Leafs takes, a shameless opinion in the newspaper I grew up reading

Growing up in Toronto, I never lost sight of what the Star meant to my family or this city.

The Star was the only newspaper that ever walked through my family’s front door. I woke up to newspaper spread out on my parents’ kitchen counter. It was there that I first learned that an American president was stepping down in the mid-1970s.

But as a young hockey fanatic, I will always remember the photo of Yvan Cournoyer’s arms wrapped around Paul Henderson in that iconic 1972 photo from the Summit series. Thank you, star photographer Frank Lennon, for having the presence of mind “to be where the puck is going, not where it has been.”

To this day, the Star is still the only newspaper my 88-year-old father reads or trusts.

When I was a kid, my family owned a restaurant called The Mercury. It was on Bay and Front streets. The Mercury was caught somewhere between fine dining and a fast food counter. Many went there just to eat what was voted the best barley soup in Toronto. It was also a stone’s throw from 1 Yonge St., the Star’s headquarters.

Our restaurant was always full of morning drivers, writers, photographers and Star editors. But when the great hockey writer Frank Orr walked through those doors, it was like royalty to my dad. It was a big deal because Frank Orr was a big deal.

I always got reports back home when Frank was eating at Mercury, whether he was ordering the dish of the day or sticking to the barley soup. For immigrants like my father, Frank was their link to a better understanding of great Canadian sport.

It was another time, of course. No TSN. No Sportsnet. There was no Sportsnet 590 the Fan for my dad and uncles to listen to. It was just Frank’s take on what was going on with their hockey heroes.

Almost 50 years later, I now have the opportunity to contribute to the same iconic journal I read growing up. I do not take this opportunity lightly.

Early in my Sportsnet career, shortly after retiring from the NHL, I was asked to write a segment called Two Minutes in the Box. There has never been a shortage of topics and opinions from me. As a former player, I always had insight into the league, the players I had known personally, and the ever-changing landscape of lockouts and salary caps. The writing wasn’t the hardest part.

Because I was new to the camera and recording segments in one take, well, to say I was struggling would have been an understatement. It took a few recordings of Two Minutes in the Box for the producers to realize that I was as green as spring grass. The crew started betting on how long it would take. Some days the over/under was set at 45 minutes. Everyone who bet against me tended to win money. I’ve improved over the season but let’s just say this column, without the TV background, is a good thing.

I will continue to cover the Leafs all season long on Sportsnet 590 the Fan and promise to bring the same passion to this regular column that I do on Real Kyper and Bourne. I will also contribute news and notes on anything I see and hear through my various contacts in the NHL, Leafs or otherwise. But I can’t help but wonder, even as I write this, “What would Frank Orr say?

There will never be another Frank Orr, but I promise to give you my unqualified and unapologetic opinion on the state of hockey today and whether it will finally be “the year of the Leafs”.

I am excited to begin.

Nick Kypreos is a former NHL player, Stanley Cup champion and current host of Sportsnet’s Real Kyper and Bourne radio show. He is a freelance columnist for the Star and is based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @RealKyper

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