Babcock brings Red Wings’ legends locker stalls tradition to Maple Leafs

TORONTO — Following the Detroit Red Wings’ tradition, the Toronto Maple Leafs now have empty stalls for franchise legends Johnny Bower, George Armstrong and Red Kelly in their locker-room at Air Canada Centre.

There are stalls in the home room at Joe Louis Arena for Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Alex Delvecchio, among others.

For coach Mike Babcock, who coached the Red Wings for 10 seasons before joining the Leafs, it’s about more than just honouring the hockey greats of the past.

Babcock hopes to have Bower, Armstrong and Kelly help his new players in whatever ways possible.

“When you got to hang around Gordie Howe and Mr. Lindsay and Alex Delvecchio for 10 years like I did, … probably more Mr. Lindsay than anybody … you see the kind of role model he is, the kind of man he is, the tattoo he has on him, he makes the people around him better,” Babcock said on the day of the season opener against the Montreal Canadiens.

“When he has a chance to talk to your young people and be around them, I think he can have a huge impact. The integrity of those men was much greater than their ability to play, and they made us all better, so why wouldn’t you have these guys involved?”

Babcock has said being part of an Original Six franchise is special and cited that as one of the reasons he chose to coach the Leafs.

Armstrong, Kelly and Bower were part of the Leafs’ four Stanley Cup teams in the 1960s.

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Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press