Johnny died yesterday at 93. He was my hero in the 1960’s as the goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I loved hockey and I loved watching this 40-year-old make spectacular saves on TV.
In those days, the first period of Saturday night hockey games wasn’t telecast. Mom and dad let me soak in the tub with my radio nearby, cheering on Johnny and the Leafs. I was so happy, and even more so when I got to come downstairs, all scrubbed clean, to watch the rest of the game.
For so long, I wanted to meet Johnny. I read that he’d walk out of his house most mornings and pick up the garbage that showed up in nearby Johnny Bower Park. I made plans to show up there sometime to thank my hero for making me a happy kid. Sadly, I never did that.
For the past couple of years, I’ve walked past Johnny’s statue in downtown Toronto on my way to concerts on the island. I put my hand on his forearm and say “Thank you, Johnny.” And I’ll keep doing that.
I wonder if I’m a hero to any kid in Belmont. It’s possible. So I get to be the best Bruce possible when I’m in the presence of those marvelous young people.
Passing it on.