mORRganrielly meets the 1993 Toronto Maple Leafs

370

So this week, I was going through another one of @MLHS_Mike’s fantastic write-ups and it brought back memories from my early 20s. Mind you, I’m not that old yet, but I’m getting there.

I used to be a cook. I got to meet a lot of people in my line of work. Hockey players, baseball players, celebrities, and even a girlfriend I was with for most of my early 20s. But the memory I think fondly back on the most as a cook was meeting the 1993 Toronto Maple Leafs team.

I checked the dates and it appears to have been December 12, 2006. I found the game sheet too.

I had only been a month removed from completing my apprenticeship at my first restaurant; I had moved on to The Bottomline Restaurant where I quickly moved up to work the night shift. I remember how I got the job too – I was delivering a package on behalf of the Executive Chef I was working for and was blown away by all the hockey memorabilia inside the restaurant. There were hockey jerseys everywhere. The owner of the restaurant was Wayne Cowley – he had played one game in the NHL as a goaltender for the Edmonton Oilers. Through his years of playing hockey, he developed many connections that he used to his advantage in promoting the Bottomline Restaurant.

I had met many players: Glenn Anderson, Wayne Gretzky, Willie O’Ree, Bob Probert, Glenn Healy, to name some. Sometimes the Leafs playing in 2005 and 2006 would show up after a game.

On the night of December 12, 2006, I was sitting near the back watching the game nearing completion when Cowley asked me to come to the back. He asked if I wanted to take an early night and take my girlfriend out for drinks since he was going to let her go as well (she was a server at the restaurant). ‘Sure,’ I said, ‘it’s been a long day.’

Then he said, ‘The 1993 team is coming over in a bit; I want you and Jacqueline to enjoy yourselves and have drinks on the house.’

Orgasm.

Twenty minutes fly by and I’m in the back of the kitchen quickly trying to clean up when I looked behind me and see Doug Gilmour walking towards me. “Hey-a bud.”

Orgasm.

Actually, I was just completely speechless. Here was my childhood hero – the player whose playoffs performance captured the imagination of hundreds of thousands of Leafs fan and created new ones.

“Where’s Wayne?”

Orgasm. “Guh.”

“Okay…”

Actually, I’m making this conversation up. I don’t actually remember the initial conversation. But I did keep my composure long enough to let him know that Wayne was in the back and that he needed to let him know as soon as possible of the party size.

The players start trickling in. Bill Berg. Todd Gill. Wendel Clark. Glenn Anderson. Peter Zezel. Mike Foligno. Jamie Macoun. Seriously, I had trouble naming all the faces that walked by me — it had been more than 13 years since that team roamed the ice of Maple Leafs Garden. I’m sure I gave some random old guy a whimsical look.

Then Dave Andreychuk walked in. Let me tell you something about Andreychuk. He is fucking huge. In his prime, he was listed at 6’4, 220lbs. That night, and perhaps it was the beer and the confirmation bias of my idolatry, but he was much bigger than that. I would venture 6’6 with shoulders wide enough that two of me would barely equal them. Every step he took seemed graceful – no wonder this guy was a pretty great hockey player.
I went to the back of the restaurant to have a smoke and a drink with Jacqueline. Already out there were Gilmour and Cowley. The four of us talk for a bit. Gilmour asks if I’m enjoying my job. ‘Of course’, I said, ‘I’m in heaven right now.’ Everyone laughs. I randomly got the courage to ask Gilmour if he could call a friend and wish him a happy birthday.

And he actually did it.

One thing about Gilmour is how demanding people are of him. No matter where he goes, someone wants to shake his hand, have their picture taken with him, an autograph, etc. It took a few years for me to realize just how gracious Gilmour was in accepting my request. Here was this guy who had only been at the restaurant for an hour and has had to stop several times to have his picture taken or sign an autograph. Thinking back on it now, I feel bad for him – maybe he enjoys the attention and the worshiping that comes with his fame. I doubt that though; there were times over the two years I worked at the Bottomline Restaurant that I noticed how agitated he would get. To his credit, he never refused a request.

Jacqueline and Cowley went back into the restaurant, leaving Gilmour and me by ourselves. We spoke for 15 minutes about my job, his life after hockey, his favourite hockey memory, the 2006 Leafs. I was thrilled talking to my childhood hero.

After the conversation, we both went back inside and he went to go talk to someone. That someone turned out to be Pat Burns. Burns looked remarkably healthy at the time. This was sometime after his second (?) fight with cancer – I’m fairly certain that he was in remission at the time, but I can’t be certain. I wasn’t sure what to say to him, but Gilmour looked at me and waved me over. As soon as I walked over, Burns grabbed me by the shoulder and said, “Look at this guy! It’s like he’s in a room full of his heroes!” Everyone laughs. Embarrassed, I could barely let out a coherent reply, so I nodded.

Burns ignored me after that, but did give me a big hug. I have no idea why. I think I was the water boy of the restaurant that night.
It was around this point that the alcohol started taking over and my inhibitions started to disappear.

Now, I could be completely wrong on this, but I’m fairly certain that I wasn’t in dickhead mode at that point. I walked over to Clark and offered my hand to shake. He grasped it and looked away. This was extremely discouraging for me. On one hand, all I did was offer my hand to shake and introduce myself. On the other, he looked away. I found this reaction peculiar and a little insulting.

DownGoesBrown would say that this was my brush with death and I should consider myself lucky that Clark didn’t take my head off. I agree. Had I said anything beyond my name for his own “My good deed of the day was letting this person live” file, I’m certain I would have been joining Bob Brooke under the ice.

But as much as I loved Clark as a player, I never really recovered from this interaction with him.

The night wears on. I talk to Gill for a bit. He was drunk. His laughter would reverberate throughout the room. We spoke about Foligno’s Leap – this was before Youtube and I had just saw a highlight of his leap that night. I can’t remember exactly what Gill said, but it was something like, ‘That was the highest Mike will ever jump.’ Gill was hilarious. I have no idea what he was talking about half the time, but the laughter really did settle the nerves I had that night. He was the perfect person to interact with – everyone around him would crack up whenever he spoke.

At some point, I saw Felix Potvin. This was my dickhead moment. The cherry on top of all dickhead things I could have said that night. I walked over to him and offered my hand and said: ‘Man, I cannot believe you fought Hextall. What the fuck were you thinking?’

You know that moment that gets frozen in time when you say something really stupid and the recipient’s face goes from pensive to incredibly offended? That was me and Felix that night.

I am not a smart man.

And that caps the night. My memory stops there. One thing I am just realizing now is that I actually have one picture from that night. It’s not of me, but of Gilmour and two men I don’t recognize.

Gilmour

After that night, I got to meet Gilmour several more times over the course of my employment at the restaurant. I never really bothered him again, but we did have many drinks together in the back of the restaurant just chatting and smoking and laughing.

  • Favell66

    Thanks, very interesting….

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ Radar O’Rielly

    Very nice story thanks.  I remember a day I had as a young boy of 10 with Bernie Parent on his boat that was docked at Ontario Place.  But I can’t go into details!  No its not what you are thinking, I just can’t remember it all!

  • dutchman27

    interesting to read about the number of request a player like Gilmour gets. I met bobby hull and Marcel dionne once after an oldtimers game. Our pick up league was playing the same night on the other pad so we were all mingling in the hall near the dressing rooms. After the game we headed out for wings and beer and we see bobby tucked in the corner sitting by himself. We give him a nod and didn’t bother him. He comes over to our table and joins us an hour later. Turns out our table of all 6 foot and over behemoths had blocked his table from the view of the rest of the bar. He thanked us for letting him eat without interruption for once.

  • MikeGartner11

    I remember meeting a recently retired wendel Clark at the Toronto boat show years ago. My friend I were walking around when I spotted Wendel talking to a salesmen about Aluminum docks. I was wearing my leafs jersey signed by shack and bouwer. I stood on the edge of the booth (Felt like forever, likely five minutes) When wendel was done with the salesmen he came over to me. Pulled a sharpie out and signed my Jersey. He thanked me for waiting and not interrupting. I only half ass remember what I said and it wasn’t coherent, meeting wendel is near the top of my childhood memories.

  • .JVR.

    Great story!!

  • Dale_Lamontagne

    Great story, thanks for sharing!

  • B_Leaf

    I think it is quite possible we end up with three or four Leafs on the WJC team this winter, and that would be really cool. It would also seem that they may a pretty important role on the team as well. I doubt Rielly makes the Leafs but even if he does there is still a chance he gets to play in the tourney according to comments made earlier this year by Poulin. It is likely that Rielly would play top pairing and PP QB for the team.
    It is also becoming increasingly likely that Gauthier gets a serious look in the third line center role. It seems that if the team were selected today he could very well be in. The coaches and scouts have all had positive things to say…having watched him a little myself I would be surprised if he didn’t make it.
    I also think that Finn’s stock is rising. Many of the D men who he is in a battle with have not looked great. Some have looked slow, others error prone. Finn’s biggest problem has been staying healthy. At first thought Finn doesn’t seem like the best fit for the big ice because his skating or perhaps better put his speed is not elite. However the puck moves faster than the man and Finn moves the puck well and with confidence. He also positions himself well on the ice. He has excellent hockey sense and a good compete level. I think right now Finn fits in the top eight, as long as he stays healthy and plays well he has a great chance. Don’t forget that in his draft he was grouped with some guys who went mid first round.
    Because Sutter is coaching and he understands why you need that fourth line type guy who brings grit, PK, and emotion, I think Rupert also stands a chance. 
    With regards to Toninato making the USA team I am a little less inclined. The coach has said that he will have to make the team in a top six role. And to no fault of his own the US has a strong top six. Depending who makes the NHL or what injuries happen he should still get a chance to climb the depth chart with good play to start his NCAA career.

  • Burtonboy

    Good stuff Morgan . Enjoyed the story

  • MikeGartner11

    Good read mORRgan, your rerememberance of your first conversation with Gilmour made me laugh

  • Tim Horton

    Great story – The guy to Gilmour’s left looks like Bob Nicholson, the president of hockey Canada.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Awesome stuff. Love that you could remember the banalities of your casual convo with these guys in spite years of passed time and alcohol.

  • 4evrblue

    great read, would have loved to see Felixs face lol

  • Jimmy Keating

    I was at the Autoshow in the early 90’s and saw Wendel and Zezel there. I was too shy to go up and say hi, but they saw I was staring at them so they came over and talked to me for a bit and gave me an autograph. Died and went to heaven.

  • daveybolland

    Between the interviews, the funny fight blogs, the occasional piece of analysis and stories like this one, MLHS is doing a good job filling the very dry dog days. Good work

  • mapleleafforever

    “.. a girlfriend I was with for most of my early 20s. But the memory I think fondly back on the most as a cook was meeting the 1993 Toronto Maple Leafs team.”
    Love that the 93 team  OBVIOUSLY trumps the girlfriend of 5 years among special people you met working at the restaurant.

  • mORRganRielly

    @mapleleafforever That’s was the intention!  She made fun of me for that night, especially with what I said to Potvin.  It became a popular story with the guys in the kitchen whenever we hired new guys: “This is what you don’t do when you see a celebrity.”

  • JMAC17

    Great story Morgan! 
    Crappy to hear about Clark though…it was just a damn handshake!
    Closest I ever got to meeting him was at a wedding in Kingston….it was outdoors on a lake, he showed up in his boat crushing cans of beers…I was close to him during the ceremony…no chance to talk…he took off right after….was so damn close!

  • Lescott

    I met Dougie once after an old-timer’s game. I didn’t go to the game but he happened to be at the same bar. He’s a friendly guy, We didn’t call him over he just walked over and said hi to the entire table and shook some hands. He’s about my size but I remember he had huge hands.

  • Optimustic

    Thanks for the write-up mORRganrielly,  I met Teeder Kennedy at the Fort Erie Race Track.  about 25 years ago.  He was the only Leaf I’ve met and talked to.   Lots of NHL players were into horse racing, and I remember meeting Gerry Cheevers and a few other Bruin players.

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    Wake n’ bake!!
    VERY cool story!!  I wish I had tales like that.

  • mcloki

    Great story.

  • mlclearwater

    Gilmour made you orgasm a lot.

  • 2minutes

    Hahaha “I am not a smart man”Ive met Dougie a couple times. Once in an airport when I was young and the other was last year in a Boston Pizza. People were all bugging him. Crowds of people were showing up to meet him and leave. I did t want to bug him, but eventually I got drunk and went and shook his hand.My best Leafs meeting was last summer. I had felt that Domi played to long in his career, and some of the magic had worn off a bit. But then I met that guy last summer at a fancy golf course I was working at. What a class act Tie is. I got off late and the beers were flowin since it was a big end of the year party. Tie was drinking wine, but I got to chill with him and a few coworkers for a while. I couldn’t control myself and told him that he’s the shit… I know he knows it, but it had to be said. So after maybe what seemed like about an hour of shootin the with Domi, myself and some coworkers left him to do his own thing and moved away. At the end of the night, Tie came back and shook my hand. I thought that was so cool of him. I was wearing my Leafs hat, but regardless, he came over to us and shook our hands and said goodnight as he left. I thought that was really classy since we already bugged him and shook his hand earlier. I will always remember that and it vaulted Tie into a special class of Leafs are far as I am concerned. Not that he already wasn’t in a higher class in my opinion, but there’s being a good player and then there’s being a good person!

  • sniperstar

    I met Dallas Eakins on my way to class one day. It was actually a class on coaching so I started asking him questions about coaching and how he got into it. He gave me a lot of insight and even gave me a handshake before he had to run off at bay station. Was pretty cool to meet him.

  • 2minutes

    Did he tell you that every class is a tryout? Lol

  • jimmyg65

    Great story. I was a cook at The Madison that year and the Leafs regularly hung out there. We used to bring them into the piano bar to eat dinner occasionally (when the piano bar was closed, so they could eat in peace). Wendel Clark lived up the road and used to hang out with some of the waiters and kitchen guys. One day me and another cook told him we’d been invited to a wedding but neither of us had suits to wear–couple days later Wendel came buy with four suits and told us to pick one we wanted! So I wore one of Wendel Clark’s suits to a wedding! I also got to cook pasta on a game day for Doug Gilmour—penne with cream sauce and spicy chicken.

  • NotInsane

    B_Leaf 
    I’d be absolutely shocked if Gauthier made the team this year.  
    Finn is looking good but he’ll need another year at the very least.  I can’t see him climbing up the depth charts that fast after a year with two bouts of mono
    Rielly will be a Leaf come October.

  • Jimmy Keating

    B_Leaf What’s the most amount of players we’ve had on the WJCs? Carlo and Wellwood? Is that it?

  • Jimmy Keating

    http://dropyourgloves.com/Stat/Players.aspx?League=1&Season=1994&Team=12
     Look at the salaries of those players. Just insane to think how much money the owners were pocketing.

  • WendelGilmour

    https://twitter.com/MapleLeafshttps://twitter.com/MapleLeafs/status/366602333267845120
    Phil Kessel is at Taste of the Danforth today until 2:30p. Come meet him at the https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash Mobile Fan Zone http://t.co/QQqifSKeqE

  • Pent_House

    I thought the story was gonna end with you blowing everyone in the back of the restaurant lmao

  • wendelsway1

    Afternoon Gents…..just back from a week at the cottage with the youngest and a bunch of his friends….chief cook and bottle washer….lol     had to make sure one of these boys didn’t get too plastered and decide to do something stupid…….what all 18 yr old boys are famous for….lol       great story mORRganrielly…..thanks for sharing.  :)

  • NotInsane

    jimmyg65 
    ahh the Maddy

  • The_Irv

    NotInsane B_Leaf I’m curious why you would be shocked if Gauthier made the team this year…
    I feel like he has a good chance, with his size and defensive side of the game I think he would be very valuable. 3rd/4th line centre with size, defensively responsible, and can finish.
    In regards to Rielly, as fun as it would be if he made the team, I think he will be sent back down. Mostly because of the numbers game IMO. I think he will get 9 games with the Leafs, tear up junior back in Moose Jaw, play for team Canada and then hopefully come out flying next year. I’m sure he’ll get much more ice time this year for team Canada.

  • jimmyg65

    NotInsane jimmyg65 Jeez, you should have seen the staff Christmas party. I thought I’d seen it all…

  • The_Irv

    Great story mORRganrielly. Love hearing these kinds of stories.
    Also, for anyone interested, I’m not sure its been posted already, but nice highlights of our boy Freddy at the U18.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIXVYlIAraA 
    Defensively he has an awesome stick. He picks off so many pucks, he could be awesome for the PK in a few years. Not afraid to block shots either. Great to see him snipe one against USA near the end of the video as well!

  • Leafbites

    WendelGilmour Our pudgy star has been doing boatloads of PR. Great to see! When he isn’t firing for par.

  • Lescott

    What are the odds he’ll be hammered drunk walking around solo looking for a party?

  • mORRganRielly

    Pent_House Given a chance, I probably would have.

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    Nice story Morgan…I used to cook in an open kitchen style restaurant at Bay and Bloor and it was frequently visited by celebrities. One night, Borje Salming and Jim McKenny came in and it was just after the Flyers manhandled the Leafs in a playoff series and one of the Flyers had laid a beating on Borje. Both his eyes were blackened pretty good. McKenny recognized me as we were sort of neighbours in the High park area and he came over and made some wisecracks but Borje just stayed in line. Salming also lived in the High Park area and used to play ball hockey with the neighbourhood kids.

  • wiski

    Nice story, I ran into Dougy at Gretzky’s place, we were having a blast with some chicks we met at the bar and Doug kinda bumped into me getting to the bar. He turned around and said get these guys around on me. Great guy very down to earth.

  • NotInsane

    Lescott 
    That’s more of an elected Toronto official thing to do.  Leafs players are too classy

  • NotInsane

    The_Irv NotInsane B_Leaf
    Gauthier is on the young end of 18 and hasn’t finished growing (upwards) let alone width ways.  He hasn’t developed his offensive game yet.  Leafs mgt told us he was on the “long” route to the NHL.  He hasn’t even made the junior team yet, the best young players aren’t even in these exhibition games.  Far better to let him work and grow in junior than risk injury in the NHL against men. Bring him up now would be a big time rush job.  
    Rielly will be on the team in October.  As you say, he might get sent down before his 10 games but he’ll be a Leafs in October as per my earlier post.

  • mlclearwater

    Pent_House hahaha

  • The_Irv

    ingy56 Cool story. Awesome to hear Salming would play ball hockey with the neighbourhood kids. Wish they still lived in the area because I’m now living right near High Park

  • maximus_asinus

    I met Al Iafrate twice:
    once just in passing and I wasn’t sure it was even him, he was in town for a charity hockey tournament but the cab driver got lost trying to find the arena (new building). Well the cabby pulled over when I happened to be jogging past and he asked me for directions which I gave. Just before he pulled away Al rolled the window down and gave his thanks and gave me a handshake. I just said “you’re welcome” because I was too dumbfounded and confused for my brain to actually register who he was.
    The second time I met him was during a McSorley and friends Alumni game, I had connections with FYHA and I got a volunteer position near their locker room. I basically ambushed the players as they came in and got them all to sign my Leafs jersey. I met Gary Leeman, Glenn Anderson, and Iafrate again to name a few players. As part of the event the staff and players went to supper after the game and I got to drink with the guys as well.

  • The_Irv

    NotInsane The_Irv B_Leaf Wow sorry, I had thought you meant make the Canadian Junior team. I agree fully I don’t think he will make the Leafs this year haha.
    I think he has a good chance at making the juniors team.
    Sorry my misunderstanding!

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    WendelGilmour 
    So….does Kessel live here year round (including the off season)??  If I’m not mistaken, he’s from Minnisotta.

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    The_Irv ingy56 Salming was on Baby Point Rd. and McKenney was on Ellis Pk. Dr. I used to meet McKenny on his daily runs in the park as I walked my dog. When I was a kid, Peter Mahovlich used to be billeted on our street and he loved playing ball hockey with us. I used to “call on him” all the time.

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    ingy56 The_Irv 
    My uncle used to live on Baby Point Rd.