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Gretzky at The Gardens, 40 Years Ago

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  Forty years ago, this past weekend. I remember it like yesterday. My hockey hero, Wayne Gretzky was making his fifth career appearance at Maple Leaf Gardens and it was only the third time he'd be in the spotlight of a Hockey Night in Canada game in Toronto. He had recently set the amazing record of scoring his 50th goal in the 39th game of the season, and his Oilers were riding high in first place in the entire NHL. 10 year-old me was so excited fo the game that I cut out from the newspaper the rosters with current stats and added it to a scrapbook (actual clip below). I would add the boxscore the following day. And what a boxscore it was for a young Maple Leafs/Wayne Gretzky fan. On the Friday before the game, Gretzky put on a mini game on the Gardens ice surface with himself, his brothers Brent (12) and Glen (9) against Oilers Dave Semenko, Curt Brackenbury and coach Billy Harris. They played a game of shinny with nets placed at the blue lines. Glen even got into a fake tussle

The 1967 New Maple Leafs Sweater

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  As a lifelong fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I often wondered about the fact that the team changed their uniform just in time for the 1967 playoffs which of course would turn out to be their last Stanley Cup triumph (pending). I recently picked up a really nice Game Program (pictured below) from the 1967 playoffs, issued April 18, 1967 for Game Six of the Semi-finals against Chicago. Within, there is an article by Paul Dulmage about the recent Leafs uniform switch. "It was a decision of management," stated Leafs equipment manager Bobby Haggert, "They decided it would be part of their Centennial project. The new sweaters will be here in time for the playoffs." Dulmage informed the reader, Centennial Year (1967 was the 100th anniversary of Canadian Confederation) has come, and Canada has a new Maple Leaf on her flag, and the Toronto Maple Leafs open this year's Stanley Cup playoffs with a new leaf on their sweaters, Canada's 11-point leaf. The Maple Leaf sw

Saturday, October 10, 1981

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Opening night at Maple Leaf Gardens was always a special evening but this one was even more memorable as it was also the 50 th  anniversary of the historic building. My dad and I sat in the end gold seats, Box 38, Row C Seats 1 and 2, 3 rows up from ice level. I was ten years old, and this was my first ever Leaf game. One of my more prominent memories of the night happened before the game even started. The 48 th  Highlanders Pipe and Drum Band marched across the ice playing as they had since the Gardens had opened in 1931. Major Conn Smythe, the architect of the Leafs in those days and builder of this grand yellow bricked edifice had served in the Great War. Having The Highlanders open each Maple Leaf season was one of his ways of bringing to the ordinary masses the majesty and honour of serving for one’s country.  This being the 50 th  season opener at the Gardens, the feeling of ceremony and tradition was extra thick in the air. As any ten-year old would do in my situation I stood wi

Soviets Smack Team Canada; 1981 Canada Cup Final

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     Forty years ago yesterday was the Final Game of the 1981 Canada Cup tournament. I remember watching the game as an avid 10 year-old hockey nut and being very disappointed with the outcome. The Soviets, led by goaltender Vladislav Tretiak and a young KLM line thoroughly embarrassed the Canadians by a score of 8-1. I re-watched the game on youtube and my favourite part was seeing all the old commercials on the broadcast. That sad fact alone pretty much sums up the game for me.     Soviet coach, Victor Tikhonov said after the match, "We didn't expect to win by such a score. We expected the game would be very difficult. If we played them again tomorrow or the day after, I would not forecast the result."  The first period of the game was as the coach expected as Canada outshot his team 12-4 with Tretiak  making three or four big saves in close. "Tretiak did what he had to do as he always does, but there was a lot more to their win than him," stated Larry Robinso

Nylander Scores in Four Straight Playoff Games

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William Nylander potted his fourth goal in as many games to open the 2021 NHL Playoffs. This fact brought up many comparables of similar runs by Maple Leaf scorers from the past. Nylander is one away from the longest playoff goal streak in Maple Leafs franchise history: 1993, Dave Andreychuk scored in five consecutive games in the second round against St. Louis. This was all good and well, but unfortunately he would go on to be held scoreless in the Semifinal against Los Angeles. Perhaps even a single goal or two may have made a difference in that 7-game loss. 1951, Sid Smith scored in five straight games including the first four of the Stanley Cup Final against Montreal. He failed to score in the fifth game of the Final, the game that won the Leafs the Cup on Bill Barilko's OT winner. 1939, Gord Drillon scored in five straight to open the playoffs against New York Americans and Detroit Red Wings. Nylander has equalled the playoff-opening run in 1986 of rookie Wendel Clark who scor

The Myth of the North Division

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The North Division is weak. That's what many hockey fans would have you believe as the 2020/21 NHL season drew to an end. It's a sentiment mainly directed at the Maple Leafs and their franchise record Points Percentage of .688. The belief is that the division was extra weak at the bottom end with Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa. Truth be told, the last place Canucks have a higher points percentage than the last team in all other divisions.  A simple way to compare the divisons is to narrow down the record of the playoff qualifying teams between themselves, thus eliminating the weaker non-playoff teams. If we look at each division's standings based on games against ONLY playoff teams, we get the following. As shown above, Toronto ends up with the second highest points percentage against playoff teams, just behind Carolina. Does this illustrate the fact that the Leafs are just that much better than the rest of their division, even the other playoff teams? Critics could point to

Maple Leaf For A Game; Bill Johansen

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  I am currently reading the book, "Voices in Blue and White" by the fantastic author Kevin Shea. He chronicles the 'pride and passion for the Maple Leafs' in interviews with literally hundreds of players. Most are quick little stories, like this one about Bill Johansen ('Red' Johnson) talking about his one and only Maple Leaf appearance; " I was playing centre for the Marlie Seniors. One Saturday night, they called me up to the Leafs because Ted Kennedy had gotten hurt. (On November 26, 1949), I played between Bill Ezinicki and Harry Watson. I thought we did pretty well, but we got beat by Boston, 3-0. The team was getting dressed to make a train to Chicago when Mr. Smythe walked into the room, pointed at me and said to the others, "How can you let a young kid like this skate rings around you?"I figured this meant I would be going with them, that I had made the team, so I was really excited. Then coach Hap Day came over and told me I wouldn'