On a warm October afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs boarded the Wenonah II in Gravenhurst, Ont., a 216-person cruise ship modelled after its steamship predecessor, the Wenonah I. The ship had been privately chartered for a two-hour cruise with approximately 40 people onboard. The route had been left to the captain’s discretion.
“The regular season was just about to start, so this was like their team-building exercise, get the whole team together and bring everybody up to Muskoka,” says Jordan Waines, the marketing and operations manager for Muskoka Steamships and Discovery Centre, the company that operates the cruises. “They visited the public school and they did a skate at the Gravenhurst arena where the public got to show up and wave and say hi, maybe get some autographs or photos.”
By the time the team boarded the ship, Waines says they were all business, focused on strong relationship building. This was the first time the Muskoka Steamship had hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After a quick photo opportunity with the captain, the boat departed from the dock, heading out onto Lake Muskoka. Some local residents who’d heard about the Leafs’ visit decided to take advantage of the opportunity to give the team a proper cottage country welcome with a water ski salute.
Ross Statchuk came up with the idea to ski by the boat and convinced boat captain and avid Leafs’ fan, Gerry Lodge, to take on the task of the Wenonah II fly by. Despite the water being 65 degrees, Statchuk suited up in a wetsuit, which was concealed under his Leafs jersey, replete with Leafs ball cap, which managed to stay on during the whole adventure.
Once Wenonah II came into view, just inside the narrows, the ski boat got underway. Lodge hit the throttle and as they gained speed Statchuk dropped his second ski close to shore and continued skiing slalom, cautiously speeding past the large vessel several times. The famous passengers aboard were waving and cheering them on.
“Some local cottagers caught wind of the cruise and so they waited until the Wenonah was nearby,” said Waines.
While it may not seem as impressive as a game-winning goal, there’s certainly something memorable about a water skier in October.
By C.E. Lodge and Andrew Cruickshank
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