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NHL NEWS – Bower’s fondness for Maple Leafs was mutual, Shanahan says

August 14, 2019

Bower’s fondness for Maple Leafs was mutual, Shanahan says TORONTO — Even though it has been 47 years since Johnny Bower played his final game for the Toronto Maple Leafs, there are very few players — past or present — who could bring the crowd at Air Canada Centre to its feet the way he could. Though Maple Leafs fans revered Bower, the Hall of Fame goaltender who died at 93 on Tuesday, it was always clear how grateful the four-time Stanley Cup champion was in return. Johnny loved being a Leaf and in retirement, he loved being a Leaf, Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said Wednesday. Here was a Hall of Famer who would dress up as Santa Claus for the players and their kids and families. Regardless of where the Leafs were in the standings, Johnnys love for the Maple Leafs never wavered. We dont really know of a former player who was loved by Leafs fans but loved them back equally as much.. Bower was a fixture in Toronto, both at games and various charitable appearances since he retired in 1969 at 45 after playing 12 seasons for the Maple Leafs. Thats one of the cool things about playing for the Maple Leafs is you get to hang around guys like that who are just larger than life, forward James van Riemsdyk said. At the end of the day, [he was] just a great person. He just carried himself really humbly and hes a really good representation of what a Maple Leaf should be, so obviously its a pretty sad day.. Shanahan said he had not met Bower personally before taking the job as Toronto president in 2014 but was aware of his reputation. He was a legend in the sense that you didnt have to be living in Toronto or working for the Maple Leafs to know about his spirit and to hear the stories of his generosity and charity, Shanahan said, not to mention his accomplishments on the ice. In my time working here, nobody ever came upon Johnny Bower at any time and saw him frustrated or uncomfortable or impatient, he was never any of those things. Anytime somebody saw Johnny Bower, they came away with a great experience; he was a great lesson for all of us.. Shanahan was born in 1969 and grew up in Toronto. He is too young to have seen Bower play in person, but even as a child knew enough about him to understand his place in Maple Leafs history. Not too many people in sports have a name where it almost becomes a verb, Shanahan said. If you were playing street hockey and you poke-checked somebody, youd yell, I just Johnny Bower-ed you! Id never seen Johnny play as a young kid but I knew that he was the man who invented the poke-check growing up here in Toronto.. Bower spent the equivalent of a full career in the minors before becoming a full-time NHL goaltender at age 34. That happening nowadays would be unheard of, forward Patrick Marleau said. For him to do that and be so successful, thats a great accomplishment.. Bower won the Stanley Cup in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967, and played most of his career without wearing a mask. Youd watch the video of him playing net and taking pucks off the face and everything he did. It was unbelievable, forward Tyler Bozak said. Every time theyd show it, it was crazy, some of the stitches and stuff he had on his face. Taking a puck in the face, getting back up and taking another puck in the face, its crazy. Obviously he had a lot of compete in him.. Bower meant something to so many generations of fans. To some, he is remembered as an instrumental part of the Maple Leafs last Stanley Cup win in 1967. To others, he is the man who invented the poke-check. To the current generation, he is the link to past glory. I dont know him like a lot of people do, but what he appears to me to be is an example for all our players to try to live up to, coach Mike Babcock said. When you treat people the way he did, and when you make people feel better about themselves just from your conversation, thats the mark of a great, great man. Obviously he was an unbelievable goaltender and an unbelievable Leaf, but I think what he did off the ice for our fans and what he did for people is far more impressive. I think its important for our guys to learn about him, and theyre going to hear a lot about [it] over the next while and understand what a good man he was and what a great role model he was. We all think were doing a pretty good job, but then when you hear about the quality of person he was, its pretty humbling to say the least. Good on him and his family. Obviously, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. He had a great life, 93 years young..

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