Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Darryl Sittler Jersey Card

After taking a moment earlier today to predicting they'd finish third in the Atlantic this coming season, I thought I could honor the Toronto Maple Leafs by featuring Darryl Sittler, one of the five greatest players in team history, in a conversation with Dave Keon, Syd Apps, Charlie Conacher, Johnny Bower and Tim Horton, ahead of the likes of his best friend Lanny McDonald, Frank Mahovlich, Turk Broda, Doug Gilmour, King Clancy, Red Kelly, and hundreds more.

Ironically, Keon, Sittler and McDonald all had issues with then-owner Harold Ballard and were essentially run out of town, thrown under the bus, and/or made to suffer by the organization at one point or another.

Sittler, who replaced Keon as captain after Ballard not only decided not to re-sign him but also pretty much forbade any other NHL team to offer him a contract as a free agent (setting up a "compensation fee" so high for the then-35-year-old that it would essentially strip that team of any of its talent), set his sights on a few NHL records, starting by becoming the first Leaf to ever accumulate 100 points in a single season, then scoring the most goals in a single playoff game (5), scoring the game-winner for Team Canada in the first Canada Cup (now known as the "World Cup"), and, of course, the record for most points in a single game (10 points, from 6 goals and 4 assists).

As captain and player representative to management, Sittler was responsible for having coach Roger Neilsen re-hired after a Ballard outburst left him without a job; GM Punch Imlach had issues with the amount of power Sittler had built up in the locker room and inquired with other teams about his trade value, but Sittler had a no-trade clause, which his agent Alan Eagleson said he would waive for half a million dollars. Imlach instead traded his best friend and linemate McDonald to the Colorado Rockies, resulting in Sittler taking scissors and cutting the "C" off of the front of his jersey. Which just furthered his influence among his peers, while Ballard compared the move to "burning the Canadian flag". Canadians consider him a folk hero, as proven by this country song.

Here he is the way he should always be remembered, wearing Leaf blue, with the "C" very visible for all to see, on card #GJ-SI from Upper Deck's 2009-10 Series 1 set and Game Jersey sub-set:
Keon may have won the Stanley Cup, Mahovlich may be the team's highest-scoring winger; Gilmour and Mats Sundin may have instilled hope and inspired a generation of Leaf fans during their respective reigns as captains, but only Sittler combined both talent and leadership to that high a level at the same time. He's the Top Leaf in my book.

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