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Who is your favourite Toronto Maple Leaf of all time?

We know there is not a lot going on these days as teams are pretty much stuck in neutral pending the outcome of the ongoing CBA dispute between the owners and players.  I know we have KHL, AHL, junior hockey options, of course, but NHL player movement has been shut down, aside from those who have scurried off to Europe.  (GM’s had no doubt been told weeks ago to hold back on anything too outlandish until we all see what the new CBA will look like, thus the relative lack of signings and roster action in August and early September- and not just in Toronto...)

That being the case, I asked yesterday for your thoughts on your current-day "favourite" Maple Leaf. I thought it might be a fun conversation to have.  Today is more up my alley:  whether you have been a Leaf fans for five years or fifty years (I'm in the latter category...), who was your favorite Leaf of all time, and why?

Not long ago in this space, I asked you to identify Leafs past and present who you thought of as truly "classy" Leafs on and off the ice.  Today I'm looking for your all-time “favourite”  as a Leaf follower. It does not have to be the best player on the team in whatever era they played—it just has to be your own personal favourite, no one else’s.

While you're at it, let me know why that player has remained your favourite.

I long ago declared here that mine was Dave Keon.  It just so happened that my falling in love with hockey  - and the Maple Leafs back in the late 1950s - nicely coincided with a number of really solid young players joining the blue and white as they were on the verge of becoming a really good team.  Ed Chadwick (see the great old late 1950s "posed" photo at left), the fine goaltender who I also mentioned yesterday, was probably my first real “favourite” player.  However names like Frank Mahovlich and Dickie Duff soon became important names to me as well.  And of course, like thousands of other kids, I jumped on the Dave Keon bandwagon as a 7 year-old when Keon, at the age of 20, joined the team for the 1960-’61 season and became an instant favourite (to thousands of Canadian kids, not just me) because of his speed, tenacity, and skill.

I’ve had other players through the years that were special to me.  However none, in all honesty, captured my passion and devoted rooting interest quite like the diminutive Leaf center, who sadly had to leave the Leafs after the 1974-’75 season because then owner Harold Ballard wanted to move he and Normie Ullman out.  Keon had contributed to those four Leaf Stanley Cups in the 1960s, and had become the distinguished captain of the franchise for several years.  But Ballard did not offer him a real contract in the summer of 1975 and Keon reluctantly had to leave for the World Hockey Association. (That's one of those fine old Harold Barkley game-action photos at right, showing a very young Keon in action with the Leafs...)

But I’ve had my say here before on this topic.  I want to hear from you!

(Quick aside:  after yesterday's post, I promised I would declare my "guy" today when it comes to the current Leaf team.  Well, Kulemin has been one for the past few seasons, as frustrating as the 2011-'12 season was for him.  But if I had to select only one current Leaf as my favourite, it would be Carl Gunnarsson.  I just like the way he plays, and he seems to be a good teammate and a solid citizen. And he's the closest thing we have to Lidstrom...)

We'd normally, in early October, be gearing up for the start of a new NHL season.  But we don't have that to chat about.  So today is really about going back through your own memory bank.  I’d really enjoy it if you took a moment to think back through your years as a Leaf fan and share who your favourite Leaf of all-time is- and why.




13 comments:

  1. Michael,

    This is a tough one, there are so many...from Teeder Kennedy to Bob Baun to Darryl Sittler to Wendel Clark to Steve Thomas, I have had many favorites but if I had to choose one all time it would be Johnny Bower.

    Night after night Bower kept the Leafs in games with spectacular saves, leading them to 3 consecutive Stanley Cups (1961-62 to 1963-64). He was also a member of the 1967 cup team. He rarely had an off game. We never worried about the goaltender situation during the Bower years.

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  2. Great call on Bower, PeteCam. There is no question the Leafs would not have won those four Cups in the '60s were it not for Bower. And he has to be one of the most well-regarded Leafs of all-time. Thanks.

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  3. I was only 8 during the magical '92-'93 season so I don't have the wealth of classic Leafs to choose from that you do, but of the Leafs from the Gilmour era onwards, I do have a favourite.

    I know that it's absolutely ridiculous but I loved Alex Mogilny. He was my favourite non-Leaf player and when the Leafs signed him in '01, I was thrilled. He was pretty clutch for the Leafs during the playoffs where Sundin was injured as well.

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  4. No need to defend liking Mogilny, Curt. He was a fabulous player for the Sabres (didn't he score 70 goals or something when he was new to the NHL?). And yes, he still had some special skills in his later years with the Leafs. So he's a great choice. These things are always personal- thanks Curt.

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  5. It has to be Darryl Sittler for me (with Dave Keon a close second, but probably because I missed most of the 60's). I imagine if I was growing up in the 90's, it would be Gilmour.

    Each of these guys was uniquely gifted and brought great enjoyment in the watching!

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  6. It strikes me that we almost always most vividly remember the player we really liked as a young person. For me it was Keon, for you Sittler. And as you say, for someone who was a young Leaf fan in the '90s, it may well have been Gilmour...Thanks InTimeFor62.

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  7. Borje Salming for me. He played so smoothly and he was completely unflappable. He was who I pretended to be on the ice and in the street. These days, it's the big Grabovski. I love a little guy who punches way above his weight class. Never quits, never stops. I'd like him even better with a C beside the Maple Leaf on his jersey.

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  8. Some great memories with Salming, Tom. He was/is a worthy favourite, for sure. (The goal against the Flyers in the playoffs in the spring of '76 still stands out for me...)

    As for Grabbo, he has certainly built a strong following, especially in the last couple of seasons. I've become a believer, too. Thanks for posting on this one.

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  9. For me, all-time it's Dave Keon, but that choice may be more on reputation. I think I was about 8 years old when he played his last game as a Leaf. I only have a few memories in which I can actually recall some moving images of him playing. In one, he is dashing up the ice against Boston and he dekes towards center ice and blows by a Boston player.

    Lanny McDonald might be second. I lived in Southern Alberta and saw him play allot and he was my favorite Flame in those years, because of the Leafs connection.

    I sure liked the way Ed Belfour proved the critics wrong in his time in Toronto.

    I could see myself developing a new all-time favorite Leaf in the coming years as Keon's era was so long ago.

    It could even be a guy like Phaneuf. He has the skill and toughness. But he has to take it to the next level. It all depends on how he matures and how long he remains the Leafs captain. Hopefully, he improve his game so that he is again held in the same regard as the other great defencemen of his draft year: Suter, Seabrook and Shea Weber.


    However, today my favorite Leaf is Jamie Devane. He did not disappoint in his game with the Marlies last night. People were surprised at how well the big guy can play. As you can see he is bigger than other players at 6'5" and about 240 lbs. In the video, you can see at age 21 he is already a sure-fire AHL level enforcer. But with 45 points in 59 games last year in the OHL he might become that tough guy that can actually play at an NHL level in a few years like Chris Neil.

    Take a look at last night's Marlie highlights:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEjEyQRcF1g

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  10. You make a very good point about Phaneuf, DP. I think he'll get a lot of traction with Leaf supporters if he can take his game to that next level.
    indeed

    You've been telling me about Devane. I'll be keeping an eye on him. Thanks DP.

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  11. Long suffering Leafs fanOctober 8, 2012 at 7:32 AM

    Hello once again Mike,

    Very tough to pick a favorite of all time because there were a few over the years. My number one even though he was at the end of his career has to be Tim Horton. He may not have been the biggest player on the ice but nobody question his present and strength. When Horton was traded it was a sad day for me but Jim Dorey soften the blow a little. For those who never had the privileged of seeing Dorey play, Chris Pronger would be a good comparison. Loved the magic that Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald had together...the thrills that Mike (popcorn kid) Palmateer gave us with every save he made...the pleasure of watching Rick Vaive skating down the wing and unleashing his howitzer...in comparison to Wendal Clarke wicket wrist shot and bone crushing hits...and how could I not mention the little guy who wore his heart on his sleeve dangerous Dan Daoust, and Flex (the cat) Potvin, Doug Gilmour, Mats Sundin and Cujo all great players in their own right that warm our hearts during those cold winter months. Yes so many more like Rick Ley, Dave (tiger) Williams, The Bull Ian Turnbull, Jim Harrison, the best line every symbol Ullman, Henderson and Ellis, I could go forever!

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  12. Good to hear from you, Long Suffering.

    Horton is a wonderful choice. He was maybe the strongest guy in hockey in his era, and a tough defender as well as a player who could move the puck. He also had a wicked slap shot for a defenseman in those days.

    Those are some wonderful names (and memories). Long Suffering. Dorey, Ley, Palmateer, Vaive, etc. All evoke some warm memories. (Jim Harrison, though he wasn't here long, was a personal favourite of mine- he played hard and finished his checks and stood his ground in front of the net...).

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