Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bobby Baun and The Broken Leg Goal; 50 Years Ago Today

"Goal Made Ankle Feel Better"
That was the headline by the Canadian Press fifty years ago today after Toronto Maple Leaf, Bobby Baun scored the overtime winning goal in game six of the Stanley Cup finals. "The puck came back to me on the bounce just inside the line. It was on edge, I swung and saw it take a big hop into the net," Baun was quoted after the game. The goal, at 1:43 of overtime at Detroit's Olympia equaled the Stanley Cup final at three games apiece. Baun, of course had been carried off the ice on a stretcher in the second period after collapsing in front of Johnny Bower while taking a faceoff. Baun had earlier been hit on the outside of his right leg by a Gordie Howe shot and continued playing. It was on the ensuing faceoff, as he spun on that right leg did he fall to the ice in pain.

Baun being carted off in the 2nd period
Baun would return before the period was over and after the game speculated he had suffered a pinched nerve, "Let's wait until the doctor looks at it before we try to say what it was, but that winning goal sure made the ankle feel lots better." He had indeed suffered a hairline fracture of his fibula. Detroit defenceman Bill Gadsby lamenting the winning goal said afterward, "I didn't see the puck until the last second, then it was too late to get the stick out of the way. The puck just ticked enough to deflect past Terry." Sawchuck himself added, "It's simple, Baun's shot hit Gadsby's stick and went past me. I couldn't move on it. That's all. You saw the game."

Baun would not actually find out he had been playing on a broken leg until he allow his leg to be x-rayed until after Game Seven, which he played in with his leg heavily taped and frozen. He was even named one of the game stars in the 4-0 Toronto victory.

Interestingly, the 1964 finals could have been remembered for something entirely different that Bobby Baun's heroics. It was on the verge of becoming the first EIGHT game Stanley Cup final in history. As the Canadian Press wrote before the seventh game, "Should the teams remain tied after one overtime period Saturday, Toronto's curfew law would force an eighth game in the Ontario city." Toronto the Good and it's puritan ways would have caused Stanley Cup history.

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