Nfld. & Labrador

Toronto Maple Leafs give big to Port aux Basques in kind gesture and donation to Fiona relief fund

The Toronto Maple Leafs sent a care package to the town of Port aux Basques with team swag as its way of showing support for the community hard hit last month by post-tropical storm Fiona.

'Forever and a day, it'll always have a special meaning,' says mayor.

A man standing in a kitchen wearing a black sweater and blue t-shirt.
Brian (Smokey) Osmond is the proud recipient of some Toronto Maple Leafs gear, straight from the president of the team himself. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

Brian (Smokey) Osmond stands proudly in his kitchen, sporting blue and white from head to toe.

Before he speaks he chokes up. 

The Toronto Maple Leafs, Osmond's favourite hockey team, sent a package of Leafs gear to his hometown of Port aux Basques this week to show support for the community hit hard last month by post-tropical storm Fiona.

To Osmond, it means the world.

"[Channel-Port aux Basques Mayor] Brian Button gave me that," Osmond said, pointing to his new sweater.

"I lost everything I had. I had everything in it. My basement was done up as a rec room. I had it painted blue and I had a bar. I had almost everything that the Leafs had — jerseys on the walls." 

It was a lifetime of collecting Leafs memorabilia lost in one swoop as Fiona took Osmond's home, and almost his life in September. 

He recovered only two pieces from his collection in the days after the storm, sifting through rubble and cleaning up debris.

"The more I talk about it, the worse it gets," said Osmond.

'It'll always have a special meaning'

Button received about 18 boxes from the Leafs on Monday morning, filling his office with what he initially thought was a joke.

The boxes are packed with sweaters, hats, coats, blankets and other swag to be distributed throughout the community but also two very personalized items from Leafs president and NHL Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan.

A man holds a blue shirt reading Button with the number 22.
Channel-Port aux Basques Mayor Brian Button displays the personalized gear he received from the Leafs. (Brian Button/Facebook)

"The first thing I hauled out was a jersey with my name on it and a signature on it. When I looked at the signature … I said 'It looks like Brendan Shanahan to me.' There was an envelope there, and when I opened it, it [said] 'From the Desk of Brendan Shanahan," said Button.

"It made my day, as a Leafs fan, of course. But it's touching, for the moment, just to see how far this has gone and how people are reaching out from all over."

In his letter to Button, Shanahan wrote, "I want you to know we are thinking about you and the people of Port aux Basques."

Button said Shanahan told him the Maple Leafs are also making a $10,000 donation to the Canadian Red Cross for Fiona relief.

He said the gesture meant a lot to him as a Leafs fan but that was secondary to the organization simply taking the time to help. 

"That jersey will be going in a shadowbox case, and the letter as well, in my rec room," he said, noting he has been a collector since his was a teenager and owns about 200 team jerseys.

"Forever and a day, it'll always have a special meaning."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Malone Mullin