In spite of the greying hair on his head and the crow’s feet framing his eyes, Mike Palmateer will always be ‘The Kid’, or ‘The Popcorn Kid’ to a generation of Toronto Maple Leafs fans.
And, when you see him, it's not just nostalgia that makes you think of him in those terms. At 5'9" and, seemingly not much more than the 170 lbs he weighed during his playing days, Palmateer still retains an impish quality about him.
The longtime Toronto Maple Leafs scout was at the RBC Centre on Friday night to watch the Sting host the Saginaw Spirit.
Instantly recognizable to Leafs fans of a certain age, Palmateer confirms he does get noticed a lot at OHL arenas. But, he says it doesn't distract him from doing his job.
"It doesn't bother me. It's all good," he says.
Noted for his acrobatic style -- in fact, it's hard to think of a more acrobatic goalie who ever played the game -- during his playing days, Palmateer, doesn't hesitate when asked how his style of play would work in today's game.
"Not at all," he chuckles.
Palmateer endured 14 knee surgeries before retiring in 1984 and has had six more since -- including a total knee replacement on one of his legs. He says he has not donned the goalie equipment since 1997.
But, he will do so again on New Year's Day when the Toronto alumni face their Red Wings counterparts prior to the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor.
He says he is going to try to "get on the ice a few times" to practice before Jan. 1, but, he adds, "I have to take it easy. I don't want to hurt myself before I even get there."
Palmateer admits, with a snicker, he might not be the same type of goalie he was when he starred with the 1970s Maple Leafs.
"I'll likely play the angles a little bit more," he says, though he hastens to add, "I'll probably end up doing some flopping. It's what I know best. The mind tells you to do one thing, but when you're 60 years old (Palmateer's 60th birthday will be Jan. 13) you don't know how your body will respond ... If I do go down, I just hope I can get back up again.
"It's gonna be great to see all the guys again," he adds, "I just hope the Detroit boys take it easy on me."
Youtube features some wonderful footage of Palmateer at his acrobatic best during a late 1970s episode of Showdown, the skills competition that used to air during Hockey Night in Canada intermissions.
Palmateer says he hasn't seen that. But, he says, he watched a Leafs TV replay of an old playoff game (from 1979) featuring Toronto vs. the Atlanta Flames.
"That was quite a game," his eyes lighting up as he talks about it. "We had a bench clearing brawl. A bunch of players from both teams were ejected. ... It was pretty wild."