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The Leaf Legacy Series: A Toronto Maple Leaf primer

Those who have only started to visit Vintage Leaf Memories in recent months likely won't have had a chance to check out one of the more fun projects I've undertaken in this space since I launched the site back in September of 2009.  And that is a six-part series I developed that was aimed at providing my own personal perspective (as a kind of "primer", for lack of a better word, for  new Leaf fans who may not yet know the team's legacy all that well...) on some important moments in Leaf history.

Given that I started following the Leafs in the late 1950s, "Part I" of the series begins in the latter part of that decade.  From there I post on the subsequent decades in Leaf history-- as I remember them.  No research, just recollections from my own memory bank.  The aim was simply to share stories with those who love the Leafs and might be interested in a very informal look at the franchise's earlier successes and failures.

It's hard to describe just how devoted a Maple Leaf fan that I was in those wonderful days, the '50s, '60s and '70s.  It was a special time to be a Leaf fan, long before 30 teams, Twitter and 24-hour a day sports talk radio.  The early '60s were good times, for sure, and even the '70s brought some thrills.  There were so many great names, all part of the Leaf legacy that I have lived through and enjoyed.  Not all of the names are famous, or were All-Stars or Hall-of-Famers.  Some were, of course, like Johnny Bower (seen in the early '60s, at right), Tim Horton, Red Kelly, Dave Keon, Dickie Duff, Bob Pulford, Allan Stanley, Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald, Borje Salming and many others.  But there have also been "lesser" names that meant so much to me, like Eddie Chadwick, Les Kozak, Mike Walton, Ronnie Ellis, Jim Pappin, Brian Conacher, Bruce Gamble, Brian Spencer, Scott Garland and so many more.

So given that we should be in the midst of the NHL season right now, I thought it might be timely and fun - and hopefully a tad uplifting, as we wait for hopeful news about the lengthy CBA talks on Tuesday afternoon - to bring these stories forward again today.

Just click on the links below:

-the 1950s
-the 1960s
-the 1970s
-the 1980s
-the 1990s
-the 2000s

One thing I have tried not to do over the years here is to simply do the easy thing - that is, constantly poke fun at the Leafs, and talk as though the franchise has always just stumbled around without a clue.  That is simply not true, as I posted a while back when I wrote that the Leafs have not, in fact, always been "lousy" since 1967.  They have had some fine GM's, like Jim Gregory, and excellent coaches such as Roger Neilson, Pat Burns and Pat Quinn.

They have also had some very good teams in every decade except perhaps the '80s, and even then, they had some outstanding talent on their rosters.  They simply were unable to bring it all together.

I hope you enjoy the stories and if you have any memories of your own to share, send them along...


  1. Always great to gain a historical perspective... kudos!

    Speaking of 1967, I just came across this link to the final game... just started watching it:

    I've never seen that game before... bet I'm not alone!

  2. Thanks InTimeFor62...I remember watching Game 6 as a 13 year-old. I was so nervous.

    Little did I know it would be the last time the Leafs would win a Cup!

    Watching that game on various outlets again in recent years has given me an opportunity to sit back and assess that game with more adult and experienced eyes. I was impressed by the play of so many Leafs, especially Hillman and Pronovost and the many Leafs who had to work their tails off to keep the lead in the third period. (Sawchuk sure helped.)

    Thanks for the link. Any Leaf fan who has not seen that game should watch it. It was a different era in hockey, not like what we see today. But it was so important to Canadian hockey fans that spring and I still get nervous watching it. A great game.

    Thanks InTimeFor62.

  3. Should've asked... what was it like in your home during the series with Montreal?

    Fun to see the Gumper playing without a mask again!

  4. It will sound oddly unhealthy (it probably was) but my Dad and I were listening/watching in different parts of our very small house in southwestern Ontario.

    Dad was a Hab fan beyond what I can describe. My two older brothers were also devoted Montreal supporters, but I was the youngest in our family by quite a bit and the two older boys had moved out of the house by 1967.

    By the time Game 6 in that series rolled around, Dad and I were not really talking about it. We weren't angry or anything, it was just not the kind of thing we even discussed. He let me watch on the only (black and white) TV in the house; he listened on french-language radio.

  5. I'm so glad I got to share all the Leafs ups and downs together with my Dad - I truly wish you could have had the same experience!

    Though - perhaps this is part of what it took for you to remain so passionate in your Leaf support for all these intervening years :)