Rob Ford and his legacy with hockey, his ‘No. 1 sport’

FILE - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, center, smiles as he officially opens the refurbished Sunnydale rink with Toronto Maple Leafs' coach Ron Wilson, right, and other dignitaries who were on hand as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs NHL hockey team, who practiced on the outdoor rink in Toronto in this Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 file photo. Ford, who became a global sensation in 2013 after admitting he'd smoked crack cocaine, has been appointed to the Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum's board of directors, the hall announced Saturday April 4, 2015. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Pawel Dwulit, File)

Canada's Hockey Hall of Fame names Rob Ford board member

FILE - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, center, smiles as he officially opens the refurbished Sunnydale rink with Toronto Maple Leafs' coach Ron Wilson, right, and other dignitaries who were on hand as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs NHL hockey team, who practiced on the outdoor rink in Toronto in this Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 file photo. Ford, who became a global sensation in 2013 after admitting he'd smoked crack cocaine, has been appointed to the Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum's board of directors, the hall announced Saturday April 4, 2015. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Pawel Dwulit, File)

Former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford died at 46 on Tuesday, after an 18-month battle against an aggressive form of cancer. 

Any attempt to eulogize Ford is ultimately futile. An honest recollection of his scandal-riddled time as a public servant, and international punchline, comes off as too caustic. Lionizing or humanizing him would ignore the reasons why neither was attempted during his all-too-short life.

When the same sites that ran “40 of the funniest cracks about Toronto mayor Rob Ford” roughly two years ago are now collecting “the most heartfelt condolences about Rob Ford,” it’s enough to make your head spin. We imagine most of Toronto is coming to terms with this contradiction today as well.

Ford had a long-standing relationship with hockey, as any Toronto politician would. A few of those connections, as we remember a memorable mayor:

Don Cherry

The venerable Hockey Night in Canada commentator was a Ford supporter in his mayoral bid in 2010, and continued that support as Ford’s condition worsened recently.

Cherry was Ford’s special guest at a 2010 meeting of the Toronto city council, and put the chain of office around his neck. That’s also the meeting where Cherry wore a bright pink jacket and said, “I’m wearing pinko for all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything.”

Hockey Hall of Fame

The Hockey Hall of Fame shocked many when it announced Ford had joined its board of directors in April 2015, although it was quick to pass the puck on who actually made that call. “Under HHOF's Articles of Incorporation, the City has the right to nominate and elect up to 3 individuals to the eighteen member Board,” it mentioned in the proclamation.

Said Ford at the time: "When people call me they know they're getting someone that's experienced," he said. "I've got season tickets to the Leafs and I'm obsessed with hockey and obviously football but hockey's my number one sport and I'm going to try to just keep pushing it."

Like many, many things Rob Ford related, this also was treated as a joke, even by the CBC.

Toronto Maple Leafs

As Ford proudly said, he was a Leafs season-ticket holder, and like any Leafs fan he didn’t exactly hold his tongue on the franchise’s fortunes.

He offered player personnel advice:

He offered front office advice:

(No wonder they hired Mike Babcock!)

It was news when he would attend Leafs games, and his state of mind when he did so. And it was big news when he may or may not have skipped city council votes to do so as well. 

And it was big news when he would wear a Leafs jersey and pose with the Hamburglar. Which is a thing that happened once.

Opposing Fans

Once in a while, you'd see subtle references to Ford at Leafs road games:

A fan holds a sign in reference to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in the third period of an NHL hockey game between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs in Boston, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. The Bruins won 3-1. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
A fan holds a sign in reference to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in the third period of an NHL hockey game between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs in Boston, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. The Bruins won 3-1. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Rest in peace, Rob Ford. It was never boring.

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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