There is a Hall of Fame to be built in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
It will have one exhibit: a home Leafs jersey bearing the number 96 with autographs of the current team penned across the number nine.
It is a retired jersey, never to be worn again and soon Bill MacDougall will arrange for its trophy case in the office of his family business, MacDougall Transfer and Storage in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
The jersey belonged to Bill’s Mother, Lettie who passed away Feb. 26.
Foster Hewitt began broadcasting from Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931. Somewhere around there Lettie began listening to the Leafs with her mother Phila Mae Henderson. She would have been in her mid-teens.
The Maple Leafs were a vital part of Lettie’s life and she passed that love down to her children. “As kids we always listened to Foster Hewitt on Saturday night,” her boy Bill was saying. “I can still hear his voice after all these years.”
Lettie and Bill’s Dad Hugh were young marrieds when they started a moving business. By day Hugh hauled coal in a half-ton truck. After supper he would sweep out the coal dust, line the bed with cardboard and move people and things around Sydney.
The business prospered through good times and the usual spate of disasters: trucks toppling off roads, economic downturns. Through it all, Lettie reserved Saturday nights for Foster and a succession of Saturday night voices.
“Mom never really told me who her favorite Leaf was,” Bill said, “but I remember she would talk a lot about Carl Brewer, Darryl Sittler and Johnny Bower. She liked Phil Kessel because he was such a great skater.”
Time passed. Lettie passed the business down. Hugh passed and Saturday night became a touchstone night for Bill and his Mom.
“It’s probably 15 years or so we’ve been getting together on Saturday nights,” Bill said. “She would always have a sandwich waiting for me. Don Cherry would come on and she would say ‘Bill, there’s a sandwich waiting for you in the fridge.’ Then we’d have tea.”
Lettie needed further care a year or so ago. She started living at Harbourstone Advanced Care but the sandwich nights continued. Bill brought a pizza that first night but when the food cart came around it bore the sandwich Lettie had ordered for Bill. That was the end of the pizza.
A few weeks before Lettie’s 96th birthday, a friend of the family approached the club with word of Lettie’s passion for the team. MLSE Chief Operating Officer forwarded the jersey. She wore it proudly for a February game between the Leafs and the Ottawa Senators but something was wrong. The spark was leaving Lettie and a few days later she was gone.
Her most vibrant memento is a piece of blue and white cloth with MacDougall on the back, the logo of the team she loved on the front and all those names scribbled over the white number nine.
“The jersey is safe in the box it came in until we put it in a framed glass case,” Bill said. “No one else is going to put Mom’s jersey on.”