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Allan Stanley: a champion—and a classy Leaf

Leaf fans no doubt noted the passing of former blue and white defenseman Allan Stanley over the weekend. Stanley, who was 87, was a marvellous NHL player for 20 seasons, though best known for his sterling play in Toronto while teamed with Tim Horton through the Leaf glory years in the late ‘50s and well into the 1960s.

I won’t go on at length about the former Leaf rearguard today because I’ve written here about Stanley before, and also in my eBook, “The Maple Leafs of My Youth: what being a Leaf fan means to me”.  He was, in short, one of those Leafs who meant a lot of to me as a youngster.  He was also—and will always remain—an integral part of the Maple Leaf legacy.


On the ice he was not the most fleet guy afoot, but he generally got where he needed to go.  Horton was known for his strength, and while Stanley was not a bruiser by trade (Bobby Baun had that job with the Leafs back then) he was a very smart defenseman who knew how to play angles, use his size and reach and separate the puck-carrier from the puck.

Off the ice, the guy was a gentleman- pure class.

Modern-era Maple Leaf supporters often (and rightly so) think in terms of Leaf players, especially defensemen, who were booed by the locals.  Many of those individuals went on to play very well elsewhere.

One of the interesting things about Stanley as I recall is that he had played for several clubs before then Toronto GM Punch Imlach traded for him at the beginning of the 1958-’59 NHL season.  (Allan was traded for Jim Morrison, the father of present Leaf Director of Amateur Scouting, Dave Morrison).  And though he was a solid defender, Stanley was booed terribly in New York city, for example.

In Toronto, though, he was the perfect partner for Horton, who liked to rush the puck.  Stanley was generally appreciated by Leaf fans for his quiet, often un-noticed play. (In his era, teams like the Leafs often played with essentially four defensemen, and Stanley was a cornerstone player here.)

He was a four-time Stanley Cup winner, who went on to finish his illustrious Hall-of-Fame career with the expansion Philadelphia Flyers in 1968-’69, at the age of 42.  But he will always be, to me, a Maple Leaf.

6 comments:

  1. Allan "Snowshoes" Stanley will always be one of "my" Leafs - the teams of the early 60's that fostered my fandom and whose players have remained my heros all of my life. In fact, I still think of him and Horton as an ideal pairing of skill sets, (along with Baun and Brewer), and measure current duos against them. He seemed a calm, steadying influence on the blue line, not given to rash breakouts into the offensive zone. Here my memory may be faulty - I was quite surprised by a highlight shown in tribute today which showed him scoring up on the rush! More memorable, of course, was his stage directing of what turned out to be the final face-off positions in '67 before he won it and set up the chain of passes that led to Armstrong scoring the Cup clinching goal. Not only could he score on the rush, he took crucial face-offs in the defensive zone! I don't know if there's one defenceman today who'd be given that responsibility.
    Well, my memory may be faulty, but the high regard I've had for him throughout my life is something I'm sure of. Why certain teams, or players, become "our" players, I don't really know. But they do. And even though he played for other teams before and after his tenure as a Leaf, it's a Leaf he'll always be to me.

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    1. You've expressed it perfectly, Gerund O'. Who knows why certain players stay in our mind's eye all these years? Yet they do. And yes, Stanley was certainly one of those for us and likely for quite a few other Leaf fans of our generation.

      The legendary faceoff in the final minutes against the Habs in Game 6- you're absolutely right. Stanley was indeed the guy taking the draw, the architect of the Cup-clinching goal by Armstrong. Thanks Gerund.

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  2. A nice story, Michael.
    I just discovered your site through the MLHS about two months ago and quickly - no immediately!- became a devoted fan. I have some back-tracking to do to read all your previous stories but I am enjoying it very much. Love The Hang-out too. Don't change a thing. Thanks. C.N.

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    1. Thank you, C.N.- MLHS is a fine site and I'm pleased to be working with them on developing the Hangout program. (Quick aside regarding your comment about older stories here: anyone interested in my collection of reflections about what being a Leaf fan has meant to me can download "The Maple Leafs of My Youth" eBook via iTunes

      https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/the-maple-leafs-of-my-youth/id689331113?mt=11

      I hope to have an announcement soon about it being available on other platforms. I appreciate your good words, C.N.

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  3. Punch Imlach brought in 3 veteran players for the 1958-59 season to supplement a very young Leaf team; Johnny Bower (34), Bert Olmstead (32) and Allan Stanley (32). I can remember that their additions were met by a decided lack of enthusiasm from Leaf fandom, myself included. Events proved that Imlach was a savvy talent evaluator.

    Allan Stanley had played for New York, Chicago and Boston. He had an awkward rocking chair skating style and it took a while to warm up to him and to appreciate all that he brought to the game. I would describe him as tough and positionally sound with a very high hockey IQ. As Gerund O'Malley pointed out he had an offensive side to his game (100 goals and 333 assists in 1244 NHL games) but he picked his times to rush the puck very carefully and with deceptive speed. He rarely made a mistake and was hardly ever caught out of position.

    Allan Stanley, Hall of Famer and 4 time Cup champion, was in my opinion one of the all time great Leaf defensemen. May he rest in peace.

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