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Jim Pappin: '67 Leaf Cup Hero—also remembered for the one that got away

Jim Pappin was a fine all-around player with several NHL teams throughout his career. A respected NHL’er, he scored almost 300 regular-season NHL goals and many more in the playoffs in a career that spanned from 1963 to 1977.

Yet he is probably best remembered for one particular goal that he scored- and one that he didn’t.

The memorable goal occurred during Game 6 of the 1967 Stanley Cup finals. Most Leaf fans of that era well remember the game, though the details can get a bit foggy for some of us.

Toronto scored the first goal of the game in the second period, when Ronnie Ellis cashed in a rebound off a quick shot from Red Kelly, who pulled up just inside the Montreal blueline and wristed the puck quickly toward Hab goaltender Gump Worsley.

Later in the period, the goal that would ultimately prove to be the “winner” came off the stick of Pappin. Pappin carried the puck over the Montreal blueline, on his off wing, and backhanded a pass (or shot, I’m not sure what he was intending) past defenseman Jacques Laperriere and toward the Montreal goal. At first it looked like it bounced in off linemate Pete Stemkowski, but it evidently went in off the leg of a Montreal defenseman. If I’m not mistaken, the goal was first awarded to Stemkowski, and wasn’t changed until after the Leafs scored their third and final goal. (The officials also changed the scoring on the last Toronto goal scored by George Armstrong.  Originally the assists went to Pulford and Stanley, but that was rightly changed to Red Kelly and Pulford.)

Because Dickie Duff scored in the third period (a gorgeous individual effort) to cut the lead to 2-1 and the Leafs held on to win the Cup, Pappin’s goal stood up as the goal that officially “won” the last Leaf Cup.

By the next season, the Leafs were struggling, and GM/Coach Punch Imlach was fine-tuning the lineup. Despite Pappin’s standout playoff performance the previous spring, he was sent to the minors by Imlach for a time. Then, at the end of the 1967-’68 season, Pappin was dealt to Chicago for Pierre Pilote, a long-time NHL great but an aging defenseman at the time.

The deal worked out ideally for Chicago. Pilote retired after one nondescript season with the Leafs, Pappin went on to score over 200 goals in seven outstanding seasons with the Hawks.

In the spring of 1971, Pappin was a key member of the Black Hawks, when they, like the Leafs in '67, faced the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup final. It was a marvelous series, and went down to a 7th and deciding game in Chicago. Pappin had scored at least one beautiful goal in the series. (He may have scored more goals, but I particularly remember a great move he made to get by a Montreal defenseman in a game at the Forum before he put the puck in the net.)

In Game 7 at home, Chicago took and early 2-0 lead, but Montreal chipped away and eventually led 3-2.

With time winding down, Pappin, parked just off the side of the Montreal net, had the opportunity to fire a shot from in close past Montreal’s long-legged rookie netminder, Ken Dryden.

Dryden kicked out his right leg, and Pappin – and the Hawks – were denied. Montreal held on to win the Cup.

That save – re-played in highlight packages for years – became part of the aura of invincibility that Dryden  created.

Pappin certainly had a stellar career, just missing the Cup in 1973 when the Hawks again lost in the finals to Montreal. It’s sometimes overlooked that he was not only a part of that ’67 Leaf Cup victory, he also played 11 playoff games as a rookie with the Leafs in 1964, when Toronto won the third of their three consecutive championships.

Pappin finished his career with the California Seals, then the Cleveland Barons.

Since the only thing that made me happier in those days than Toronto winning was Montreal losing, I would have been very happy if the Hawks had won in ’71.

It wasn’t to be. But that doesn’t take away from Pappin’s stellar career, as a Leaf and a Hawk.
Toronto Maple Leaf hockey blog

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