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As we await the Leaf playoff opponent, some Leaf-Hab memories

There will be tons of analysis from all quarters the moment we find out exactly who the Leafs will be playing in “Round one” of the Stanley Cup playoffs next week.  We’re all a bit hamstrung in terms of projecting how the Leafs might fare—until we see who the opponent will indeed be.

That said, it was timely that we (Matteo Codispoti from We Want a Cup and I) chatted on the latest “Leaf Matters” podcast with a writer who knows the Leafs inside and out—Mike Zeisberger from the Toronto Sun.

I think you’ll find his responses interesting and quite revealing.  We cover a lot of the topics on people’s minds when it comes to Randy Carlyle’s possible thinking as he prepares the blue and white for a likely match-up with the Habs (though, as I write this, I believe it’s still possible we may play the Caps or Bruins).  The show (Episode #58) is available, as always, on iTunes and on the PodAlmighty Network.


Let me add one thing about the Leaf Matters podcast.  (Well, maybe a couple of things.)  The show has kind of taken on a life of its own.  We’ve been able to attract some marvelous guests (click to a recent post, listing everyone we have been able to speak with on the show…). We very much appreciate the support from those who download and listen to the show, especially those who have connected here at VLM to comment thoughtfully about the program, and those who have taken the time to ‘rate’ our show so favourably on iTunes or “like” the show on the PodAlmighty web site.

With that as a backdrop, Matteo has organized what should be a fun event for the night of Game One of the first playoff series.  A “live” podcast will be hosted by his site, We Want a and Wegz, in Vaughan, Ontario.  If there are any Leaf supporters in the area, we will be there starting from about 6pm through to the end of the game (either Tuesday or Wednesday night, if I understand the pending playoff schedule).

It should be a great night regardless of who the Leafs match-up with, but maybe especially if the Habs are our opponent.  I first started watching that Hab-Leaf rivalry in the late 1950s when I was a pretty young—six and seven years of age.

I've included one of my favourite old-time hockey photos above.  It features Cesare Maniago in goal for the Leafs during a late regular-season game from the 1960-'61 NHL season.  Maniago, who played in a couple of playoff games in that spring of '61 against the Wings, was one of the few players in his era who was part of three Canadian teams- the Leafs, Habs ( after his time with Toronto) and Canucks.  In those days, I was a passionate (and nervous...always pacing during games while watching on TV or listening on the radio) Leaf supporter in a household of equally devoted Hab fans (my Dad and two older brothers…).  It made for a lot of tense moments through the years, especially considering the two sides faced off in the playoffs in 1959, 1960, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967.

The Leafs won three of those series on their way to three Cups, and the Habs won four, also winning the Cup each year they ousted the Leafs along the way.

I can’t think of a Leaf-Montreal match-up without thinking about the old days (and those too-short series in 1978 and 1979, which Zeisberger also alludes to in our podcast conversation- the Leafs could have won a couple of those games in OT at the Gardens, in '79, I think it was....).  I have so many fabulous memories of all those series—the good memories include Keon scoring a hattrick in Game 7 of the ’64 finals, and the Leafs hammering the Habs in 5 games in ’63, and of course the ’67 finals, especially Game 5—an unexpected win on the road on a Saturday afternoon at the Forum in Montreal.  (A Saturday afternoon game because of U.S. television…)

A playoff series this spring should only add to the legacy—and the legend.  And it will bring a fervour to the streets of Toronto that we have not seen since the spring of 2004.

So thanks to those who are following the “Leaf Matters” show—and thanks for the “reviews”.  We’ll aim to keep providing a listening alternative for Leaf enthusiasts.  And meanwhile, I’ll post as often as I can here during the playoffs, to provide VLM followers with a chance to express their views on the expected highs and lows of a Leaf playoff drive.

We’ll no doubt have plenty to bat around…


  1. Leafs-Habs is the defining rivalry of my youth in the early 60's. My friends and I used to play shinny or ball hockey and pretend to be one or the other team, adopting the names and moves of the players of the day. And at least once we'd imitate Danny Gallivan - who was an acquired taste to those of us raised on Foster Hewitt - mimicking "and Bonin goes into the corner without an iota of trepidation" or another of his unique phrases, to gales of laughter. (Of course, we eventually came to love Gallivan's announcing.)
    The 67 series was the most satisfying, I think. By then I was in University, where there were plenty of Habs fans. I didn't believe the Leafs had a chance that year, and was psychologically prepared to take the ribbing I'd have to endure when we lost. As I said, a very satisfying victory!!
    It will be lots of fun if we get another opportunity to add to the legacy of this historic rivalry.

  2. Gallivan was superb, Gerund O', though I get what you're saying. He was part of the rivalry. I'm sure Hab fans had fun with Hewitt's style, as Leaf fans did with Gallivan. But both were fantastic. (For me, Gallivan was at his best on TV, while Foster is still the best "radio" play-by-play guy I have heard...)

    Leafs-Habs would indeed be fun, Gerund. I guess we find out tonight...