THE MINNESOTA NORTH STARS. NEVIN AND PRENTICE ARE PICTURED BELOW IN THEIR 1967–68 TOPPS HOCKEY CARDS.
FORMER RANGERS STALWART HARRY HOWELL IN HIS 1967–68 TOPPS HOCKEY CARD (LEFT) AND AT THE LUNCH ON MONDAY. THE HALL–OF–FAMER WILL TURN 82 ON DEC. 28.
DAVE GARDNER (LEFT) AND STEVE VICKERS WERE TEAMMATES ON THE 1971–72 JUNIOR TORONTO MARLBOROS AND BOTH PLAYED IN THE NHL (HOCKEY CARDS BELOW). VICKERS WON THE CALDER TROPHY AS THE NHL’s ROOKIE–OF–THE–YEAR WITH NEW YORK RANGERS IN 1972–73. GARDNER HAD THE “PLEASURE” OF SKATING WITH THE CALIFORNIA GOLDEN SEALS AND THE CLEVELAND BARONS.
BOWER AND BAUN POSE WITH FORMER NHL REFEREES BRUCE HOOD (LEFT) AND RON WICKS.
SUSAN FOSTER, PARTNER OF THE LATE NHL DEFENSEMAN CARL BREWER, POSES (TOP–LEFT) WITH HER 11–WEEK–OLD GRANDCHILD, MARSHALL DAVID ROSS. FOSTER WROTE A POWERFUL MEMOIR (TOP–RIGHT) IN 2006 ON COMBINING WITH BREWER TO SUCCESSFULLY RECOUP MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN PENSION BENEFITS FOR RETIRED NHL PLAYERS.
LITTLE MARSHALL IN HIS 2013–14 DAVID BOLLAND LEAFS JERSEY WITH MOM SARAH.
TELL ME I DON’T STILL HAVE IT. HUH? TELL ME.
BRUCE HOOD CONFERS WITH BOB BAUN (LEFT) AND POSES WITH JOHNNY BOWER.
OL’ ST. NICK GATHERS WITH JIM TATTI (MIDDLE) OF TSN-1050 RADIO AND BOB BAUN.
SUSAN FOSTER; GRANDSON MARSHALL AND TODD SLOAN, NOW 87, WHO PLAYED WITH THE LEAFS FROM 1947–48 TO 1957–58. SLOAN IS PICTURED AT RIGHT IN PHOTO, BELOW, WITH TEAMMATES TED KENNEDY AND SID SMITH. HE SCORED 37 GOALS IN 1955–56.
OUR HOST RESTAURANT WAS ALREADY DECKED OUT FOR CHRISTMAS.
HANDED OUT TO ALL IN ATTENDANCE ON MONDAY.
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