There was no shortage of blue and white Toronto Maple Leafs’ regalia around the city Sunday as the commemorative Hap Day banner was welcomed to its new permanent home in St. Thomas.
The 16-foot banner was initially unfurled at the Jumbo monument in front of a sizable gathering, including members of the Day family, in a lighthearted ceremony hosted by the voice of the Maple Leafs, Joe Bowen.
Later in the afternoon, the tribute to the Leafs’ outstanding defenceman – once praised as “the most useful” player in the NHL – was replayed inside the Timken Centre.
Although he never met Day personally Bowen, nevertheless, entertained the crowd gathered alongside Jumbo with stories of his own youth.
“My dad was an avid Toronto Maple Leafs fan,” recounted Bowen, “and I would sit on my dad’s lap when television was in its infancy and we would actually sit for an hour and a half and watch the test pattern before the broadcast actually came on. He would regale me with stories of the Toronto Maple Leafs and then it was time to watch John Bower and the Leafs go on to Stanley Cups.
“I heard an awful lot about Hap Day from my father and his many friends who were also Maple Leaf fans. He was a tremendous individual. Allegedly, I have been a part of the Stanley Cup. Four the Leafs won in the 1960s and apparently I was about five days old when Bill Barilko scored and apparently I listed to that.”
That would have been April 21, 1951 when Barilko scored for the Leafs in overtime against the Montreal Canadiens to capture the cup.
Day served as Leafs’ captain for 10 seasons and first won the Stanley Cup as a player in 1932. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.
“Maple Leafs general manager Charles Querrie (the Leafs’ first manager from 1917 to 1927) called Day ‘just about the most useful player in the National Hockey League,’ advised Bowen. ‘He goes 60 minutes at top speed and is a prime favourite with the fans.’ High praise in those days for sure.
“Fellow defenceman Red Horner asserted that ‘Hap, not the coach, would tell us and then show us how to play each opponent,’ continued Bowen. ‘And if we did what he did and what he told us to do, we were pretty darn successful.’ Hap would win five more Stanley Cups as the Leafs’ coach in 1942, 1945, 1947. 1948 and 1949, and one more as an assistant manager in 1951 and he was also coaching there as well.”
“We’re here to celebrate Hap Day,” added St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson, “his career with the Maple Leafs, but also what he gave back to our community here in the City of St. Thomas. We are very proud he chose to live in St. Thomas, chose to run a business here (Elgin Handles) and that his family still lives in the community and proud to be part of St. Thomas as well.”
Day’s son Kerry said it was “very emotional” for him, the second time he has been at such a ceremony. The first was in 2006 when the same banner was hung inside the Air Canada Centre.
“The Leafs are a very special organization,” added Kerry’s wife Anne. “I have been reading what he (Hap Day) has done and he was very quiet about he had done. But he was a good jokester.”
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