This is who this young man is. No muss, no fuss. No complaining, no hold-out or playing games through the media with his agent. He just signed like he plays, quietly, with no hullabaloo.
It would be difficult, I sense, to find a Maple Leaf fan who doesn’t truly like this young man. He presents as someone who just appreciates his good fortune in life. If he is as humble as he appears—it’s all the better, for him and his career.
Of course, it helps that he played well, and unexpectedly so (out of the blue, really) this past season. But it’s a wonderful combination for a professional athlete, and a bit of a rare one: talent, and a touch of down-to-earth genuineness.
This got me thinking, I don’t know if he’s at the top of the list, but he’s certainly on the list of Maple Leafs that I’ve seen over the past fifty years who were simply (at least as best we could tell, as “outsiders”) good guys. Likeable athletes. (You know, kind of the John McDonald of the Blue Jay side of things…)
Here’s a list of a few Maple Leafs in my memory through the years who stood out in this regard. I’m sure you have your own ideas on this topic…
- Red Kelly - Leaf fans with a sense of the team’s history know the story—the long-time Red Wing defenseman, an All-Star, refused a trade to the Rangers, quit, and ended up with the Leafs. He was installed as a center by then GM/Coach Punch Imlach, and he went on to help the Leafs win those four Stanley Cups in the 1969s. He also went on to coach to Leafs in the Sittler/Salming era. He was a Canadian Member of Parliament for a while—when he played! He was just a gentlemen who respected the fans and the opposition.