TORONTO (Feb. 5) — Befitting one of the greatest players in franchise history, the Toronto Maple Leafs went the extra mile on Thursday night to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Darryl Sittler’s 10–point game against Boston. Sittler erupted for six goals and four assists at Maple Leaf Gardens during an 11–4 rout of the Bruins — coached by Donald S. Cherry — on Feb. 7, 1976.
The 10 points remains a National Hockey League record for a single match.
The hockey club invited a posse of Sittler’s teammates from the 1975–76 season to the Air Canada Centre for a ceremony prior to Thursday’s encounter with the New Jersey Devils. Included were goalies Wayne Thomas, Gord McRae and Doug Favell (Thomas played the game against Boston); defencemen Brian Glennie, Rod Seiling and Dave Dunn; forwards Errol Thompson (Sittler’s left–winger on Feb. 7, 1976), Dave (Tiger) Williams, Jack Valiquette and Pat Boutette. Sittler’s right–winger, Lanny McDonald, offered some memories on a video–board tribute, as did Hall–of–Fame defenceman Borje Salming. Also on hand were the Maple Leafs’ general manager and coach from ’75–76 — Jim Gregory and Leonard (Red) Kelly.
The biggest sport of all was Troy, N.Y. native Dave Reece — the Boston goalie that yielded all 11 Toronto goals and never played another game in the NHL. Reece accepted the Maple Leafs’ invitation to join Sittler during Thursday night’s ceremony, though he shook his head bemusedly while walking toward center–ice upon being introduced. “I talked about it with my wife, that it would have to be the right thing — honoring Darryl and not demeaning me,” Reece told Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun. The former goalie received a warm reception from the ACC crowd, and Sittler clearly appreciated his presence. “He has a big heart and I am so happy he was here to share this evening. Very classy. He gets it. He is just a gracious guy.”
Sportsnet did a superb job of covering the ceremony prior to televising the Maple Leafs–Devils game (Toronto prevailed, 3–2, in a shootout). Here are some of the TV highlights:
DAVE REECE AND DARRYL SITTLER STAND ON THE ICE AT AIR CANADA CENTRE. BOTH ARE 65. THEY WERE 25 WHEN THEIR BIOS APPEARED (BELOW) IN THE 1975–76 BRUINS AND LEAFS MEDIA GUIDES.
PHOTO (TOP–LEFT) OF SITTLER AND REECE DURING THE 10–POINT GAME, WHICH I ATTENDED, FOUR DAYS AFTER MY 17th BIRTHDAY, IN THE WEST REDS AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS.
RED KELLY REACHES ACROSS TIGER WILLIAMS TO SHAKE HANDS WITH HIS FORMER GOALIE, DOUG FAVELL. THE TWO MEN HAD BEEN PART OF HOCKEY HISTORY. ON OCT. 14, 1967 — AT THE LONG BEACH (CALIF.) ARENA — KELLY COACHED THE LOS ANGELES KINGS, AND FAVELL STARTED IN GOAL FOR THE PHILADELPHIA FLYERS, IN THE FIRST NHL GAME FOR BOTH EXPANSION TEAMS.
FAVELL AND REECE GREET ONE ANOTHER AS THE TIGER WATCHES.
SITTLER IS INTRODUCED TO THE CROWD AT AIR CANADA CENTRE.
SITTLER SHAKES HANDS WITH ROD SEILING WHILE (LEFT–TO–RIGHT) GORD McRAE, DAVE DUNN, WAYNE THOMAS (BEHIND SEILING), FAVELL AND WILLIAMS LOOK ON.
WILLIAMS HAS ARM AROUND RED KELLY AS SITTLER GREETS SEILING AND THOMAS.
SITTLER SHAKES HANDS (TOP–LEFT) WITH JIM GREGORY, THE GM THAT DRAFTED HIM FROM LONDON OF THE ONTARIO HOCKEY ASSOCIATION IN 1970. THEN, WITH FORMER TEAMMATE BRIAN GLENNIE.
SITTLER APPRECIATED THE GOOD–NATURED REECE ATTENDING THE CEREMONY.
THE ’75–76 MAPLE LEAFS GATHER AS SITTLER DROPS A CEREMONIAL PUCK BETWEEN CAPTAINS ANDY GREENE OF NEW JERSEY AND DION PHANEUF OF TORONTO.