Toronto Maple Leafs: The Franchise's Biggest 'Glue Guys' of All Time
The ambiguity of the term 'glue guys' lends itself to the behind the scenes, meat and potato, unsung-hero-type. This however is not a hard and fast rule.
Some players have come out the of the woodwork and have showcased super-human-like abilities. Others may have had high expectations but then delivered on them in ways that were equally unexpected.
These gentlemen may differ in size, skill-set and have enjoyed vastly different roles within the organization, but what they all possess collectively is the kind of legendary magnetism that has brought out the very best in their team.
Let's go back in history and take a candid look at this storied franchise's biggest "glue guys" of all time.
Darcy Tucker on January 9, 2008.
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Darcy Tucker was the kind of guy you loved to have on your team but absolutely hated to play against. He was rough, gritty, loyal, passionate—just about everything you would want on your side.
Part of his passion was highlighted by a rather short fuse and when the Tucker "bomb" finally did explode—duck and cover.
One of the quintessential Tucker moments in Leafs history came on April 20, 2004 when he took exception to Chris Neal. Tucker gave into his primal instincts and dove into the Ottawa Senators bench head first, fists-a-blazing. Priceless.
During his time in Toronto he was a fan-favorite who protected his teammates and played a hard, scrappy game, still managing to score 20-plus goals four times as a Maple Leaf.
May 4, 2002
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Perhaps Gary Roberts statistically accomplished more in his career for other NHL teams but it was his stand-out character as a Maple Leaf that puts him on this list as one of the greatest "glue guys" in the history of the franchise.
Roberts scored more than 20 goals three out of the four seasons he played as a Maple Leaf but it was his ability to elevate his game in clutch situations that defined him in Toronto.
During the Leafs playoff run in 2002, after Captain Mats Sundin was sidelined with an injury to his wrist, Roberts absolutely took the team on his back and carried them to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Ultimately, the Leafs fell short losing in six games to a better Carolina Hurricanes team—but for those Leafs fans who witnessed the heroics of Gary Roberts during that postseason run, he will forever be remembered as a true leader that held the team together in their time of need.
December 20, 1992
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Although Wendel Clark was drafted first overall in the 1985 entry draft and there were certain expectations that came with that status, one could argue he was still one of the great "glue guys" in Leafs history.
His aggressive, hard-nosed style earned him a reputation as someone who could knock the wind out of you three different ways—a thundering body check, strong right-hook or on the scoreboard with his potent slap-shot.
Clark was everything to everyone as a Maple Leaf: a play-maker, a goal-scorer, a hard hitter and a fighter. He even played both defense and forward positions during his time in Toronto.
The 1993-94 season marked his most offensively dominant year as a Leaf, potting 46 goals and 76 points in 64 games played. His contributions ultimately helped them to the conference finals for the second straight year.
He was the type of clutch player that thrived on pressure situations and held the team together throughout their most respectable years in the 1990's.
Ron Ellis' hockey legacy should go down as being one of the most consistent Toronto Maple Leafs in franchise history.
He may not have been the most dominant of forwards offensively or have won the most individual honors in his time as a career Maple Leaf—but Ellis was a perfect example of how the unsung hero can effectively impact the success of a hockey team.
Ellis set a franchise record by recording 20 or more goals in 10-straight years. He also played a vital role in the last Stanley Cup-winning Toronto team in 1967.
Because he was a measure of consistency and endurance over his 16-year career as a Maple Leaf, Ellis deserves the respect of being one of the greatest "glue guys" Toronto has ever seen.
Tim Horton was a part of a Toronto Maple Leafs dynasty that won the Stanley Cup three years in a row from 1962 to 1964. His strong defensive play was highlighted by grittiness, athleticism and dependability.
As part of a very capable defensive core at the time, Horton contributed to another Stanley Cup winning team in 1967—the last championship year to date for this historic hockey team.
He was also a thoroughbred for the Leafs throughout the 60's, playing 486 consecutive games, illustrating both dedication and professionalism.
For his contributions to arguably some of the greatest Leaf teams in the history of the franchise, he is well deserving of a place as one of the great Maple Leaf "glue guys" of all time.
Eddie Shack on February 22, 2009
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"Clear the track, here comes Shack!" Does this sound familiar to you? If not, ask your Dad about it.
Eddie Shack played seven seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs but left a long legacy as a spirited third-line agitator.
He may never have been a prolific scorer, but Shack had the heart and personality that helped Toronto win multiple championships throughout the 60's.
He won Stanley Cups in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967 with the Leafs—although his most famous contribution came in 1963 when he was credited with the Cup-winning goal that deflected in off his rear-end.
If that's not a "glue guy" I don't know what is.
The epic legacy of Bobby Baun is one of dedication, heart and self-sacrifice.
This stay-at-home defenseman wasn't as flashy as some who have donned the Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, but what he did in the 1964 Stanley Cup finals will be remembered as one of the greatest moments in sports history.
Baun threw himself in front of a Gordie Howe slap-shot which he took off his leg. When he was taken off the ice on a stretcher it was thought his season had most certainly come to an end.
He refused to to have a doctor examine his leg, insisting on going back on the ice, as the game had gone into overtime. Baun insured his name as one of the greatest players in Maple Leafs history by going on to score the the game-winning goal just minutes into the extra frame.
Adding to his legend, he dismissed the idea of not playing in Game 7 and so, with the help of some painkillers and a little tape for his leg, he helped the Leafs go on to beat the Detroit Red Wings and bring the Cup home to Toronto.
It was later discovered Howe's slap-shot had indeed fractured Baun's ankle. You couldn't write a more dramatic storyline for a more respected player.
Theodore "Teeder" Kennedy
Teeder Kennedy was perhaps the best all-around player in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Although he may not have been the best skater or have taken home the most individual awards as a Maple Leaf, it was his determination night in and night out that make him one of the greatest "glue guys".
This former captain and career Maple Leaf was an on-ice leader, a faceoff specialist, a play-maker and perhaps the hardest working player in NHL history. Kennedy was known as a huge clutch-player, executing game-changing plays at opportune times and was a dominant force in the playoffs.
His legacy is one that is not only based on goals and points totals, but also of mutual respect from his fellow teammates and peers.
Conn Smythe also admitted that Kennedy was one of his favorite players, praising him as the "greatest competitor in hockey." (via legendsofhockey.net)
This prolific centreman helped propel the Leafs to five Stanley Cup Championships from 1943-1956, at which point he hung up his skates and retired as one of the greats in franchise history.
March 13, 2010
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The legend of Bill Barilko has a very special place in Leafs history.
He may never have been a top scorer or regarded as one of Toronto's best players but was well respected by his teammates as a hard-hitting defenseman who enjoyed most of his success as a Maple Leaf in the background.
He was however, a crucial component of the Toronto Maple Leafs' championship team in 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951.
Barilko scored the overtime goal in game five against the Montreal Canadiens that won the Leafs the Stanley Cup in 1951. Only a few short months later, the 24-year-old disappeared in a tragic plane crash near Cochrane, Ontario.
It seemed as though without Barilko, the flame that once ignited the Toronto Maple Leafs' four championships seasons was gone.
As was immortalized in the Tragically Hip song, Fifty Mission Cap, "they didn't win another until 1963, the year he was discovered."
Whether you pass it off as an urban legend or campfire folk tale, there is no doubt Bill Barilko and the Toronto Maple Leafs were tied together in ineffable ways that defy logic and reason.
The legend of this blue collared Maple Leaf will undoubtedly live on forever.
"Gentleman" Joe Primeau
Perhaps "Gentleman" Joe Primeau was a more high-profile player in his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs than what would typically be considered for a "glue guy" list.
However, it was Primeau's ability to play the role as a setup-man to the likes of Harvey "Busher" Jackson and Charlie Conacher that elevated the team to a Stanley Cup in 1932.
The famed "Kid Line" produced like no other during that time as Primeau was an integral part in Jackson winning a scoring title and helping Conacher lead the league twice. ("via" legendsofhockey.net)
The young center-man would help give Toronto it's first Stanley Cup in Maple Leaf Gardens and go down as one of their most skilled play-makers ever.