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Dave Keon: Three against Charlie Hodge and the Habs

One of the most famous games in Leaf history is Game 7 of the 1964 semi-finals against Montreal.

The Leafs were coming off two Cup years in succession, but were life and death to stay with Montreal in that back and forth series. Montreal was re-loading after a few tough years (by their standards) and led the series 3-games to 2 heading to Toronto for Game 6.

But the defending champs gained some momentum with a 3-0 win at home, to tie the series at 3 games apiece. (We’ve included a photo of Bobby Baun scoring for Toronto in Game 6 at the Gardens.)

That’s when Davey Keon took over.

Keon was not only my favorite as a young Leaf fan in the early 60s, he was the favorite player of thousands of kids across the country. I’ll write more about Keon on other occasions, but in a splendid Leaf career that spanned 15 seasons—and many highlights—that night in April of 1964 stands near or at the top of the list of Keon’s finest games. (I truly believe Keon may have been the finest all-around player in the game in his first five or six seasons in the league, but I’ll go into that another time.)

Keon had been his usual diligent self but had not scored a goal in the first six games of the series. He then scored all 3 goals in a 3-1 Toronto win right at the Forum in Montreal, against Hab netminder Charlie Hodge. Beating Montreal at home in those days was tough enough, but doing it in the playoffs—and in an elimination game at that—was indeed rare.

Hodge is an interesting story in himself. At 150 pounds, he was small even for his era. He was an occasional back up-to Jacques Plante from the mid-1950s on, playing a few games here and there for the Habs. He was the number 1 goalkeeper with the AHL Quebec Aces in the early 60s, but after Plante was traded in the summer of 1963, Hodge stole the top job away from the incoming Gump Worsley, who had been expected to assume that role. Hodge had an outstanding season (winning the Vezina Trophy with the best goals against average in the league) and led Montreal into the playoffs. He was brilliant in the series and again in Game 7, but Keon scored twice against him and then managed an empty-netter to help the Leafs earn a 3-1 victory.

Hodge, who was in net for Montreal the night Gordie Howe scored career goal #545 and broke Rocket Richard’s goal-scoring record at the Olympia in Detroit (Worsley was in goal for #544 a few games earlier), remained with the Habs the next three seasons, helping them win Cups both years, though Worsley was the main man in the playoffs. Young Rogatien Vachon was called up to play for Montreal toward the end of the 1966-’67 season, essentially making Hodge a third-stringer.

When expansion hit after that season, Hodge finished his career with the Oakland Seals and Vancouver Canucks- a talented goalie in his playing days and a respected scout in retirement with Winnipeg, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.

1 comment:

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