Ok . . . hands up if you remember seeing a Toronto Maple Leaf Stanley Cup game let alone a victory.
Since the Leafs last Stanley Cup in ’67, there hasn’t even been a return to the finals. It got this writer wondering, what was it like 50 years ago?
As a writer for LeafsHub.com I get to mix with a Leafs Nation that knows their hockey and is loyal to the team, bar none.
One of our LeafsHub most faithful readers is Ingy56. We often find him commenting his passion for the Leafs on our website. Ingy was very generous in offering up some of his personal recollections of the season that was Toronto’s last Stanley Cup. The 1966/1967 season.
“This season was a tumultuous one for the team, player feuds with Imlach had been going on for years. Carl Brewer eventually retired from pro hockey because of his longstanding feud.
The player’s union was becoming a reality and Imlach was part of the old guard steadfastly against it.
For some reason he was particularly hard on one of his star players, Frank Mahovlich. During this season Mahovlich was briefly hospitalized for nervous exhaustion and missed some games.
The Leafs were also out of a playoff berth near mid season and many wondered if the team was too old. Imlach himself was hospitalized for exhaustion and King Clancy took over as coach and they went on a win streak to get them back into playoff contention.“
That all sounds kind of familiar as we all know the Leafs have put behind them a more recent tumultuous era. Ingy goes on to say . . . .
“They finished 3rd and were set to meet the powerful Black Hawks, led by their powerful offense including Hull, Mikita, Wharram and Glen Hall in the nets.
No one gave the Leafs much chance but they took out the Hawks in 6 games and a meeting with Montreal in the Finals was set.
This was Centennial year in Canada and Expo ’67 was in Montreal. The City of Montreal had built a display case in the Quebec Pavilion to put the Cup in when they won it, except they hadn’t won it just yet. Again, nobody gave the Leafs much chance.”
In the end Toronto won the Cup and it never did make it to the Quebec pavilion at Expo 67 according to Ingy. This is the kind of stuff that makes up hockey folklore and such a rich history of the game.
The experience at the games was also magical . . .
“Going to the games was always an incredible experience . . .
The buzz around the outside of the arena was pretty amazing for a kid. Ticket scalpers hawking tickets for the game, popcorn vendors with the old carts selling candy apples and chestnuts. Once inside the program vendors were barking out their calls . . .
I remember looking down and wishing so bad that I could watch the game from the red seats.
Two escalator rides brought us to the Green level, then we climbed two staircases up to the Grey’s.
I always remember the first thing I did before even getting a drink at the concession stands was to go up the single stair that led to the narrow entrance to our section and look down on the ice surface at either the old Zamboni resurfacing the ice or the players warming up. It was quite a sight.
Grey seats were $2 a ticket back then, so a working man could afford a seasons pass.
Our section was just below the gondola, and many nights you would see Foster Hewitt make the scary walk along the catwalk to his perch in the booth.
They used to do TV interviews from the catwalk between periods but the heckling from the crowd below forced them to make a small studio in the Gondola.
The Grey’s could get quite rowdy as there were Micky bottles clanking as they mixed it with the flat soft drinks sold in the stands . . .
As we were the last row, there was a standing room area behind us and most games you would have to brush all the cigarette ashes from the back of your coat from the patrons that stood behind us. There was a No Smoking sign just to our right , but it was mostly ignored.”
Yes, by Ingy56’s account it was a very different experience back then. Good luck with a consuming a micky let alone lighting up a butt these days. Perhaps his best insight is as follows . . .
“Winning Cups was a regular occurrence in the early 60’s, they could have won at least one more but injuries and circumstances just didn’t work out.
You knew after ’67 that the old guard that had won 4 Cups was going to have to be replaced but everyone was confident they would be back in contention soon . . .
I never thought it would be this long though. One more would be nice, but at least I can say I’ve seen 4 in my lifetime to this point, and been in the building for 2. Damn I’m old.“
No Ingy – you are not old . . . you offer a well cultured insight is the way I see it.
Most of us never anticipated a cup drought stretching to what will soon be year 51. Unfortunately the Leafs hold the dubious distinction of having the longest cup less streak.
I think this is what has made Igny’s story resound so well. With a new and young team starting to offer some hope, we may all soon be able to offer up our own recollections . . . of a Stanley Cup arriving and parading down Younge St, Toronto.
What do you think Leafs Nation?
Please discuss among yourselves.