Hockey world pays tribute to Johnny Bower

The death of Hockey Hall of Famer Johnny Bower has unleashed a flood of tributes from within the hockey world and beyond.

Leafs legend dies after short battle with pneumonia

Johnny Bower died on Tuesday after a short battle with pneumonia. He leaves behind his wife of 69 years, Nancy; his three children John Jr., Cindy and Barbara; eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. (Katherine Holland/CBC)

The death of Hockey Hall of Famer Johnny Bower has unleashed a flood of tributes from within the hockey world and beyond.

The Toronto Maple Leafs legend died on Tuesday after a short battle with pneumonia, according to a statement from his family. He was 93.

On Thursday, it was announced a private service would be held in Oakville, Ont., with a public service to be announced at a later date.

Players past and present, the NHL, the Leafs organization and many others shared their condolences and stories about the impact Bower had on them after hearing the news of his death.

"There may not be a more loved Toronto Maple Leaf nor a former player who loved them as much back," Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement.

"Johnny was beloved by so many for much more than his Hall of Fame credentials as a player," added Shanahan, who was scheduled to address the media on Wednesday morning outside the Air Canada Centre.

"It was his generosity of spirit, kindness and passion for people that made him a legend at life. The Toronto Maple Leafs, and our fans, are deeply indebted to Johnny for all that he gave to us, and taught us over the years. We will miss him dearly, but we know that his presence will forever be felt by our club and our city."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Bower, who became nicknamed The China Wall for his daring play in net, was admired by everyone.

"There is so much to appreciate in Johnny Bower's accomplishments on the ice — including the four Stanley Cups and membership in the Hockey Hall of Fame — and yet there was so much more to the man who served his sport, his country, and his community with such distinction," said Bettman.

Bower was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976. (Katherine Holland/CBC)

"Johnny Bower enriched us all by sharing the pure joy he felt for the game he played and for the men who played it, with him and against him. It was a personal privilege to know him, a delight to be in his presence and an honour to celebrate him as one of the 100 greatest players in NHL history."

Fellow Hall of Famer Doug Gilmour tweeted: "Heartbroken to hear of the passing of Johnny Bower. Honoured to have known this Maple Leaf Icon. Legend. .RIPJohnnyBower."

Former Leafs goaltender Curtis Joseph posted a photo of himself alongside Bower on social media.

"Saddened to hear of the passing of Leaf legend Johnny Bower! Loved him as a goalie, loved him as a person!," Joseph tweeted with the photo.

Toronto forward Nazem Kadri was among some current players who also took to Twitter to express their condolences.

"One of the classiest guys I have ever been around. Always had time for the fans and the city of Toronto. Rest in peace Johnny .1," he tweeted.

"Always loved talking to Mr Bower, one of the most genuine people I've ever met, Hockey world lost a great," added Florida Panthers goalie James Reimer through his wife April's Twitter account.

Former Canadian women's national team star Cassie Campbell tweeted that "Johnny Bower was such a kind man.

"Thanks for all you did for hockey and for always standing up for the women's game too. Amazing individual who made everyone feel like they were his best friend. .RIP," Campbell added.

Bower turned pro with the American Hockey League's Cleveland Barons in 1945. He played eight seasons in the AHL before getting a chance in the NHL. Bower's career took off after the Leafs claimed him in a 1958 intra-league draft. The Prince Albert, Sask. product went on to play 475 regular-season games and win four Stanley Cups for the Leafs, plying his trade mostly without a mask.

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976. Toronto paid tribute to him with a commemorative banner in 1995 that still flies high at the Air Canada Centre, and his old AHL team in Cleveland retired his No. 1 in 2002.

"Johnny Bower was a Hall of Fame goaltender and a Hall of Fame gentleman who defined excellence and perseverance and never forgot his roots in the American Hockey League," said AHL president and CEO David Andrews.

Johnny Bower and the Leafs at practice in 1960

Digital Archives

2 years ago
CBC's On the Scene sends Al Boliska to check out the Leafs at the start of the 1960 season. 23:56

"We join the entire hockey world in mourning his passing and celebrating his legacy, and we offer our deepest condolences to his wife Nancy and his entire family."

Toronto mayor John Tory issued a statement saying he looked up to Bower as a child.

"I am heartbroken to see Johnny Bower passed away. He stood in there, as the Toronto Maple Leafs' greatest goalie, and helped them win four Stanley Cups. He was a boyhood hero of mine, as he was for many across Canada. And long after his retirement he was a great ambassador for the Leafs and for Toronto. He will be missed by all Leafs fans and by a grateful city.

Bower's Christmas comes early

9 years ago
Johnny Bower gets an early Christmas gift, filled with memories and meaning. 2:08

"On behalf of all Toronto residents, I want to express my condolences to his family, teammates, and friends."

Upon retirement in 1970, Bower joined the Leafs front office as a scout and coach, a position he held for 20 years until becoming the team's goodwill ambassador in 1990.

Bower leaves behind his wife of 69 years, Nancy, his three children John Jr., Cindy and Barbara, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.


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