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(Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
(Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

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Goaltender Johnny Bower on withdrawing from Afghanistan Add to ...

Johnny Bower was goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1958 to 1969. He won four Stanley Cups and two Vezina Trophies and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Were you in the armed forces?

I was in the forces overseas for about a year, in '44-45, when the war was practically over. I was in the army, the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders.

The Canadian Forces are in Afghanistan. Should they be?

I don't believe the boys should be over there. They should be home. We have been there for a long time and I think it is time for them to come home and to stay home with their families. I don't understand what they are fighting for. It's hard to see them going over there and you don't know if they're coming back. What are we getting out of it? I don't understand.

In the Second World War, the reasons were more clear cut.

Well, sure. You were fighting for your country. This is different. Actually, they are not fighting, they're trying to settle things down but they're still being killed.

Has the Afghan mission enhanced Canada's reputation in the world?

Sure. It was for a good cause. Pull out this year? I wouldn't count on it. They claim they're pulling out at a certain time. I just hope they do, believe me.

A complete pullout or, as is planned, some Canadian troops remaining in non-combat, training roles?

That's fine. I was taught how to hold a rifle, how to shoot a Bren gun. Doing something like that is just great, helping them to protect their country.

Is it not the army's role to fight?

That's right, but there's a point where you think, "Are we doing the right thing?"

Are some things worth fighting and dying for?

Being a Canadian, I'd rather fight and die here than over there. The boys have joined up and they know what to expect. When I went overseas, I knew what to expect. I hoped I was going to come home and I'm sure the boys over there now feel the same way.

What message does a pullout send to the world about Canada's commitment?

We've been there all the time. Whatever happens, Canada is always there. We never fail to send men no matter wherever it is. They do their chores. I think our fellows have been there long enough and I don't know if they're ever going to beat these guys. Russia tried and they didn't succeed. Bring 'em all back. When they're gone, they'll have their own people there. They'll just have to take over and fight [for]themselves.

Could that thinking not have been applied in Europe during the Second World War? Leave the Poles, French, Belgians and Dutch to fight their own war?

No, they fought right there. They fought to the end against Germany.

The Afghan mission has become unpopular. The majority of Canadians do not support it. But should Canada's mission be run with an eye to poll results?

They say that they are going to pull the Canadians out. I got a funny feeling that something's going to happen and that they're going to stay there for a little longer. In a fighting role. That's politics.

Would you call the Canadian mission in Afghanistan a success?

I think they have done their job. It was a success in what they're doing. They should be there helping out and they are there helping out.

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