That said, historically, dating back to the old North Star franchise, there was at least a connection, if not a legitimate rivalry, between the then expansion franchise and the history-rich Maple Leafs.
joined the NHL in 1967, some ex-Leafs soon populated the roster. Grinding winger J.P. Parise (Devils’ forward Zach’s dad, I believe) became a North Star “star”. He had been ever so-briefly a member of the blue and white, and was eventually good enough that he became a key figure with Team Minnesota in 1972 during the classic Summit Series. Canada
Ex-Leaf and later New York Ranger goaltender Cesare Maniago (click on his name to read one of my earlier stories about Maniago) became a mainstay in goal for the North Stars, one of the really popular athletes in the Twin Cities. Center Murray Oliver, who had his best years with Boston before coming to the Leafs in the post-’67 Cup deal for Eddie Shack, had some really nice seasons with the North Stars.
One thing I seem to recall is that, during the 1972-’73 season, then Leaf captain Dave Keon, seen at right, scored his all-time franchise record-tying or breaking goal in Minnesota. I’m not a hundred per cent certain which it was. George Armstrong, the esteemed long-time captain and leader of the Leafs, had established the record of 296 career regular-season goals, having retired after the 1970-’71 season. Keon beat future Hall-of-Famer Gump Worsley, then in the later days of his illustrious career, in the
In any event, I am perhaps not remembering some great moments in Leaf-Minnesota history, but for me it has been a largely pedestrian, non-rivalry kind of relationship. (Didn’t we get hammered by the North Stars in a short playoff series when they were building a good young team in the early ‘80s? Bobby Smith, Steve Payne, Brad Maxwell and some others were becoming a pretty good squad. But that hardly established a rivalry, just a lousy memory for Leaf fans.)
Having said all this, while there is not much history of note here, it’s a huge game Tuesday night (yet another one) for a Leaf team that believes it is playoff-bound. They should have enough motivation without having to rely on a historical rivalry to get them up for this one.