Rob Cimetta and lessons from the South Tower

Rob Cimetta's '91-92 OPC card. OPC was trying to find its way in the new world of competition. I don't think that garish was the way to go.

Rob Cimetta came to the Leafs in a November, 1990 deal with Boston.  The Leafs had stumbled out of the gate in disasterous fashion after a really promising year the season before.  Making matters worse was the fact that they no longer had their first-round pick, and the prize to be had in the 1991 draft was a kid named Eric Lindros.  In a desperate bid to avoid being forever remembered as the team that gave away Lindros, the Leafs moved everything that wasn’t nailed down. 

It worked.  They finished second-last and ended up giving away future Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer instead, and all it cost was the majority of a promising young core. 

One of the more forward-looking deals was for Cimetta.  He’d played junior in Toronto with the Marlies and while he hadn’t carved out a huge role with Boston, a lot of that was attributed to the depth the Bruins had up front.  He was still seen as a legit prospect.

He got some ice time in Toronto, but it really didn’t pan out here, either.  Between 1990-91 and 1991-92, he played just 49 NHL games, scoring six goals and seven assists. 

I don’t remember anything being particularly wrong with his game, but there just wasn’t a lot by way of results.  He was up and down on some teams that were themselves mostly down, and when the Leafs started to round into form, there just wasn’t room.  He’d play a couple of years in the minors and then headed off to Germany, where he’d play until 1999-00.

Rob tends to come into the news because of his post-hockey career.  After retiring from hockey in Germany, he went to work for Morgan Stanley.  Situated in Florida, he was in the New York office on Sept. 11, 2001, in the South Building of the World Trade Center.  He was lucky in that he got out alive.  He’s often interviewed by Toronto media, giving those of us here an idea of what it was like to be in the centre of a maelstrom.  This is an interview he gave to the FAN590 today

I remember a number of things from that day – the incredulity in the announcer’s voice as he said that the first plane had hit, the attempts to find any web site that could stand up to the traffic, contacting friends in the States to make sure they were OK.  My wife worked in an office tower downtown.  She was sent home.  My dad was in Chicago.  It took them three days to get home.

In mid-afternoon, I went out to get some air.  It was a day just like today – a perfect early fall day where the sun still feels warm and there’s just the barest crispness that warns of the cold to come.  The sky was clear, everything was quiet and I remember being struck by how completely incongruous the entire thing was, that Toronto would have a moment like this while all hell was breaking loose just a few hundred miles away.  The whole thing was surreal.

Today at lunch I went down to the lake.  There’s a little park with big old trees, a couple hundred feet of sandy beach and some good rocks on which to sit and watch the waves roll in.  I go there every so often to clear the mind and refresh the senses.  It calms me.

The park was constructed out of the remnants of a neighbourhood flattened when Hurricane Hazel hit Toronto in 1954.  After the wreckage was cleared, people realized that the area was actually a rarely-hit but very dangerous flood plain.  The area was razed and only the streets on higher elevations were permitted to remain.  There’s a marker there that stands in memory of the people who lost their lives to the flood.  It’s really the only indication that this was ever anything other than a place to come, unwind and find a moment of peace.  It’s something special created out of a moment of tremendous sorrow.

So today I sat.  I watched the lake.  I watched the gulls circling and some big freighter in the distance heading at a snail’s pace to an unknown port.  I thought about that day, the time that has passed and all the things that have come that we’d never have imagined.  And I thought about Rob Cimetta’s interview.  Much like the people who built this park after ’54, his response was to try to build positives out of disaster.  Like he says, life is precious.  Keep perspective.  Do the things you dream of doing and hold onto the things that matter. 

If he can come through something like that and be a better person, maybe we all can.

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