Welcome back to Last Word on Hockey’s summer series where we take a look at the most significant video game in team history. Each day we will be back with a brand-new group to take a look at. Looking at things like the lead-up, what occurred, followed, and why it makes it the most significant game. The greatest video game does not immediately imply a win, either. Often, it can be a loss that set the franchise back massively. Relax and delight in as we break down all 31 teams’ essential game. In this post, Last Word On Hockey editor Christian Holmes will talk about the Toronto Maple Leafs greatest game in franchise history. The full series is found here.
Maple Leafs Most Significant Video Game in Franchise History
In a time before the “William Nylander does not have enough ‘heart'” truth drama and the “is Mitch Marner worth Auston Matthews loan” debate existed, an old and gritty Maple Leafs team that would hoist a prize that has long avoided boys in blue and white sweatshirts ever because.
This established what would become arguably the most significant game in Maple Leafs history: Video game 6 of the 19667 Stanley Cup Final versus the Montreal Canadiens. This all during the end of the “Initial Six” period.
Yeah, we’re going there. 1967 child. Canada’s centennial year. The ’60s. 2 years prior to Woodstock. 2 years before
Nixon and the Americans would phony the moon landing. Rock n’ roll was beginning to reach brand-new heights. Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, baby! The folks that weren’t into that kind of thing enjoyed soul and singin’ the blues. Nixon had actually become a regular celeb. “All You Required Is Love” by The Beatles was Canada’s jam. And in Toronto, the hard-workin’, blue-collared folks remained in outright love with George Armstrongand the never-say-die Maple Leafs.
Oh, those were the days, Sunny.
The Leafs story coming into ’67
From the National Hockey League’s beginning, the Toronto Maple Leafs (or Arenas or Saint Patricks) have actually been the poster kids for developing the game. A group of gentlemen a city might rally behind. A young group in the ’40s and ’50s that personified the ideal of the Canadian Dream, giving fans wish for the future after World War ll. An old, hard-working team in the ’60s that embodied the not-so-new idea of the blue-collar way of life.
Entering into the 1966-67 season, the Leafs were a team on the decline and had a sour taste in their mouth from the previous year’s playoffs where they were swept by the Montreal Canadiens.
According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, “The members of the Leafs that season understood they were flawed. They were mostly old by hockey standards (two were over 40, and six others were 36 or older) and included some erratic characters. The team did not have scoring punch and had actually endured a season in which they had lost 10-straight video games. It was basically the very same group that the previous year had been swept in the playoffs by the Canadiens.”
The elephant in the space: “Punch” Imlach
Numerous of the gamers disliked their general supervisor George “Punch” Imlach, although he assisted the group win a couple of Stanley Cups earlier in the ’60s. The players disliked his transfer to alienate star players like Frank Mahovlich, and most of the promising young gamers such as Jim Pappin and Pete Stemkowski.
Among the primary problems Imlach had with his players was that with the new gamers’ union beginning to take shape and a new collective bargaining agreement entering location, his gamers had more control of their negotiations with the team. Imlach might not handle his authority being undermined. This caused the friction between the two parties and a precursor for the Harold Ballard Era.
The mid-season meeting
Among the bigger minutes in the season was when group captain George Armstrong called a group just satisfying on January 20, 1967. This meeting was called to attempt and rally the troops 7 video games into their 10-game losing streak. The Leafs went on to lose 3 more games making them 17-21-8 on the year.
Armstrong, in an attempt to fire up the kids, stated to The Toronto Star that “something needs to take place to trigger the group.”
Surprise, surprise, the King is back!
After winning a number of video games versus the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, lightning struck. Fate would have it. Head coach “Punch” Imlach would have issues with his heart. As the old saying goes, “The show needs to go on!”
The team induced Leafs’ legend King Clancy to coach the group. This was the buzz in the area.
The news made The Star’s front page and represented a modification in the locker room of the Leafs. They would go onto have a prolonged winning streak. Reviving their importance in the Stanley Cup discussion. They were not anticipated to do anything unique, even in a league with just 5 other teams.
The path to the Toronto Maple Leafs greatest game
As the season started to progress into the New Year, the Maple Leafs got better and much better with Clancy behind the bench. They were not a powerhouse in the league. That stated, for an older group of guys, they showed that they still had some life left in them.
The state of mind in the media reflected that. The group’s succesful play began ending up being a routine headline. Toronto Star press reporters like Red Burnett were writing stories on how the group’s players felt they might contend for another Stanley Cup.
The ’67 playoffs
With the Leafs finishing 3rd location in their department, they needed to play a difficult Chicago Blackhawks team that included Hall of Fame gamers such as goalie Glenn Hall, winger Bobby Hull, and centre Stan Mikita.
To make things worse, The Star got word through a Maple Leafs official that Imlach flew the group to Peterborough, Ontario, and put them through a “boot camp” to get ready for the first place Blackhawks.
With hindsight being 20/20, the boot camp might have assisted.
The Leafs knocked out Chicago in Game 6 of their semi-final match. The media at the time noted just how hard both teams contested the course of the series. Leafs’ goaltender Terry Sawchuk took a Bobby Hull slapshot to the face in Video game 5 however handled to stay in the video game and led the Maple Leafs to a 4-3 win.
That meant the group had advanced to the Stanley Cup Final against a familiar enemy.
The Stanley Cup Final
In the Stanley Cup Final, the Maple Leafs would face the Montreal Canadiens, a group that swept them in the 1966 playoffs and had actually won the 1965 and 1966 Stanley Cups. And a team that would not be a piece of cake. But as the “Nature Boy” Ric Style would say numerous years later on in 1989, “To be the man, you got ta beat the man, and I’m standing right here!”
The Canadiens were strong down the middle with a trio of Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard and Ralph Backstrom. Their pitfall was novice goaltender Rogie Vachon. Imlach notoriously called him a “junior B goalie” when speaking with the media in a pre-game scrum.
The series went 6 games. Each one of those games being a war, even if the rating stated otherwise. Neither of the teams wanting to provide an inch or even a centimetre.
The Leafs lost the very first game 6-0. Game 2 they came back and won 3-0. Video game 3 went to double overtime and a goal from Bob Pulford would win the video game for the Leafs and put Maple Leaf Gardens into a frenzy. Montreal returned and won a nasty Video game 4 by a score of 6-2. Pissed as ever and looking for a fight long before Dana White created the expression, the Maple Leafs won Game 5 by a rating of 4-1.
With that, the Leafs were up in the series 3-2 and coming back home with an opportunity to make a run for splendor.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Biggest Video Game: Video Game 6
Then came May 2, 1967. The last time in a long time that Toronto would know what it seems like to be the very best of the best in hockey. A task that they have been chasing after since.
Entering into Video game 6, the Canadiens were on the cusp of removal and they were desperate. Habs head coach Toe Blake understood and played his lines accordingly. Rolling out the finest he had, not due to the fact that he wished to, but because needed to. Something that a person might think Mike Babcock might’ve discovered all these years later.
Video game 6 started off physical but both Gump Worsley and Terry Sawchuk kept things scoreless throughout 20 minutes.
Six minutes and 25 seconds into the 2nd period, Ron Ellis scored his 2nd objective of the playoffs to put the Leafs ahead 1-0. In the passing away seconds of the 2nd duration, Jim Pappin would score his ninth of the playoffs to give the Leafs a 2-0 lead heading into the 3rd duration.
5 minutes into the 3rd Cock Duff would score a goal for the Habs, making it 2-1 Toronto with a lot of time delegated enter the period. Montreal would keep pushing and pressing but Sawchuk made conserve after save and kept the puck out of the internet. Then with 43 seconds left in the video game, captain George Armstrong would put the nail in the casket of the Habs Stanley Cup hopes and clinch it for the home town young boys.
Toronto ended up winning 3-1 and netting 4th Stanley Cup in 6 years. And regrettably the last for the Maple Leafs.
In the years that would follow, generations of Leaf groups would fail to arrive of the mountain. Bad trades, missed calls, and an owner with a larger ego than “Long John” Holmes’ firehose would impede the group’s chances of ever being remotely successful in the post Initial 6 age.
There were times where Leaf teams came close to glory, however still, no dice. Every generation thinks their story will be different. Regrettably, it has not. In the present, The Auston Matthews fronted Leafs most likely have one of their finest lineups in years and one of the better possibilities of winning the Cup given that ’67.
The Leafs’ faithful are going through tough times. It’s been 52 years and counting. The typical folk in Leaf Country hopes this team, their team, can be the ones to break the chain of loss, failure, and heartbreak. The concern is when will the tide of the time be broken and who will be the one to break it? This year? Next year? Your guess is as excellent as mine.
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