Mike Weir receives thunderous standing ovation

Published : Apr 26, 2003 00:00 IST

A city gripped by hockey fever took a moment to honour Canada's newest sporting hero. Mike Weir, who captured the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, returned home to capture the attention of fans in this hockey-mad city, when he dropped the puck before the Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Weir received a thunderous standing ovation from the capacity crowd at the Air Canada Centre as he strolled to centre ice wearing the famous champion's green jacket from Augusta.

Fans cheered the native of Bright's Grove, Ontario for a full minute, with the ovation only ending when captains Keith Primeau and Mats Sundin were called to centre ice for the ceremonial face-off.

Weir remained at centre ice as Canadian singer Michael Burgess sang "The Star Spangled Banner" and "O Canada" to tumultuous cheers for both anthems.

"It was an unbelievable day for me," Weir told reporters before the game. "Tonight I'm just going to sit back and relax and enjoy the game." Weir held a press conference at the Eaton Centre, the city's major shopping complex, earlier in the day.

He was greeted by thousands of cheering fans chanting "Mike! Mike! Mike!" as he also launched a new line of golf apparel bearing his name. That name is worth a lot more than it was before his dramatic extra-hole triumph at the Masters a day earlier.

Weir became the first Canadian to win a major tournament, recording his third tour victory of the season in a playoff with Len Mattiace. According to StatsCanada, golf is more of a popular participant sport in Canada than hockey. Hockey may be the national sport, but with 18 per cent of the population having played at least one round in the last year, Canada can boast the highest per capita total of golfers in the world, according to the government statistical organisation.

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