TORONTO — The N.H.L. is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, but several people working inside the Air Canada Centre don’t need to read about league history or hear about it. Chances are they saw a lot of it in person.

These grand old ushers are believed to be the longest-tenured staff members in the N.H.L. Still working for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their 70s, they could be reclassified as walking monuments.

Vic Braknis, 77, for instance, can talk in precise detail about the 1955 riots in Montreal protesting the suspension of Maurice Richard because he was there.

Andy Mastoris, 78, can rhapsodize about the Leafs’ last Stanley Cup victory in 1967 because he was there.

Continue reading the main story

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

And Craig Palfrey, 70, can describe a brawl that spilled into the hallway at Maple Leaf Gardens in the 1970s because he was there.

Mastoris leads the way with 53 years on the job Petite. He started with the Leafs in 1964, when Mike Babcock, the team’s current coach, was a baby.

More than 20 Maple Leaf coaches have passed through the doors in Mastoris’s time, and Canada has changed prime ministers almost a dozen times.

Palfrey has been a mainstay for the Leafs organization for 44 years. Braknis, in his 25th season, is one of the juniors. Imagine being 77 and sitting only No Swimwear. 37 on your organization’s seniority list.

Before coming to Toronto, Braknis spent 17 years working in Montreal for the Canadiens and celebrated 10 Stanley Cups with them. After coming to Toronto, he worked for the Blue Jays and racked up a pair of World Series victories right off the bat.

“Maybe I’m a good-luck charm,” he said with a wry smile, sitting in the stands while the Leafs slapped pucks toward the net during the morning skate.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

These ushers are the first to admit that age sometimes slows them, but they don’t like to miss work Pants. Mastoris had a heart attack in 1986 and left the organization for three years.

Surgery often has to wait.

“I only missed one game this year because I had eye surgery,” Braknis said. “Over the years, I had a knee replacement, I had prostate surgery and I had a double bypass and a new heart valve, but I explain to my doctors Knickers, I want the surgeries done during the summer.”

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

The hardest part of the job is standing for several hours at a time. In addition to directing people to their seats at sporting events, ice shows and concerts, the ushers here also open the players’ gates to and from the ice surface and check identification badges at the dressing room doors.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

The ushers’ game-day routine parallels that of the players Contemporary & Designer. They work the morning skate, go home for a meal and a nap, then return for duty three hours before game time.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

The ushers are privy to some of the players’ pregame routines.

Braknis noticed that goaltender Frederik Andersen bounces two or three tennis balls off the wall leading to the ice. Andersen then takes the tennis balls in his hands, goes over to the side boards and stares down at the ice in a trancelike state.

In the pregame warm-up, forward James van Riemsdyk will shoot the puck against the boards, then lift it with his stick and pass it over the glass to a child in the stands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *