VANCOUVER (Dec. 4) — I was hoping to say hello to Lou Lamoriello on Saturday night at Rogers Arena, having seen the Maple Leafs general manager from afar at the University of British Columbia on Friday (the Leafs practiced there). And, the opportunity arose, somewhat awkwardly, during the second intermission of the Toronto–Vancouver hockey game. Actually, “somewhat” is a misnomer. It was perversely awkward.
I had just finished washing and drying my hands in the tiny men’s room of the press box when Lamoriello came around the corner, freshly zipped. Instinctively, I stuck out my right paw… and jerked it back.
“Not yet,” said Lou. We both laughed.
Though at an age when most financially–secure men are happy to settle into retirement, the 74–year–old Lamoriello — three times a Stanley Cup GM with New Jersey — makes every Leafs road trip. He looks terrific and is enamored of the front–line prospects on his club. “They’ve got qualities you cannot teach, which is rare,” he said of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. “Most importantly, they want to be the best at what they do. For me, it’s just wonderful having and watching kids that are so driven to succeed.”
FROM MY PERCH IN THE ROGERS ARENA PRESS BOX, THE OPENING FACE–OFF ON SATURDAY NIGHT.
After a slow start against the Canucks, the Leafs were very much driven to succeed. From the moment James van Riemsdyk cut into Vancouver’s 2–0 lead with a powerplay goal at 11:30 of the second period, the determined visitors had control of the puck. If not for a Hurculean effort by long–time nemesis Ryan Miller, the Leafs would have come home with two wins on their three–game journey through western Canada. As it were, Miller (and a bit of good fortune) stymied the Leafs after Matthews tied the match at 1:56 of the third period. Toronto outshot Vancouver 11–4 in the final frame… and 7–1 in five minutes of overtime. But, Miller — as he did so often throughout his years with the Buffalo Sabres (2002–14) — ruined a good Leafs’ effort.
Bo Horvat’s goal in the shootout decided the match.
I was on hand with my trusty NIKON:
ROGERS ARENA IS DIRECTLY ACROSS A NARROW STREET FROM B.C. PLACE STADIUM.
FOR ME, IT WAS A BLAST FROM THE PAST. I REMEMBER THAT MY INITIAL VISIT TO COVER A LEAFS GAME AT ROGERS ARENA (THEN CALLED GENERAL MOTORS PLACE) OCCURRED ON THE SAME NIGHT THE TORONTO RAPTORS PLAYED THEIR FIRST–EVER GAME IN THE NBA (NOV. 3, 1995). I WILL ALSO NEVER FORGET BEING IN THE ARENA WHEN SIDNEY CROSBY SCORED HIS “GOLDEN GOAL” FOR TEAM CANADA AT THE 2010 VANCOUVER WINTER OLYMPICS. IT WAS NICE SEEING SOME OLD MEDIA PALS.
PANORAMIC VIEW FROM THE PRESS BOX DURING THE PRE–GAME WARM–UPS.
“ENEMIES” MINGLED (ABOVE AND BELOW) WHILE WEARING A HOST OF VINTAGE JERSEYS.
DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM IN A MOSTLY–DARKENED ROGERS ARENA.
CANUCKS GOALIE RYAN MILLER HAD TO CONTEND WITH LEO KOMAROV OF THE MAPLE LEAFS.
FIRST PENALTY OF THE GAME WENT TO LUCA SBISA OF VANCOUVER, WHO SLASHED JAMES van RIEMSDYK’S COMPOSITE STICK IN HALF AFTER A GOOD SCORING OPPORUTINY FOR THE LEAFS.
BANNERS AND TV LIGHTS HIGH ABOVE THE ARENA ICE.
ZACH HYMAN MAY HAVE ENJOYED HIS BEST GAME AS A LEAF. HIS TENACIOUS FORECHECK LED TO A PASS OUT FROM BEHIND THE NET FOR MATTHEWS’ TYING GOAL IN THE THIRD PERIOD. HERE, HYMAN BATTLES WITH SBISA WHILE MILLER WATCHES THE PLAY BETWEEN HIS LEGS.
PUCK HITS ICE TO BEGIN THE SECOND PERIOD BETWEEN NAZEM KADRI AND BO HORVAT. REFEREE JEAN HEBERT DOES THE HONORS. AND, FREDERIK ANDERSEN TAKES A BREATHER.
JAMES van RIEMSDYK (CHEWING, AS ALWAYS, ON HIS GREEN MOUTHGUARD) SKATES AWAY HAPPILY AFTER SCORING THE LEAFS FIRST GOAL MIDWAY THROUGH THE SECOND PERIOD. ALSO REJOICING ARE MORGAN RIELLY (44), NIKITA SOSHNIKOV (26), TYLER BOZAK (42) AND MITCH MARNER (16).
TO MY LEFT ALONG PRESS ROW AT ROGERS ARENA.
AFTER THE TWO–DAY BUILD–UP OF ANOTHER WAR BETWEEN THE LEAFS AND CANUCKS, THERE WAS ONLY ONE INCIDENT: A LIVELY PUNCH–UP BETWEEN MATT MARTIN AND ERIK GUDBRANSON AT 2:53 OF THE MIDDLE FRAME. MARTIN ADJUSTED HIS HELMET (BELOW) IN THE PENALTY BOX.
THE ROGERS ARENA SCOREBOARD AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE SECOND PERIOD.
CENTER ICE — FRESHLY ZAMBONI’D — BEFORE THE THIRD PERIOD.
REFEREE HEBERT SPOKE WITH KADRI AND KOMAROV BEFORE THE THIRD–PERIOD FACE–OFF.
MITCH MARNER — ALONE — IN CAMERA EFFECT.
THERE WAS PLENTY OF ROOM ON THE ICE DURING THE SCORELESS, 3–ON–3 OVERTIME SESSION.
KADRI AND BRANDON SUTTER FACED IN OVERTIME. AND BO HORVAT BEAT FREDERIK ANDERSEN TO THE STICK SIDE FOR THE DECISIVE GOAL IN THE SHOOTOUT.
GOOD SUNDAY MORNING FROM VANCOUVER
AS YOU CAN PROBABLY TELL, A GORGEOUS, SUNNY DAY WAS EXPECTED. RARE FOR DECEMBER.
AND… FROM THE SUNDAY VANCOUVER PROVINCE: