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Les Kozak: Remembering the former Leaf’s first—and only—NHL goal

In the early 1960s, where I lived in the rural part of Essex County, just outside of Windsor, Ontario and across from Detroit, we saw one hockey game a week on television—like most of the country. It was the traditional CBC Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.

In Toronto, mid-week games were shown on the local CTV (CFTO) affiliate. Bill Hewitt (Foster’s son) handled those games too, but it was, I believe, a more “local” broadcast than a national broadcast—the latter requiring more of a non-partisan approach.

I raise this only because the Leaf game I am recalling must have been a game on a Saturday night, the only night the region I lived in saw Leaf games on television. It was a game against Detroit, during the 1961-’62 season. (I used to harken back to this particular memory during my radio talk show days in the 1970s, to see if anyone listening had the same recollection.)

On this particular night, the Leafs, at home, fell behind Detroit 3-0. As the game wore on, the Leafs came back, ultimately winning the game 4-3 on a third period goal by Davey Keon.

However, the thing that always stuck out to me about that game was that the third goal, if I’m not mistaken, was scored by a young player by the name of Les Kozak.

I’ve never forgotten the name since that night.

I was about 8 years old at the time, so memories were and are sketchy but I definitely remember the night Kozak scored in that game against Detroit. It’s just one of those things that has always stayed in my memory bank, partly because it was in the midst of a big Leaf comeback—and because it was his first NHL goal.

Now, I also remember never really hearing about Kozak again. Unlike today, where a Leaf rookie would get tons of attention when he is called up from the minors and a ‘first’ goal would be big news in the local Toronto media, down where I lived, I heard nothing. I never knew what happened to Les Kozak.

As I look up his name now, I see that he played 12 games for the Leafs that season, and the goal I remember was indeed the one and only goal he scored in his brief NHL career. Like many young Leafs in those days, he had been a St. Michael’s player in the junior A ranks. He was sent down to the minor leagues later that season and scored a number of goals, but he evidently suffered an injury that prematurely ended his career.

I’ve often wondered, whatever became of Les Kozak—a youngster who was good enough to play for the Leafs the year they went on to win the Stanley Cup?


  1. My father, Les Kozak, left hockey after suffering a head injury in early 1962. He has had a long and illustruous career as a research scientist and is now at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. You can check out his profile at the address below. He still loves hockey and was thrilled to read about this memory of his first and only goal in the NHL.

    Virginia Kozak Putnam

  2. It may have been shortly after his injury but I seem to remember Les Kozak as my youth hockey coach in Rochester NY. I was so excited to have an Amerk as my coach. It's been over 50 years but I do remember him as a nice person. I remember him telling me "when you hit the blue line I want you going at full speed."
    As I said it's been over 50 years & MAYBE I've got my old Amerks mixed up but I've always told everyone it was Les Kozak. Anyway, so glad to hear he was successful in life after hockey!

    1. Hi Djmes- as Les' daughter noted above, he had a tremendous career after hockey. Thanks for sharing your memories!