Brian McFarlane is Legend by Neil Becker

When I made my way to the International Center a couple of weeks ago, to work at the Card and Memorabilia Show, little did I know that I would get the ultimate thrill of meeting and rehashing my favorite childhood hockey memories with legendary broadcaster and author, Brian McFarlane.

For those of you who read my blog, youʼll know, that as a child, my favorite memories consisted of going to Maple Leaf Gardens with my dad to cheer on the Maple Leafs, while hoping that my idols, Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald would score some goals.  

At that time McFarlane, who in his day was an all star hockey player at St. Lawrence University, broadcasted the Leaf games with Bill Hewitt. As his broadcasting career progressed he began writing hockey books, that I found fascinating, and had trouble putting down. I remember in school always carrying his books around and reading them during class; instead of doing my assigned work. Being a hockey history buff, my favorite chapter in one of his books dealt with what McFarlane called his most memorable interview, that almost never happened. The interview took place, while skating around the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, with legendary hall of famer, Cyclone Taylor. At that time Taylor was in his 80ʼs, and because of fear that he might fall, the interview was almost cancelled. 

Making the experience of seeing and talking hockey with an expert like, McFarlane so fascinating, is that even though he is in his late 70ʼs, he can still remember things almost perfectly from thirty years ago.

I realized this when I brought up various hockey games, that I barely remember, from when I was about 8 or 9 years old. Amazingly enough he remembered not, only the scores, but also who scored the goals. I also talked about an absolutely thrilling experience that I had when I was about 9 years old, when my dad took me to the taping of a hockey skills event, which was known at the time as Showdown.

Taking part were various players such as, Marcel Dionne, Bob Gainey, Larry Robinson and a skinny teenager named,Wayne Gretzky. It was amazing to bring up these sketchy details from years ago, and hear McFarlane come up with not –only the date and location of the event — but also to remember all the winners.

Making this experience that much more enjoyable was the fact that both Brian and his wife were encouraging me with their questions to talk hockey. I like to think of myself as a polite person and they kept reassuring me that I wasnʼt being a bother by bringing up all these old games. They asked me my favorite games that I went to at Maple Leaf Gardens; if I played hockey and many more queries, which made the experience that much more enjoyable.

As a youngster I also idolized former Leafs’ goalie, Mike Palmeteer, who would always come way out of his net to challenge the shooters. McFarlane and I reminisced about various games he played, along with another hero, Dave ʽTigerʼ Williams.We talked about how a Canadiens’ defenseman intercepted Williams, after he was irate, and made a bee- line towards the referee; after Montreal scored in overtime, to eliminate Toronto in the play-offs.

After talking hockey with the man I consider to be the greatest hockey broadcaster, all these great memories, that I havenʼt thought about for years, started coming back.

Meeting McFarlane and having the privilege — and thatʼs what it was, a privilege –to talk hockey and hear the various stories and hear his, encyclopedia- like memory working, is an experience that I will remember all my life


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