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My five happiest memories as a Leaf fan

Like most Maple Leaf supporters, I could pick out all kinds of highlights from my years as a Leaf fan.  I was there (yes, like a million others, but I really was…) when Sittler had his famous 10 point night—and I certainly remember my first ever game at the Gardens during the 1964-’65 NHL season—but my “happiest” times were not necessarily those particular moments, cool as they were.

For me, there was something special that made me feel good inside about each of the following:

1.    1)  The night the Leafs won their first Cup in my lifetime in the spring of 1962.  Don Simmons was in goal for the sixth and deciding game in boisterous old Chicago Stadium.  I was not yet 9 years old, but I remember watching on our old black and white TV in what we called the “sun” room. (I honestly thought my parents meant "son" room...that's where I spent most of my time as a kid.)  What a feeling for a little kid who loved hockey, and the Leafs.

2.    2)  The night the Leafs won their last Cup in ’67.  I was 13 and knew the Leafs were in tough if they did not wrap up the series against the Habs in Game 6 in Toronto.  Ellis scored off a Red Kelly rebound, then Jim Pappin scored a fluky one that seemed to go in off Pete Stemkowski.  The Leafs (with the legendary Terry Sawchuk in goal) somehow held on in a frantic third period, before the famous George Armstrong empty net goal.  I was so happy.  I lived in a household of rabid Montreal fans and while I couldn’t cheer overtly (we weren’t exactly the kind of family that allowed full freedom of expression in those days…) it was a wonderful moment.  My favorite player, Dave Keon, was named MVP and Conn Smythe Trophy winner.  Life was good, in hockey terms.  (Little did I know just how not good things could get…)

3.     3) I remember the playoffs in the spring of 1971.  After a few rough seasons, GM Jim Gregory had re-built the Leafs, a nice mix of kids and solid veterans.  They jumped ahead of the Rangers in their quarter-final series two games to one, capping the night with a beautiful Garry Monahan goal to take the lead in the series.  Then, one night later (no break, and they could have used one after three games in four nights), they came out flat and fell behind 4-0 and they ended up losing the series in 6.  But for that one day, I felt like a million bucks.  I thought the Leafs could upset the Rangers, and I still believe if there had been the off-days in the playoffs like there are today, they would have won that series.

4.    4)  In terms of pure joy, the Lanny McDonald overtime winner in the spring of 1978, to upset the big, bad Islanders in 7 games has to be one of my happiest moments as a Leaf fan.  We hadn’t won a best-of-seven playoff series since 1967, and to beat a team (that later went on to win four Cups in a row…) on their ice was huge.  Dan Maloney had cost a lot of the Leafs future in a trade with Detroit, but was immensely helpful in giving the Leafs the muscle they needed to win that series.  Ian Turnbull played the hockey of his life, after Borje Salming was injured.  And McDonald’s goal is still remembered in Leaf lore as a great memory.

5.     5) While there have been other moments, the Borschevsky goal in Game 7 against the Red Wings in 1993 was awfully sweet.  Again, as Leaf fans of the time well know, the Wings were a very good team, on the cusp of being a championship team.  Wendel Clark was heavily criticized after the first two games of the series for playing soft.  But he and the rest of the squad, under Pat Burns, came roaring back to upset the heavily-favored Red Wings.  A great night, and a happy memory, for sure.

Again, I could list many more "happy memories", and there have been many, despite the relative lack of championship success over the past few decades.  Being a Leaf fan will always be something special. 

And, it’s always worth waiting for that next “happy” memory.

While we’re all waiting, send along your thoughts about a memory or two that brought the most joy to your Leaf hockey life…


  1. Funny enough, to me it felt like Henderson's goal in 1972 was a Leafs goal as well. They'd been so crappy, and people had mocked why ANY Leaf made the team. So when he scored, it felt great for Canada AND for the Leafs.

  2. While I know it ultimately ended in heartbreak, as a slightly newer member of Leaf nation I have to go with Sundin's goal - May 28th 2002, Game 6 against Carolina.

    28 seconds left, Leafs down 1-0 and desperate to send it back to Carolina for game 7, and the big Swede pots the tying goal. To this day, I still don't remember ever having such a sudden and pure rush of emotions. And hearing the same thing from countless people in the surrounding area through my apartment was magic.

  3. Henderson's goal in '72 (goals, really), Sittler's 10 point game, Sitter scoring in '76, McDonald's goal of course, and a big yes to Borschevsky. I was born just before the 1964 Cup win, so haven't been old enough to go nuts over a Cup win.

    Best Cup runs, in my view, since '67: 1978, 2002 (the team was on such a roll, then Sundin came back and the chemistry was gone...).

  4. April 2001. The sound of silence after that "DING" noise when Sundin scored in OT of game 1 to win 1-0 and open the series 1-0 in Ottawa. They never did rebound from that in any series against the Leafs. I was bed ridden awaiting surgery for my back at that time and I remember that as clearly as the Henderson Goal in 72 while watching the game in a grade 6 classroom.

  5. My fave five:
    Baun's broken ankle goal.
    Armstrong's 67 Cup clincher - what a relief!
    Lanny's 78 goal - I shouted and jumped to the ceiling when he scored that one.
    Gilmour's 3OT winner against the Blues. I was there - what a fantastic finish.
    Borchevsky's goal - I was out on an emergency errand, and heard shouts of joy through countless open windows.

  6. my most vivid memory and the reason i bacame a leaffan was the 1968 playoff game in Boston when Orr and Espo were in their prime and pounding the Leafs by an embarrassing score, then forbes kennedy went nuts and there was a bench clearing brawl....I just loved their spirit even after losing like that....BTW that Rangers series you mentioned in 1971 ended in 6 games not 7. Bob Nevin scored for the Rangers in OT after Jim McKenny had thrilled with the tying goal with only about 2 minutes left in a 1-0 game.

  7. Yes, the famous Boston series in the spring of '69. Toronto played much better in the two games at home, but Imlach was still fired right after the last game of the series.

    And yes, it was 6 games in that Ranger series in 1971- that was a typo (now corrected, thanks!) An awful game 4 and 5 in New York, then the 2-1 overtime loss at home (yes, the fine ex-Leaf Nevin beating Plante on a 2 on 1 early in the first overtime period).