When they were bums
Forty-four years ago this month the ’66-’67 Maple Leafs began a season that would culminate in their winning the Cup. Who knew we’d still be waiting for the next one?
Clockwise from top: thousands of fans line Bay Street as the Toronto Maple Leafs make their way toward City Hall; the team celebrates by drenching coach Punch Imlach; Maple Leafs captain George Armstrong and Harold Ballard
At the time, as the long parade chugged its way up Bay Street, it was likely that most Torontonians wouldn’t have believed that this was it: the last Stanley Cup championship for 44 years — and counting.
As the beloved Toronto Maple Leafs suit up for another shot at glory, we felt it wise to revive those fading memories of the glory days of years past when winning a Stanley Cup was par for the course for this city.
Although they weren’t supposed to win, the Leafs entered the 1966-1967 season as a quality team — but as an old team. Coach Punch Imlach was famously quoted as saying of the team, “Oh, they may be bums, but they’re my bums.”
It was the 50th season of the franchise, and it got off to a rough start. At one point, the team had lost 10 straight games, and Imlach landed in the hospital, supposedly because of the stress of it all. Sound familiar?
But in this case, King Clancy took over the team and turned it around, led by Leafs legends Dave Keon and Frank Mahovlich, who were one and two in scoring, and by fiery young right winger Ron Ellis, who led the team in goals with 22.
The team finished in third behind the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks and the dreaded Montreal Canadiens. Come playoff time, the hometown squad rallied behind some stellar goaltending by Terry Sawchuck to defeat the Blackhawks in the first round, followed by the Canadiens, to hoist Lord Stanley’s mug for the last time. Keon was named playoff MVP in taking home his third Stanley Cup, and the parade was on.
In Toronto, kids were let off school early that day, and thousands lined the streets. And the team, sitting in a fleet of convertibles, wound their way through the downtown — from Maple Leaf Gardens to Toronto City Hall for the ceremony.
That is what it’s all about. And the hunt starts again Oct. 6 against, you guessed it, the Montreal Canadiens. Game on!