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James van Riemsdyk: six years and 433 games as a Maple Leaf

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He scored a lot of goals, and he stole my heart.

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It’s official. James van Riemsdyk is no longer a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The free agent signed today with the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s a five year contract with an AAV of $7M per year.

Today is the end of an era. The Leafs have relied on the high goal-scoring winger with that big front of net presence and best-in-the-league puck deflection skills for the past six seasons. The Leafs new GM Kyle Dubas has decided his team needs to move on. van Riemsdyk is moving on too; back to where he started his professional hockey career.

JvR played 413 regular season games for the Leafs and an additional 20 playoff games in three different seasons. He arrived in a now famous trade in which then Leafs GM Brian Burke swindled Flyers GM Paul Holmgren by sending him Luke Schenn in exchange for a player taken second overall in the 2007 NHL Draft.

I miss Holmgren running the Flyers and the crazy things he would do in the middle of the night.

The JvR Era

JvR was an instant success on the Leafs. Well, not quite instantly.

His debut in the blue and white should have been in October of 2012, but there was a little hiccup in Lockout III: The Search for Profit. When the lockout ended and he finally joined the team to play, the net value added to the Leafs was quite literally demonstrated at a game on February 11, 2013.

I was at the ACC for that game, and will never forget the reaction of the crowd. It was such an insane moment. Luke Schenn falling on the ice; simply incapable of stopping the impending disaster for the Flyers. It was hilarious. To this day I still have my ticket to that game. It was one of the most entertaining ones I have ever been to in person. Colton Orr scored a goal at that game! It was the last one of his NHL career which went on for another three seasons.

We are all aware the reasons for van Riemsdyk’s departure, from salary cap economics to simple positional needs, but that doesn’t make it easier to accept as a fan.

I am not letting him leave without a proper goodbye.

Let’s look at some memorable moments!

“I don’t think you could do that if there was no goalie in the net.”

“He almost blew this one between the legs” (paraphrasing)

Short-handed goal!

This clip is made better simply because it’s called by Joe Bowen.

The Leafs will face the Flyers three times this coming season. The first game is here at the ACC SBA on Saturday November 24th, at which there will certainly be a JvR tribute (there better be one, Kyle). The next two games against the Flyers are in March, which is an interesting time as it nears the end of the season when both teams could be fighting for a playoff spot.

Goodbye and good luck

Today is also the end of an era for his biggest fan. Me.

JvR waltzed into my life on a summer day in 2012 . I was walking down King Street East when a very tall man who looked vaguely familiar asked me in which direction was Yonge Street. It was him. I didn’t realize that until a few days later.

How big a fan of JvR was I? Well, I created the greatest pasta casserole ever and named it in his honour!

I’ll never forget all the good times you brought Leafs fans. From jvrschenn.gif to the playoffs in this season. You truly are an extrordinarily gifted hockey player; despite rarely being recognized as such.

We’ll miss all those deflected goals. We’ll miss the highlight-reel between the legs play you somehow manage to pull off every season. We will miss you hilariously chomping that green mouthguard on the bench.

Thank you, James. I’ll never forget all the fun times we had. We wish you all the best.

I will miss you.