(Photography by Doug Nicholson)
Johnny Bower’s name and number hang from the rafters at the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Scotiabank Arena. But now there’s a place at the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre that bears his name with equal honour: The Johnny Bower Arms Pub.
The Toronto Maple Leafs legend may have been impenetrable as a goalie, but he had quite the opposite reputation around Sunnybrook’s Veterans Program. Residents there say he was always quick to let you into his heart with a friendly smile and handshake on one of his many visits.
A military man himself before his storied hockey career, Bower was a frequent guest at the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre. His compassionate, gentle character and desire to give back meant he was often the last person to leave, happy to spend time with the people who so courageously fought for Canada.
With Bower’s status as a mainstay at the Veterans Centre, it was little surprise that the move to rename the pub in his honour was put into motion not long after his passing in 2017. A gathering place exclusively for veteran residents and their invited guests, the pub was originally known as the Boar’s Head Pub and later called the Blythwood Social Club, as additional support by the Fort York Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion was introduced.
It’s a fitting tribute for the man who holds a special place in the hearts of Sunnybrook’s beloved veterans community.