The Toronto Maple Leafs have a long and storied history filled with success, disappointment and a lot of irony. This slide show attempts to capture some of the most memorable moments in Maple Leafs history that coincides both with on ice success and off ice drama and intrigue.
Without further ado, lets see what moments are worth taking another look at.
Perhaps it is fitting that we start this list with when Toronto played its first game in the newly formed National Hockey League in 1917 where they played the Montreal Wanderers. At this point, they were a temporary team granted to the Arena Company. Even though they lost this first game, it was the first step into creating many memorable years for fans of all ages.
As the Toronto Maple leafs, their first Stanley Cup came in 1932. They defeated the New York Rangers in three games in a best of five series. This team boasted players such as Ace Bailey, Hap Day, Charlie Conacher and King Clancy.
Surviving members of the 1967 Stanley Cup Winning team
Every Toronto Maple Leaf fan knows the significance of the year 1967. This moment makes the list not as much for the actual victory, but what it signifies, the fact that Toronto has not won a Stanley Cup since 1967. Little did we know that George Armstrong would be the last captain to hoist the cup, and continue the longest current running Stanley Cup drought. However, this victory is special in that it is the last Stanley cup of the original six era, and reminds us a time that once was...
Harold Ballard can be called many things, much of which cannot not be written here. Ballard was a shrewd businessman that wasn't afraid to do what was necessary to turn a profit, be it legally or not. As a result, he faced over 49 counts of fraud, theft and tax evasion, of which he was convicted of 46. He alienated many people before becoming sole owner the Leafs in the early 70's, and when he took over, he continued to micromanage and alienate those around him. He slashed long time employees salaries until they felt compelled to resign, and fought with star players like Darryl Sittler and Dave Keon.
Why is Harold Ballard taking over a memorable event? Because it symbolized one of the most lucrative yet bleakest periods of Maple Leafs history. This goes to show you that money cannot always buy you happiness.
Darryl Sittler quite frankly had had enough of Ballard's meddling ways and Punch Imlach trying to interfere within the locker room for political reasons, such as to minimize his influence on other players. Several things led up to Sittler cutting off the captains "C" patch from his jersey such as the firing of popular coach Roger Neilson (then famously being asked to come back with a paper bag over his head), the trading away of Lanny McDonald, reduced amount of playing time and being sent down instead of traded.
His explanation for his action was " A captain had to be the go-between with players and management, and he no longer had any communication with management" as mentioned in Ken McKee's article: Maple Leaf forever? Sittler will stay put at least this season" from the Toronto Star (March 8, 1980, p. C3)
In June of 1995, Toronto fans were horrified when they learnt Wendel Clark was traded to the Quebec Nordiques. The Leafs sent Clark, Sylvain Lefebvre, Landon Wilson plus a draft pick in exchange for Mats Sundin (who was relatively unknown to Toronto fans), Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner and a a first round draft pick. While Sundin's value and tenure with the Leafs is history, at the time, it was and still is thought to have been one of the worst trades ever involving the Toronto Maple Leafs.
There were many reasons why Toronto moved their team to a new building. Age, size of the building, technology and location were a few of those reasons. Moving from the much storied Maple Leaf Gardens signaled a new era for the Leafs. The first game took place on February 20, 1999 with a Maple Leafs victory. However, the new building has not yet seen a Stanley Cup victory by the Buds, something the Leafs might be able to change soon as I discuss in a previous article.
With the Leafs playing their last game at Maple Leaf Gardens, they were ready to create new history this year in their new home arena the Air Canada Centre. Curtis Joseph was one of the last elite goal tenders Toronto had who was still in his prime (and didn't come with health issues). During this playoff series, he practically stood on his head as the Leafs easily dispatched both the Flyers and the Penguins in 6 games each. This team had other fan favourites such as Mats Sundin, Steve Thomas,Alexander Karpovtsev, and Tie Domi.
Finally, after all these years, it finally looked like the Leafs were going to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs...that is until they ran into a red hot Buffalo Sabres team (who eventually lost to Dallas) led by an equally heroic Dominik Hašek.
Game 6 Conference Finals. The Leafs were down by one goal with less than a minute to go. If they lost, they were going home. If they scored, they went to overtime. Players dream about scoring this type of clutch goal all the time. Few often do. In what was a dramatic last few minutes, one of the most prayed for events happened...Mats Sundin scored and fans were euphoric with excitement. Hearts were pounding, hands were sweaty...and that was just the fans. Unfortunately, the Leafs went on to lose in overtime, but this goal still lives on. This one one example of how Toronto fans have gone from euphoric to depressed in a matter of mere minutes.
The first game to be broad cast coast to coast in Canada occurred in 1936. This was way for fans to connect across a nation while watching a much loved past time. Unfortunately for Leafs fans, the Leafs lost 3-2 to the New York Americans, but this time honoured tradition has remained a mainstay in family life to this day, fueling dreams of young Canadians and sharing stories among generations of hockey fans.
Hockey was a chance for fans to escape the harsh realities of life. None was more apparent during the second world war. This time, players also enlisted in the armed forces. Players such as Syl Apps and Turk Broda and many others who had enlisted to serve their country. Conn Smythe himself served both in world war I and II was taken prisoner and injured. The war also offered opportunities for those who didn't or were unable to participate in the war to make a name for themselves and fill in the gaps of various team rosters.
It seemed like the Ottawa Senators owned the Leafs during the regular season, but not when it counted in the playoffs. Whether Ottawa had key injuries or just looked past the Leafs we don't know, but the smug feeling of sweeping the Senators in the playoffs had Leafs fans standing a bit taller in future meetings.
This moment is more of a comedic moment. The one player I would not want to antagonize and then subsequently find myself in close quarters with is Tie Domi. What intially started off as words, leads to Domi squirted water the Flyer fans and ends with a fan knocking over a pane of glass and fisticuffs ensuing.
After Wendel Clark was traded, Doug Gilmour assumed the captaincy. He was tenacious, hard working, spunky and successful in both scoring and agitating opposing players on the ice. He scored a franchise-record 127 points and was a leading force during their playoff runs. When he was traded, may fans were sad to see him go. However, he was reacquired with much fanfare at the 2003 trading deadline. Fans cheered wildly when he stepped out in his first game back. However, that joy soon turned to horror when he collided with a Calgary player and thus ended his comeback. A comeback that didn't last more than a couple shifts.
There are many perks to being Wayne Gretzky. One of which is to not have many penalties called against you, especially during the playoffs, especially during overtime in a playoff game . One such example occurred during Game 6 of the 1993 playoffs where the Leafs played the L.A. Kings. Gretzky clipped Doug Gilmour in the face, yet it was not called. Adding more insult to injury, the Great One himself scored the game winning goal, thereby forcing a game 7 where the Leafs lost. The collective moment of outrage is still talked about amongst Leafs fans about a playoff run "that could have been"!
Well, here are 15 memorable events in Toronto Maple Leafs history. Events ranged from somber and historic to comedic. While this slide show may not have caught all events, I invite you to submit your own memorable events regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs, be it team accomplishments or personal moments, such when you went to your first Leafs game.
Until next time, folks...