It was a historic day for the Toronto Maple Leafs yesterday on two fronts. The team unveiled a new jersey that the team will wear this coming season. When the hockey club hits the ice for the 2010-2011 season, what's old will be new again. Brian Burke and Ron Wilson said that with the new sweaters the team is looking to return to its roots, and by the looks of things, mission accomplished. The jersey's feature a string and a collar. Also the shade of blue seems to be slightly darker then in recent years. The two stripes at the bottom of the jersey have made a return and there are also two stripes on the sleeves. Also back by popular demand is the vintage Leaf logo on both shoulders, while the lettering and numbering has gone back to a standard format, rather then the outlined letters and numbering. With this "new" design the franchise has clearly gone back to the future and spliced together elements from the 1967 and 1993 sweaters. I'd say if we're trying to recapture the glory of yesterday, those are definitely the years of success to strive for. All that's left is to hop into the DeLorean, fire up the flux capacitor, grab Dave Keon, Johnny Bower, Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark, from their respective era's and Stanley, here we come. The sweaters are classy, elegant, and embody the tradition that is synonymous with this franchise. The only question is, do I get a Phil Kessel or a Dion Phaneuf?
Speaking of Dion Phaneuf, the worst kept secret in hockey was made official. As the Leafs revealed their new attire, they announced Dion Phaneuf as the 18th captain in team history. This is a title that has been vacant for two years, since Mats "Poker Star" Sundin, decided to be a hypocrite, go on a 6 month vacation, return for a short, and fruitless playoff stint with Vancouver before retiring. Quite frankly, the franchise was right to hold off on naming a captain,
because up until now, there was no one who stood out as captain material. Being the captain of the Maple Leafs is a tremendous honour, that comes with great responsibility. To follow in the footsteps of some of the great legends of the past is a daunting task.
A captain needs to lead by example, on and off the ice. He needs to have an incredible work ethic, and positive attitude. When the team is struggling, he's going to have to carry this team on his back, willing them to victory. He will need to mentor those who are struggling, and share success when it finally starts to bubble to the surface. That's why Dion Phaneuf was the right choice. From the moment he arrived in town, he took charge. He brought an energy, enthusiasm, and winning attitude to a team that found ways to loose. His hard-hitting, no nonsense style, spread through the team. Dion Phaneuf's arrival was a major contribution to establishing a winning culture. Since the trade, the team maintained a winning record, that if averaged over a season puts us in the playoffs.
I find it fitting that George Armstrong, Darryl Sittler, and Wendel Clark were all present for the announcement. Arguably three of the greatest Leaf captains of all time. I believe Dion Phaneuf could join that trio. Will he be the first captain since George Armstrong to lift the Stanley Cup? Time will tell. One thing is certain, Leaf Nation has a leader. We are ready to follow, hopefully to be lead out of this long and barren wilderness, back to the promise land.