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Johnny Bower and all those Vintage Leaf Memories: why not a book?

Someone asked me recently why I hadn’t written a book based on the hundreds of posts here about hockey and the Maple Leafs in the “olden days”, most notably the '60s and the '70s.

I guess there are a few reasons why I haven’t—and likely won’t.

First, many fine writers have already published books on the Leafs of yesteryear—books on former captains, the ’67 team, the history of the team, and various other historical pieces.   All were well done and very thorough.

There have also been some tremendous pictorial mementos featuring assorted Leafs and some of the greats of the early days of the NHL.

The thing about this site, Vintage Leaf memories, that makes it a bit unique, I think (I hope) is that when I write about the late 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, and games or players from that era, they are my personal memories—no one else’s.  I love hearing from readers about their own fond memories of players and events that they remember in a special way, and that’s what this site is about.  Beyond talking about the current Leaf situation, which we certainly do on a regular basis here, it’s a place where hockey fans and Leaf enthusiasts can come and read about players that have helped make this organization more than just another hockey team or professional sports franchise.

Being part of Maple Leaf history, as a player, management person, employee- or fan- is something a bit special, we like to think.

If you’ve not visited here before, I encourage you to check out the “Categories” section on the right-hand side of the site.  It lists players and topics that I’ve tried to cover, again, from my perspective only.  There are often a number of different stories available on a particular player or event.

You'll find columns on Frank Mahovlich, Red Kelly, Bobby Pulford, Dickie Duff, Dave Keon, Allan Stanley and of course one of the favourite Leafs of all-time, the venerable Johnny Bower.  Johnny (seen in early '60s action against the Rangers and Dave Balon, right) remains a true living legend in Toronto, now well into his 80s (though some thought he was almost there already when he was playing for the Leafs...).  He is a true gentleman and one of the nicest Leafs that have ever represented the proud franchise.  One of my favourite Bower memories is reflected in a piece I wrote about his last game in the NHL, the only night that he ever wore a mask in season play.  It was the only game he played during the 1969-'70 season in Montreal.

Again, if you're looking at the 1970s, there are pieces on the great names like Sittler, McDonald, Salming and Palmateer but also lesser-known (but for me, treasured) Leafs such as Scott Garland, Brian Spencer and Brian Glennie.

The great thing is we may recall the same game or same player differently, and that’s OK. 

When I started Vintage Leaf Memories more than two years ago, my objective was to develop a web site that people could visit for what I hoped would be a well-written reflection on the Maple Leaf hockey Club and the franchise’s history, as far back as I can remember following the team, which was in the late '50s (about 1958).  I’ve consciously tried to provide a different perspective by focusing not on research, data, statistics or terminology but just being what I am:  someone who has been in and around sports in different capacities for as long as I can remember, who has observed the Leafs very closely and who assesses performance largely (though not exclusively) by what I have seen over the years—and what I see now.

Twenty-six months into the process, there are still stories to tell, old-time memories that spring to mind, and plenty to chat about concerning our team right now.

I hope I’ve come close to meeting some of the above-stated objectives, and have delivered commentary that, if not equal to what readers can find in mainstream media, at least provides you with something to enjoy, remember, think about and every once in a while, debate about—in a respectful way.

Thanks to those who visit Vintage Leaf Memories n a regular basis, and especially to those who are followers/members here.  It’s encouraging whenever someone signs up, as it provides a sense that this labor of love might be worth continuing for a while longer.


  1. As we used to say, 'keep on keepin' on"! I enjoy both your perspective/memories, and those of your readers. It's interesting to consider why we like certain players, isn't it - particularly those who aren't in the usual limelight. Bob Neeley, Pete Stemkowski, Errol Thompson - we all have our idiosyncratic faves.
    I hope you'll continue VLM for a good long time!

  2. I really appreciate your taking the time to say that, Gerund O'. It's encouraging to hear from readers that they enjoy what the site tries to deliver/offer. Thanks for your significant contributions. Warm regards.

  3. Long suffering Leaf fanNovember 19, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    As one wise writer once penned..."It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom". Thanks Mike for the light of memories that you have shared with us, and many more yet to come! In fact a funny one came to me the other day as I was reading how the Leafs needed to make more call up from the farm. It was in the 69-70 season in Montreal when the Leafs had to make the call for three kids named Ron Ward, Randy Murray, and little scrappy Gord Nelson. The Leafs didn't win that game, I think the final score was 5-3 Habs, but I do remember Nelson had a spirited fight with one of the Habs tough forwards.

  4. Thanks very much Long Suffering, and thank you also for your well thought-out posts here. I love it when long-time Leaf observers bring forward memories like the one you did today. I remember Ron Ward more than the others that you mention, but that memory is particular to you. I'm sure very few others remember that long-ago night the way you do.