The Toronto Maple Leafs paid tribute to hall of fame goaltender Johnny Bower on Wednesday, calling him a “legend” who lived with a spirit of generosity that touched generations of hockey fans.
“Johnny loved being a Leaf,” said Brendan Shanahan, the franchise’s president during a morning news conference in Legends Row outside the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday, which includes a statue of Bower.
“There’s not a single player in Toronto Maple Leafs history that has done more appearances or more charity events and charity work than Johnny Bower,” Shanahan told reporters.
Bower, 93, died Tuesday after a short battle with pneumonia, according to a statement from his family. Shanahan said the team is trying to respect the family’s privacy, but that it will likely honour Bower in a fittingly grandiose fashion some time in the new year.
The two-time Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goaltender toiled in the American Hockey League for 13 seasons before earning a permanent spot in 1958 with the Leafs. With his name engraved on the Stanley Cup four times, Bower retired at 45 after playing one game in the 1969-70 season.
Bower was also a member of the Leafs’ last Stanley Cup title, in 1967.
“Not too many people in sports have a name that becomes a verb,” Shanahan joked to reporters. “When you’re playing street hockey and you poke check somebody you yell, “Johnny Bower! I just Johnny Bower’d you.'”
Shanahan grew to know Bower more personally in recent years and stressed that beyond public appearances and charitable work, he did much for fans privately as well.
His legacy will live on, Shanahan said, because there are those who remember him as a player and many generations after who know him for his amicable attitude with fans and impeccable professionalism as a face of the franchise.
“He was a legend in the sense that you didn’t have to be living in Toronto or working for the Maple Leafs to know about his spirit and hear the stories of his generosity and his charity,” Shanahan reflected.
“There’s not a single player in Toronto Maple Leafs history that has done more appearances or more charity events and charity work than Johnny Bower. “