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.