Scott Young, the outstanding Globe & Mail writer from the 50s, 60’s and 70s, covered the Leafs closely during the early days of the Punch Imlach era.
He penned a wonderful book at the time called “The Leafs I Knew” about his time following the club from about 1958 to 1963.
I’ll write more about the book another time, but the great weather we are experiencing in this part of the world (especially for mid-November) brought back an anecdote from the book.
Frank Mahovlich was the big Leaf scorer in the early 60s, but in the 1961-’62 season, I think it was, he was off to a slow start after his brilliant 48-goal campaign just the season before.
Young wrote a column, included in the book, which basically told Leaf fans to, in a nice way, relax—the goals would come. He wrote that Mahovlich, known as “The Big M”, was the kind of player who needed to be motivated to play. When the weather was too nice, as it apparently was that fall, he was kind of sluggish.
Young said in his column, don’t worry, when Mahovlich, a tall guy, has to get up in the middle of the night because the weather has turned and his feet are cold - and he has to throw an extra blanket on to cover his toes- he’ll be fine.
In other words, some guys play better when the weather suits the activity. Be patient.
Of course things have changed since those days. Playoffs used to end in April. Now they go until June. I remember reading a magazine story about Rocket Richard when I was really young, in which he said he found it hard to get motivated to play sometimes in April when the weather was too nice.
Hockey was—and is—a winter sport, after all. The Leafs struggled the other night against Minnesota, after some excellent play of late. Maybe they just need a cold blast to get back on track.