Some readers may be surprised to know that when I first started watching the game, my favourite player was not Mats Sundin, Nik Antropov or Tomas Kaberle but instead Darcy Tucker. My favourite type of player is the one that plays with their heart on their sleeve, will stick up for a teammate if need be, provides some grit and can chip in on the scoresheet. In my opinion, these qualities are rare in NHL players. I saw those qualities in Tucker and I now see them in Komarov.
I guess with Tucker I was inspired by the fact that he was a smaller person, but battled hard and used his feistiness to build a career. He also chipped in 215 goals in a career that spanned over 940 games. Yes, I admit from another perspective he was a pest, but he seemed like a person that his teammates could count on. There is probably no greater example then when he stuck up for Jason Blake when superpest Sean Avery made comments about his cancer situation.
‘Uncle Leo’, as the team is calling him, is a similar type. Komarov doesn’t have the elite scoring skill, so he has to work hard to get on the board. Coach Mike Babcock said in a recent radio interview that there is no harder worker on the team than Komarov. That hard work has translated into a record of 16 goals and 31 points. But when he isn’t scoring, he is still working. Making a big hit, trash talking players off their game, or doing what he can to get the puck away from the opponent.
I guess it would be fair to say that I like to see people’s hard work rewarded over natural talent.
I think these players are inspirational because they were able to overcome small weaknesses and find a way to forge an impressive career in the big leagues. The message that they leave goes back to the old cliché that if you work hard enough you can be successful anywhere.
This was a credo that I tried to embody when I went through college and then when I entered the workplace, that if I pushed myself to do my best work I would have success despite small weaknesses.
With the Leafs once again teetering towards last place, it was at least nice to see Leo Komarov recognized for all that he has done this year so far.