Johnny Bower died a week ago. He was 93 and like everyone who has ever watched hockey in Toronto, we thought he'd live forever. He and Al Kaline were my first sports heroes and I was lucky in that they turned out to be first-class people. I loved the Maple Leafs (and Kaline's Detroit Tigers) as a child. Growing up in London, Ontario in the early 1960s, we had Hockey Night in Canada on TV from Toronto every Saturday night from October until April. I was mesmerized and I wanted to be the next goalie of the Toronto Maple Leafs (It turns out I wasn't good enough to be the goalie on our public school team but they had no one else when the older incumbent graduated, so they were stuck with me.) The first NHL game I ever saw live was in Detroit but my dad knew that Maple Leaf Gardens was the place I really wanted to see, so the next season, off we went to Toronto. The Leafs beat Detroit 5-3 and Bower, my hero, was the first star, thrilling us with that familiar wave of the blocker glove to the fans whenever he was deemed good enough to be named as one of a game's three stars. I even got my dad to snip the bottom stem of the "one" on the felt numbers my mom sewed on to my small Leaf jersey, turning a 1 into a 1 because it looked more like what the early '60s Leaf uniforms displayed. Of course, I followed Bower's career to the end and had the complete joy of meeting him on occasion when he served his role as the Leafs' goodwill ambassador. A kind and humble man, he was aware of his celebrity but used it completely for the benefit of others through his charitable work. The world was greater to have Johnny Bower in it.

*/