Brendan Shanahan grew up idolizing the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1970s and early 1980s. He's always told that to anyone who would listen.
"When I was growing up, they had some very bad teams and we loved those guys. We always felt that they should have won that game. You always felt that they really got screwed by the refs. They just had bad goaltending that night. Sittler had a bad wrist or Lanny McDonald's moustache wasn't even or Errol Thompson needed a haircut. It's something you can't really explain.
Shanny reiterated that story back while he was still playing for the Original Six rival Detroit Red Wings.
Brendan Shanahan never got the chance to fulfill his childhood dream of playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is one of the few things Shanny failed to do in his Hall of Fame career that includes three Stanley Cups, an Olympic gold medal and a NHL career spanning over 1500 games where he scored 656 goals and 1354 points.
So you know damn well there was no way he was going to let his latest opportunity pass. Now he runs the entire organization. It is now his job to return the Maple Leafs to glory - glory they haven't celebrated since their last Stanley Cup way back in 1967. Pat Quinn couldn't get the job done. Nor Cliff Fletcher or Ken Dryden or Brian Burke.
"The chance to bring success to this marketplace is unlike anywhere else. Sure it's demanding and a challenge, but the rewards make this an opportunity too good to ever pass up," he said.
The fact that Shanahan is running an entire NHL organization certainly does not surprise Ken Holland, Shanny's GM in Detroit.
“I recall Brendan saying during the one or two times I talked to him after his retirement that he wanted to run his own hockey team one day,” Holland said during a phone interview on Friday. “But he made it clear he had a lot of work to do and lots of things to learn before he ever got to that point.”
The learning curve may be steep but Shanny knows his vision and has confidence in himself that he can achieve it.
“This is the time for me to start learning about the organization from top to bottom,” he told a news conference. “It’s a time for me to listen, to learn and get to work. That’s all that’s really worked for me in my career. That’s what’s worked for me when I was done playing hockey and that’s what I intend to do here.”
Maybe one day Brendan Shanahan can achieve that childhood dream and help bring home the Stanley Cup to Toronto. Then he can move on to dominating international hockey. Back in 2005 the proud Irishman openly mused about building hockey in Ireland.
"When I've played for Canada, I've seen countries such as Italy and Great Britain and they're all using North Americans," Shanahan said yesterday, as he was named grand marshal for the March 13 St. Paddy's parade. "So why not Ireland? I don't think I would pursue it while I'm still playing (the Detroit Red Wings forward just turned 35), but it's something I've thought of spearheading later on.
"Right now, it has just been a lot of talk with hockey people over beers. But I would like to meet with Hockey Canada and find out what's involved in a program (such as qualifying for the world championships).
Maybe that's a stretch. But one thing we have all learned from watching Brendan Shanahan over the years is when he sets a goal, he gives it everything he's got to achieve it. Never bet against the Irishman.