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So…who is YOUR favourite hockey player?

Sometimes it’s not always about what happens on the ice
Apps with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942. Photo

Hockey, hockey, hockey.

‘Tis the season.

Regardless of what team you follow, whether you’re focused on the NHL, or cheering on your local squad, everyone has a favourite player.

Full disclosure, I own a Montreal Canadiens jersey. The only time I wore it to the hometown rink I experienced considerable ribbing from friends and strangers. Who knew there were so many Toronto Maple Leaf fans in a small B.C. town?

My favourite player – I except two of the DeMeer boys, because there is no choosing between them – played for the Leafs.

His name was Sylvanus Apps, and you are forgiven for not recognizing the name.

After all, he was born in 1915.

And we both grew up in the same small town of Paris, Ontario.

I was blessed to be close friends with one of his contemporaries – the two attended high school together – so I learned many things about this celebratory.

Apps’ remarkable character and goodness were relayed many times; what a friend he was to people.

He was an exceptional athlete from the off.

In 1936, he competed in the Berlin Olympics, placing sixth in pole vault.

Imagine being there for that particular event.

Later, he caught the eye of Conn Smythe.

He was signed to play for Toronto – centre always, 6-foot, 185 pounds and he shot left – but that is not all he contributed.

In 1943, he left hockey, to join the Canadian Armed Forces for two years. He returned to play again. And he got all kinds of trophies, of course.

Toronto won the Stanley Cup three times while he suited up, and he’s on a Canada Post stamp even.

Various things are named for him. He’s in the Sports Hall of Fame, the Hockey Hall of Fame, Order of Canada…etc.

Apps ran for public office, and was a member of the provincial government for more than 20 years.

Veteran, public servant.

He left a sports legacy through his family.

His son Syl Apps Jr. was a top centre in the NHL in the 1970s, playing for the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins.

His granddaughter Gillian Apps won the gold medal in three consecutive Olympic hockey contests.

For all of that, what stands out the most, are the records and reports of Apps’ conduct as a person.

There are so many sources – teammates and opponents – who expressed their genuine appreciation of his old-fashioned gentlemanly nature.

Now that’s something worth playing for.

Sports are fraught with scandal.

Everyone reads the news stories exposing entitlement, privilege, abuse of power, criminality and coverups.

In 2017, Apps was named one of the top 100 players in the NHL’s history.

Not a stretch to assume that was an honour at least partly extended because of his character.

These reflections make one a bit misty-eyed. My fingers itch to get online and order a Maple Leaf jersey with the retired number 10 on the back.

I can’t quite make myself do it, though, being a Habs fan and all.

Andrea DeMeer

About the Author: Andrea DeMeer

Andrea is the publisher of the Similkameen Spotlight.
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