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Eddie Chadwick: that name means Maple Leaf hockey to me

One of the benefits of being an "older" hockey fan, particularly a Maple Leaf supporter, is when things are tough, as they are for the Leafs right now, I can draw on the warm memories of my youth.  Back then, the Leafs tended to win quite a bit.  (In fact, they even finished first overall one season, in 1962-'63.  Click here to read about it.)  And following the NHL back then was flat out fun.  With only six teams, it really was simpler times.

When I was a kid growing up in the 1950s, it seems everyone had a hockey player hero, or at least a “favorite”.

If you were a Montreal fan, the obvious choices were “Rocket” Richard, Doug Harvey, Jean Beliveau or Henri Richard. And maybe the rugged whirlwind winger,  Dickie Moore.  If you liked goalies, Jacques Plante was probably your guy.

For the Leafs, the choices were not as star-name powerful, but you had plenty of options in the late ‘50s, though it was past the “Teeder” Kennedy era, who was a hero to the earlier generation of Maple Leaf supporters.

But you could choose from young, rising stars like Frank Mahovlich, Dick Duff and Carl Brewer, for example. The ageless  Johnny Bower, who joined the organization before the 1958-’59 season, soon became a fan favorite, too.  Captain George Armstrong was a popular choice for some, though he was more a quietly effective player who just did his job.

Mahovlich was indeed an early personal favorite of mine, before Dave Keon arrived and stole my attention, but when I think back to when I was first falling in love with hockey—and the Leafs—the name that springs to mind when I think blue and white and Leafs is that of a goaltender, Eddie Chadwick.

You see, Chadwick (the 'posed' picture on the right is one of my favorites.  I've always kept it, as part of a Bee Hive syrup ad in a magazine from when I was really young) is the first name I really got to know as a tiny Leaf fan when I was maybe all of four years of age.  We only saw games on TV once a week, on Saturday nights of course, back in those days.  And he was the guy who played every game for the Leafs in net during the 1957-’58 season, which, in a hockey-mad family like mine, meant I saw him a lot at an impressionable age, watching hockey as we did on our little, old black and white set with my Dad.

So Chadwick was the guy.  Before I even started collecting hockey cards, my two older (huge Montreal fans, like my Dad) brothers had long beat me to the punch.  They had collected Bee Hive hockey photos, and among the pictures was one of none other than Eddie Chadwick.  Along with other great Bee Hive photos, including one of Toronto’s Dickie Duff and a handful of Montreal stars, Chadwick’s picture hung in a frame on the wall in the bedroom I shared with one of my brothers.

So every night before I went to bed and said my prayers, a picture of Eddie Chadwick (for years actually, long after he had left the Leafs) stared down at me.

Chadwick played mostly in the minors after being traded by Punch Imlach to the Bruins for Don Simmons, who helped the Leafs win the Cup in the spring of 1962 (Bower was injured during the final series against Chicago.)  After retiring in the late 1960s, Chadwick went on to become a very successful and highly-regarded scout with the Islanders as they grew into a powerhouse in the 1980s.  I think he later scouted for the Oilers, who also became a dynasty, after the Islanders had won their four Cups in a row.

I had the opportunity to interview Eddie a couple of times when I was broadcasting Junior A games many years ago and he was always a gentleman, gracious and engaging.

And for me, as a fan, I’ll always remember Eddie as the guy who symbolized, to a little kid, being a Toronto Maple Leaf.

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