Leafs to ‘celebrate our team’s history’ with Legend’s Row

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Hey, remember last summer when incoming MLSE president Tim Leiweke drew fire for, among other things, wanting to tear down the old pictures of championship Toronto Maple Leafs teams outside the current team’s dressing room?

“I don’t want the players walking in the hallways of the Air Canada Centre and seeing pictures from 1962,” Leiweke told Bloomberg. “Get rid of those pictures and tell them, this is your legacy.”

Keep that in mind when you read this latest press release from the Leafs:

Next month at the inaugural Toronto Maple Leafs Fan Fest presented by your Toronto area Ford dealers, the team will officially unveil the first three members of ‘Legends Row’, a public statue in Maple Leaf Square that will honour a number of greats who have worn the iconic sweater during the franchise’s 97-year history. The team announced today that Ted Kennedy, along with two other Leaf legends to be named at Fan Fest, will be the first players to be honoured with bronze statues.

Legends Row will feature a 30-foot granite bench, located just outside Gate 5 at Air Canada Centre that will immortalize many of the biggest names in Toronto Maple Leafs history. It will be a multi-phase project that will unveil different players leading into the team’s Centennial season in 2017 and beyond.

“In addition to our focus on building a winning team for today and the future, there is an important responsibility to celebrate our team’s history and to create opportunities for a strong connection between our fans and that tradition,” said Brendan Shanahan, President and Alternate Governor of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “Legends Row will be a fitting tribute that honours many of the greatest players to ever wear the Maple Leaf while giving our fans the chance to feel a part of that history. We are thrilled to include Ted Kennedy, a player who always gave everything he had to his team, and two other Leaf greats, as the first three players to be recognized.”

To be fair to Leiweke, he did apologize to those who were offended by his plans to remove the pictures, saying he didn’t mean to “minimize our history.”

“But I think at the end of the day,” he added, “if we want to win a Cup, what we’re going to have to do is we’re going to have to find a team that wants to be the guys in those pictures as we walk down the hallway.”

Clearly, given Shanahan’s carefully prepared statement, the Leafs now fully recognize the need to both honor the past and try to build a team worth honoring in the future. Because it doesn’t have to be one or the other.