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Maple Leafs we can admire now, and from the past six decades

I read a neat piece recently from Mislav at Maple Leaf Hot Stove.  He wrote about five Maples Leafs in his lifetime that he just really liked and remembered fondly.  I particularly appreciated that he included Steve Thomas, who I’ve written about here before, and Sergei Berezin, who is a Leaf I really enjoyed during his time with the blue and white, too.

Berezin was awfully fast and while he was infuriating at times because he was not really a physical guy in traffic and missed a lot of chances, he could sure make some pretty plays.  (In that sense, he reminded me of ‘80s Leafs Miro Frycer, who I will write about here another time.)

But Mislav’s piece nudged me to step back and look at Leafs who really stood out and wore the "maple leaf" on their jersey proudly since I started following the team in the 1950s.   Like Mislav, I’ll name five players (in this instance, per decade…).  Some guys saw their careers overlap decades, so I just picked one or the other time in their career with the Leafs.

By all means share your own list of guys you really enjoyed—whether because of their talent, their effort, or just the fact that they were, for whatever reason, a personal favourite of yours…

I've bolded some of the names below if you'd like to read an earlier story about them...


For me, the late ‘50s was the era when I really started following the Maple Leafs.  The guys I really enjoyed as a young fan included:

-Gerry Ehman

Chadwick (left) was the goalie before Johnny Bower, the first guy I identified as a real “Leaf” when I was just a little kid.  Reaume lived down the street from me in the small town of LaSalle, Ontario. (I got the opportunity to meet him and he was a gracious, very humble young man.) Mahovlich was a rising star, Duff was such a fiery and talented little guy and Ehman a tremendously hard worker who played a role on a number of Leaf teams in the late '50s and then off and on in the early 1960s.  (Bert Olmstead should really be on my list, too...)


-Dave Keon
-Bruce Gamble

Leaf fans know all about Bower’s exploits.  Ellis was the consummate pro.  Keon was class for 15 seasons, while Walton was the fastest and most exciting Leaf on ice during his time in Toronto.  Gamble gave everything he had in goal in his various stints with the big club in the mid and later '60s. (And he was one of the first Leafs to dare to try growing sideburns when Punch Imlach was still coach...)


-Bernie Parent
-Lanny McDonald
-Darryl Sittler
-Claire Alexander

McDonald was my favorite Leaf in the ‘70s.  It was a major disappointment when he was traded. Parent should never have been let go, but he jumped to the WHA because the Leafs wouldn't pay him.  Still hurts.  Salming (right) was a hockey warrior and we all know about Sittler’s skills and leadership.  Claire Alexander was a great minor-leaguer who came out of Senior hockey originally to eventually earn a spot with the Leafs.  At this best, he was fun to watch, a good rushing defenseman.


-Wendel Clark
-Russ Courtnall
-Allan Bester

I absolutely loved Saganiuk, but his rambunctious style wasn’t embraced by his coaches, it seemed.  Wendel was Wendel.  Leaf fans of that era know all about him. Courtnall had all that speed and potential.  I really liked Bester, a good little goalie who could have been even better in the right environment.  Iafrate was one of the most naturally talented Leafs I've ever seen.


-Peter Zezel
-Todd Gill
-Sylvain Lefebvre
-Dmitry Yushkevich

I admired Zezel and Gill because of their heart.  For me, they were real “Leafs”.  Yushkevich was all guts.  Lefebvre was so good in his short time in Toronto.  And what hasn’t already been said about “Dougie”?


-Gary Roberts
-Danny Markov
-Shayne Corson
-Nikolai Kulemin

Roberts won’t be forgotten because Leaf fans loved the way he played. Sundin could be frustrating but what a talent- and he scored some big goals.  Markov was another young defensemen who played tough, played hurt and I wish we had never traded him.  I can't forget Corson giving up his body to block shots in the playoffs.

Of course, those weren’t in all cases the best players who wore the Leaf colors in those decades, but for me, they brought something positive and memorable.

Again, send your list along about players you have liked and enjoyed, past or present…


  1. in the 90s and 2000s I remember Gary Valk as always playing hard, particularly when he scored the OT winner to win the first round series against Pittsburgh in 2000. And of course, Alex Mogilny was a favorite as well, even if we got him just past his prime. The man could SKATE, and despite being the goat in the loss to Carolina in 2001(I believe he made a bad giveaway in OT?) He was always an interesting quote in the dressing room as well.

  2. Sean...Valk is a perfect name for what I'm looking for...I remember that OT goal well but also hit work ethic. Classic role-player who made a difference in key games. I also remember Mogilny's OT give away, but what a talent...