TORONTO - Patika Ave. will now always be known as a hockey street.
The road in the Lawrence Ave. W. and Jane St. area was renamed Saturday as Johnny Bower Blvd. in honour of the legendary former goaltender of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who lived in the neighbourhood in the 1960s.
“I love the Stanley Cup, but I can put this in second spot, for sure,” said Bower, 89, at the morning ceremony, surrounded by at least 30 neighbours and family.
“This is a better ovation than I used to get at Maple Leaf Gardens.”
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly and Councillor Frances Nunziata presented the hockey hero with a plaque and a copy of the street sign with his name on it and declared May 24 as Johnny Bower Day in Toronto.
“Anchoring (the Leafs in the ‘60s) was Johnny Bower,” Kelly said. “As a kid who played hockey for a number of years in Toronto as a goalie, I know how important that position is. And you were the rock, Johnny, on which the Leafs built their team so successfully during those years.”
During Bower’s hockey career from 1945 to 1970, the Leafs won four Stanley Cups. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976 and has a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.
“I think (the current Leafs team) is on the right path,” Bower said. “They got a lot of young players and they’ve got to give them a lot of time.”
His wife Nancy said it was a honour to see her husband’s name on the street sign.
“I think it’s beautiful because Patika Ave. was a part of his early career in Toronto,” she said. “It brings back a lot of old memories. Some of my old neighbours are here.”
Dave Bolender, who lived in the area the same time the Bowers resided at 16 Patika Ave., said he and his twin brother were friends with Bower’s son Johnny Jr. The elder Bower used to assume the goalie position in the driveway and the brothers took shots on him.
“I think this is a great honour,” he said. “I also loved being at the Stanley Cup parade in 1968 -- the last time they won the Cup.”
Robert Heath, 55, who has lived on this street for 48 year, said the old Bower residence was also the former home of ex-Leafs defenceman Jim Morrison.
“My father took a picture of me and Johnny back then,” he said. “He was just a regular guy. You’d always see him around the neighbourhood. I remember the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup and Ron Ellis scored that goal -- all the houses in the neighbourhood jumped.”
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