Toronto loves its hockey heroes, and students at Jesse Ketchum PS are no exception. The Toronto Maple Leafs organization recently presented a banner that once hung at Air Canada Centre to Principal Elizabeth Holmes, and assembled staff and students. The banner depicts Charlie Conacher, NHL hall of famer and arguably the Leafs’ first superstar, who attended the mid-town school as a young child.
On Opening Night 2016, the Maple Leafs unveiled new banners that now hang in Air Canada Centre and pay tribute to the players that have had their numbers retired, including Conacher. A plan was developed to have the 18 original Air Canada Centre banners delivered to the towns that these players called home. Jesse Ketchum PS was selected as the preferred location for the Conacher banner.
Like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jesse Ketchum PS has been part of the fabric of the city for a very long time. “And like the Leafs, our school is all about community,” said Principal Holmes. “That’s why this event was so important for us. It recognizes the importance of community and how our school and our community helped to shape Charlie into not just the great player that he was, but also the person that he was,” Holmes continued. “That’s what we do as schools: help young people to be the best they can be, both inside the classroom and outside it.”
Conacher went on to be known for his booming shot and scoring prowess. “The Big Bomber” tallied a league-best 31 goals in 1930-31, just his second full season with the Leafs. At the time he was 21 years old and formed part of the Leafs’ famous “Kid Line,” along with Joe Primeau and former Toronto Marlies’ teammate Harvey “Busher” Jackson. Conacher would go on to lead the NHL in goals four more times during his career, which also included a Stanley Cup, all-star selections, and the Leaf captaincy. Perhaps most notably, for a number of years following his death, the Charlie Conacher Humanitarian Award was presented annually to an NHL player recognized for outstanding contribution to humanitarian or community service projects.
Today, Jesse Ketchum PS is home to about 450 students, whose cultural backgrounds represent countries from all over the world. What has remained constant at the school over the many years is an unfailing commitment to community, and to working together as a team to achieve success, just like the Leafs.