Tag Archive for Dave Keon

Who’s the Captain of this Barge?

1219 for publication April 28, 2017

Ross Brewitt

Who’s the newest captain of the Leafs going to be?

The question was first raised by “Mike,” a long-serving friend of mine and a lifelong subscriber to the Maple Leaf lifestyle. These days his calendar is filled with figuring out where all the pieces fit, what new pieces they’ll need, and it’s not like he’s alone.

A few generations of Leaf fans, some able to cheer their heroes forward with more than a quick-fix on to base their enthusiasm on, are enjoying the luxury of “looking ahead” as opposed to looking back, at old glories in the fading rear-view mirror. We expect these legions to grow considering the numbers coming out of the closet after years of submerging their backing and allegiance.

Based on the performance of the present Leafs, holding a top team in hockey down to six games decided by one goal, eight periods of extra-fun hockey played over six games, and only one concluded without overtime, underlines how the Leafs came that close to upsetting “number one” over the regular season.

By mid-term it was expected the Leafs were a better team, a competitive team. No-one knew how long it would last, or how it would translate into a playoff atmosphere. Now they find themselves the toast of Leaf fans coast-to-coast. Even better, there are those inside hockey and other fans who admire what they’ve accomplished.

The reality will come October ’17 when much more will be expected of them, or else.

In the meantime let’s get back to this new Leaf’s choice for captain. At present Toronto has four “A’s.” In my opinion, they should continue that format through the coming season. Realistically, I’m figuring if they don’t pick-up Jonathan Toews or Erik Karlsson in a deal in the off-season, (yeah, right,) there are two outstanding choices for captain in the fold right now. Mike Rielly, and/or Auston Matthews. The other Mike, my pal Mike, thinks it goes to Matthews, right now, no hesitation, no contest.

Having been around the NHL scene, watching captains come and go on many teams, I’ve often found the next captain selected was often not the slam dunk he seemed to be. It’s not always the team’s best player standing on skates. It’s not the oldest, nor the youngest, and there’s where we are with a captain-in-waiting for Toronto. That’s the obvious dilemma in dealing with a popularity contests pitted against cold, hard, necessity.

Past Leafs were a mixed bag. Example George Armstrong was an excellent “C.” Yet Dave Keon hated the assignment. Both were very private people, the perfect example of straightforward service, and unmistakable disregard.

See, the captain wears many off-ice hats, he’s the buffer between the front office, and the coaches when a wrong turn is made by one or the other parties. A captain is an ombudsman, often burdened with minor aggravations, disputes between players and coaching staff, someone to fill a required date at a hospital, the kinds of public relation requirements all teams assume once the season begins.

That availability of players is often disrupted with team priority requirements for injury rehab, changes in the lineups, reassignment to the minors, treatments, and family matters.

But by and large, the captain is the face of the on-ice product. Barring injury he must be an everyday player and a front-man, someone with the presence to settle internal disputes between teammates, management, media and coaches. For that he uses his standing within the team and his trust and perceived impartiality to settle disputes for the good of the team.

That area alone is the big responsibility.

Within those considerations, Rielly at age 23, has shown improvement in his standing and grasp of the NHL game. It’s improving at a rapid pace for a young defensive player. The difference between the two, is summed up in Rielly’s longer range of eon-the-job experience.

The good news may be having four A’s carry the load for the next two seasons and then put the right man in line for the job. It will allow the next captain of the Leafs to show his leadership and talents in that area. Keeping in mind these two excellent candidates to be the “players public face,” will ideally be a long term assignment.

What’s the rush? Looks like the talent will be there, on the job, when the time comes for the Leafs to “C.”




The Five Hole Diaries

1192 for publication November 18, 2016

Ross Brewitt


This is now my 22nd year of writing a regular weekly column on the games people play, in fact I’ve been writing Friday columns on a regular basis beginning in the early 90’s.

A little history.  When I was with the Buffalo Sabres organization back in 1973 I was commissioned to write my first book by the Knox brothers, the benevolent owners of the Sabres. “A Spin of the Wheel” was the title, a reference to the tacky over-and-under midway carnie wheel the NHL brought in to decide who would get the first pick in the 1970 Entry Draft.

It was 20 years after, the “Spin” book, 1993, that I decided to get back into serious writing, and I came out with Last Minute of Play. I was lying in a hospital bed in Mississauga when my son called and said he was in downtown Toronto and the new book was taking up an entire window of a downtown store.

It went best seller in 6 weeks.

Getting back on my feet I set out on the cross country book tour. By then the doctors were advising I would be having a triple bypass scheduled for January of ’94. Turns out it was a quad, and after the rehab period, my dear friend and roomie in those NHL OldStars touring years, referee Bobby Kolari, chauffeured me hither and yon around Ontario doing the interviews for the sequel, “Into the Empty Net.” It came out the fall of ’94, same result.

Riding my new found celebrity, I interviewed with several newspaper dailies but settled for rejection notices. One in particular was revealing. At the behest of George Gross, the former sports editor of the Toronto Sun, I submitted two pieces I had written for Scott Morrison to peruse. In a nice return note he indicated “you sure know how to attack a point,” but then confessed, he had many long-suffering writers at the Sun who would riot if an outsider were to leapfrog the line of succession.

So in those final months of ’94, and the beginnings of 1995, I rolled the dice and decided to stick to sport. Good choice, considering the run is still running. Determined, I put on a sales campaign and over time lined up ten smaller dailies to carry my weekly rants.

From that fluctuating base came this collection of selected columns making up my seventh book “the Five Hole Diaries.

The span runs from ‘95 to 2016, has pieces on Orr, Crosby, and McDavid, Greg Zaun, the Blue Jays, Eagleson, minor hockey parents, Drew Doughty, Eric Staal, memories of golf, the blight of diving, a guy named Bettman, and a home run hit by another guy named Zaroski.

The stories are filled with “player humour” the kind of irreverent commentary you can find in any dressing room, anywhere. The type of humour that never gets old, and only the players and the equipment change.

Conversely, there is a quote in the new book sent to me by Jim McKenny, my dear friend and ex-Leaf defenceman who wrote, “if I could remember my life story, Ross is the only one I would trust to write it.” It won’t happen but I’ll cherish that thought.

Other columns in the book are kid’s soccer officials, the NHL shutdown of ’05, the Penn State shame, good ol’ Gabby Boudreau, the forgetting of Teeder Kennedy, Lucky Lindros, off-side parents, Shackie and Arthur, and a golf foursome I named “Yasser and Beans.”

I found column subjects in the people I played with and the courses we played, I even reflected on a golf hole I love lying at the base of a sun-dappled mountain.

I wrote on those who crossed my path, luminaries and personalities as variable as Dave Keon, and John Tortorella. I also considered ordinary people faced with today’s games and pitfalls, minor hockey parents, Sabres fans, kids on steroids, saving the hockey handshake, and the people I met in medical waiting rooms.

All ordinary, all run-of-the-mill like the rest of us. Yet they’re revealing, and exciting in their own way.

I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy the Five Hole Diaries.

You can order the book by connecting with Ross at rossbrewitt@rogers.com