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Summertime memories: Remembering Armstrong’s Cup clincher in ‘67

All Leaf fans of my 'era' have George Armstrong’s Cup clinching goal into an empty net firmly entrenched in their memory.

It was, to say the least, a wonderful moment in Leaf history.

For those who weren’t around at the time, I can briefly set the stage:  the Leafs had finished the 1966-’67 season in third place, well behind first-place Chicago and Montreal.  The team had struggled through a 10-game losing streak in February or thereabouts.  Coach and GM “Punch” Imlach was hospitalized because of nervous exhaustion.

Somehow, they managed to upset the powerful Blackhawks in the first round (in 6 games) and then led Montreal three games to two in the Cup finals.  Game 6 was at the Gardens in Toronto.  If they lost that one, they would have to return to face Montreal at the Forum and the odds would not have been good.

The Leafs took a 2-0 lead in the second frame, after a scoreless opening period.  Ex-Leaf Dickie Duff scored on a tremendous solo rush part-way through the final period to make it 2-1.  Terry Sawchuk was in goal for the Leafs and held the fort until a face-off to his left with less than a minute to go.

Montreal pulled their goalie (“Gump” Worsley) and had six men on the ice.  The face-off pitted the legendary Jean Beliveau against the veteran Leaf defenseman Allan Stanley.  (Imlach liked to use defensemen for face-offs in their own zone in those days.)

Imlach also put older guys out there to defend at the end—Tim Horton, Stanley, Bobby Pulford, Armstrong and “Red” Kelly.

Many people have seen the clinching goal replayed dozens of times over the years.  After all, it was the last time the Leafs won the Cup.

Here’s the thing I want to ask to fellow fans who follow this site: can you confirm the exact sequence of events that led to Armstrong’s goal, as he crossed center ice and fired the puck into the yawning Montreal cage? (See Armstrong pictured at right, after the Leafs won the Cup a few years before in the spring of 1963.)

I ask this because, though I am one of those that has watched the play many times over the years on film, it all happened so quickly it’s difficult to see clearly exactly what happened.

It started with Stanley in the face off circle up against Beliveau, to the left of Sawchuk. (Can you imagine any NHL coach using a defenseman nowadays in that kind of situation to take a face-off?)

But from there, it’s a bit of a blur.

So much so, that even when you watch the game (available on the NHL Network and Leafs TV from time to time), and then listen to the P.A. announcement of the goal, the original assist is changed.  I believe, but am not certain, that Stanley was originally given the assist, based on the draw ending up on the stick of a Leaf forward.

But it was changed.  I think (and I stress think) that off the draw, which went through or by Beliveau, Kelly nudged it to Pulford who sent it up to Armstrong on the Leafs side of center ice.

Hopefully someone will confirm if that was indeed the sequence of events—at least as they saw it!




  1. Thanks for the reminder - I was 8, watching this. Went and found the video of the final minutes to watch again.

  2. Yes, I watched the video again too. Would you believe I still get nervous, even though I know the outcome?
    It was all about Armie with us. We were so thrilled for him and so proud.
    "Oh captain, my captain." Walt Whitman

  3. Stanley takes the face off with Kelly on the right and Pulford on the left. Stanley weakly pulls the puck to the left ands turns to block Beliveau. Kelly brilliantly cuts across from the right, just beats the Montreal winger, corrals the puck and passes to Pulford, who's breaking up ice. He fires it cross ice to Armstrong... and an indelible memory is made!
    As it looks to me, the strategy is that Stanley was big enough to handle Beliveau, win or lose on the draw, and the forwards were all free to get to the puck. Kelly made an amazing play.
    Thanks to Anon for posting the clip site!

  4. Perfectly described Gerund O- Thanks!