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Sittler to be honoured by Leafs

Wednesday, 05.02.2003 / 12:00 AM / News
Toronto Maple Leafs
Canadian Press (Toronto) - The record still stands.

It was 27 years ago, Feb. 7, 1976, that Darryl Sittler of the Toronto Maple Leafs scored six goals and assisted on four during an 11-4 victory over the visiting Boston Bruins to set the single-game NHL points record.

Ten players have picked up eight points in a game in the intervening years, but nobody has been able to get any closer to the amazing Sittler 10.

For this, and a lot more, Sittler will be honoured prior to a home game against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday when a banner bearing his name and sweater number, 27, will be raised to the Air Canada Centre rafters.

He becomes the 12th man in an elite circle.

Sittler works as a community representative with the Leafs.
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Sweater numbers of (5) Bill Barilko and (6) Ace Bailey were retired, and honoured numbers were raised for (1) Turk Broda and Johnny Bower, (7) King Clancy and Tim Horton, (9) Charlie Conacher and Ted Kennedy, (10) Syl Apps and George Armstrong and (27) Frank Mahovlich.

"I met many of them," Sittler says with pride. "They're all gentlemen and all deserving.

"It's the highest honour you can receive from an organization you played for. To have my name on that banner hanging from the rafters will be very special."

This was to have happened on Oct. 3, 2001, when Mahovlich and Sittler were to have been honoured jointly during the Leafs' 75th anniversary season. But his wife was dying from colon cancer and he asked to be deleted from that night's ceremonies. Wendy Sittler died three days later.

"Wendy wanted me to go ahead and do it even though she was so ill but I just couldn't," he says.

He now feels he's ready to go ahead with it.

"My kids will be there and it'll be an emotional evening for all of us," he said from Florida.

The Leafs are on a road trip in the Sunshine State following the all-star weekend, and Sittler, 52 now, works as a goodwill ambassador for the team.

Sittler was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989. In 1,096 NHL games, he scored 484 goals and assisted on 637 for 1,121 points after stepping directly into the NHL from junior hockey in London.

"I'm grateful they drafted me in 1970 [eighth overall] and I had a successful career with them," he said.

The 10-point game was merely one facet of his extraordinarily successful 1976. He scored five goals in a playoff game against Philadelphia that spring, and he scored the winning goal for Canada against Czechoslovakia in the final of the inaugural Canada Cup tournament that September.

The NHL, in its 1978 all-star picks, chose Bryan Trottier for the first team and Sittler for the second. They were the best. Yet, it was wearing the C on the front of his Toronto sweater that meant the most to Sittler.

"I knew the importance of it," he said. "I understood the responsibility that came with it - not only on the ice but off the ice."

10 points will forever be Sittler's legacy.
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Only 10 men wore the C before him: Hap Day, Conacher, Red Horner, Apps, Bob Davidson, Kennedy, Sid Smith, Jim Thomson, Armstrong and Dave Keon.

"There were some great captains before me," said Sittler. "I knew there was an obligation and a pride involved in being captain, and I tried to do the best I could.

"With all the tradition and the history involved, to be the captain and still be a part of the organization ... it's been phenomenal."

Sittler was captain from 1975 until Dec. 29, 1979, when he removed the C from his sweater to protest the trade of Lanny McDonald. Punch Imlach had been brought back as general manager and turmoil ensued. Everything about that time made him tougher, he says.

Sittler accepted the captaincy again at the start of the 1980-81 season but was traded to Philadelphia. He played 2½ seasons with the Flyers and one in Detroit before retiring in 1985.

"Europeans were just coming into the NHL during my career," he recalls. "When I played, communist countries kept their players from coming over here.

"The best players in the world were not necessarily in the NHL. When that opened up, and with a lot of expansion everything changed, and salaries have gone beyond what anyone would have imagined."

It's hard to believe it's been nearly 18 years since he hung up his NHL gear, and the Saturday ceremony will be a touching reminder of how much he meant - and still means - to the franchise.
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