Hello to all in Leafland. As of right now, Leafland is a fantastically fun place to be. The recent blockbusters have seemed to, at least temporarily, righted the Good Ship Maple Leaf as they set course for a proper rebuild of the greatest sports franchise in the known universe. A s a result of the shake-up, I have felt compelled to issue a new number of the day column.
So, kiddies, today's number is 3. Of course, unless you've been living under Brian McCabe's overcoat, which he no longer needs as he is very comfortable losing in Florida you are aware that the latest Leafer to wear number 3 is Dion Phaneuf.
The number 3 in Leaf history is a lot like the number 8. Not too many incredible pieces of talent have worn it. That, my friends, is about to change.
This rock-em sock-em style of defenceman, has brought even more truculence to the Maple Leaf blueline and has propelled the d-corps of the buds to one of the best units in the NHL. Known more for his hard-hitting style, Phaneuf has been able to rack up some impressive point totals throughout his still young NHL career. 20 goal seasons and 60 point seasons have been reached and with the opportunity to man the point on the power-play for the Leafs, will more than likely soon be surpassed. A former Calder and Norris trophy finalist, he is sure to turn heads and climb back up to the stature of Norris trophy candidate now that he is in the centre of the hockey universe.
Other number 3's of distinction
- Wade Belak--A fan favourite during his time here, the former first round pick of the Quebec Nordiques (12th overall), Wade was also known for his truculent behaviour. Playing both forward and defense positions, Wade loved to drop the gloves. Perhaps his most famous fight was on the ACC ice against Cam Janssen, then of the New Jersey Devils. In a game earlier in the season, Janssen had knocked Tomas Kaberle into Lala-land with a vicious head shot. No Leaf responded (I believe that Belak hadn't dressed for that game). Early in the next game between the two teams, Belak jumped on the ice when Janssen had just entered the game as well. Sitting in the greens, I could hear Belak call Janssen out. Standing at centre ice, a marathon brawl broke out between the two combatants. Belak outlasted Janssen for the victory, and all was well, once again.
- Marcel Pronovost--Mostly remembered as a Detroit Red Wing defenceman, Pronovost came to Toronto, in the 65-66 season in a multi-player deal involving Andy Bathgate. He was a vital cog in the 1967 Stanley Cup victory. Retiring in 1970, he later coached the Buffalo Sabres for a season and a half, but fell victim to the housecleaning in Buffalo when his friend Punch Imlach was fired.
- Bob Neely--Neely was another number 3 who played both forward and defense. Drafted 10th overall by the Leafs, Neely had also been drafted #1 in the WHA Amateur Draft by the Chicago Cougars. Neely played 4 1/2 seasons with the Buds, his best season coming in 76-77 when he potted 17 goals and added 16 assists.