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Jim Dorey: A tough and talented Leaf

By the late 1960s, as I have discussed on this site, Punch Imlach was desperately trying to re-shape the Leafs.

The team had been in relative decline for some years, though they managed to win the Stanley Cup in a major upset in 1967.  As all teams did, Imlach lost some pieces in the expansion draft.  He brought in young players to replace the departed or departing veterans like Red Kelly, Bobby Baun, Allan Stanley, Marcel Pronovost and Bobby Pulford.

By the 1968-’69 season, relative youngsters Pete Stemkowski and Brian Conacher were gone, though Mike Walton and Ronnie Ellis were established as “young veterans” if you will.  That helped a bit up front.  And Paul Henderson had come over in the Frank Mahovlich/Stemkowski trade.

Imlach had tried Duane Rupp on defense, but that didn’t quite work.  Tim Horton was slowing down (though he continued to play for several more seasons after that one), Stanley was gone by then and so was Larry Hillman.  The defense needed young blood, and among those on the way up were Rick Ley and Jim McKenny.

But the guy who made the most dramatic impact that season was young Jim Dorey.

Dorey had come up through junior hockey hotbeds of Niagara Falls and London.  He was actually “drafted” by the Leafs in 1964, such as the draft existed in those days.  He played in the usual Toronto minor league outposts Rochester and Tulsa and made the big club (after some rugged play in pre-season) in the fall of 1968.

Dorey made a rather dramatic first impression early that season in a game at the Gardens against Pittsburgh.  (Listen to our audio interview with Jim as he recalls the details of that night.).  He soon earned a spot in the heart of Leafs fans because he was fearless and would take on all comers.

Dorey was a good skater.  He could hit- and fight.   I liked how he played and thought he had a lot of talent.  As I was preparing for our interview, I looked up his “numbers” and saw that he had strong offensive numbers in his almost 4 full seasons in Toronto and also in his WHA career. Dorey amassed 99 points in only 232 NHL regular-season games, and another 284 points in 431 WHA games (while winning championships with New England and Quebec).  Those are solid offensive statistics, particularly for a defenseman remembered primarily for his toughness.

As a young Leaf fan at the time, I was really disappointed when Dorey was traded to the Rangers for Pierre Jarry before the deadline during the 1971-’72 NHL season.  I liked what Dorey brought to the club and thought they would miss his passion.  They did.

He was a guy who I had hoped would have a long career as a Leaf. But after his brief stay in New York, he was offered a great opportunity to sign in the WHA with New England, and played the rest of his career in the new league.

The current Leafs are looking for guys who will play hard consistently, every night. They could use a Jim Dorey, who gave everything he had every shift.

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