Definitions

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs

"Leafs" and "Maple Leafs" redirect here. For the former American Hockey League team, see St. John's Maple Leafs.
For other uses, see Toronto Maple Leafs (disambiguation).

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a professional ice hockey team based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. They are members of the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The organization, one of the "Original Six" members of the NHL, is officially known as the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club and is the leading subsidiary of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. (MLSE). They have played at at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) since 1999, after 68 years at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Leafs are well known for their long and bitter rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens, and more recent rivalry with the Ottawa Senators. The franchise has won thirteen Stanley Cups, eleven as the Leafs, one as the Toronto St. Patricks, and one as the Toronto Arenas.

At $413 million (2007), the Leafs are the most valuable team in the NHL, followed by the New York Rangers and the Detroit Red Wings.

Team history

Early years

The National Hockey League was formed in 1917 in Montreal by teams formerly belonging to the National Hockey Association (NHA) that had a dispute with Eddie Livingstone, owner of the Toronto Blueshirts. The owners of the other four clubs – the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Quebec Bulldogs, and Ottawa Senators – had enough votes between them to expel Livingstone from the NHA. Instead, they opted to create a new league, the NHL, and effectively left Livingstone's squad in the NHA by itself.

However, the other clubs felt it would be unthinkable not to have a team from Toronto (Canada's second largest city at the time) in the new league. They also needed another team to balance the schedule after the Bulldogs suspended operations (and as it turned out, would not ice a team until 1920). Accordingly, the NHL granted a "temporary" Toronto franchise to the Arena Company, owners of the Arena Gardens. The Arena Company agreed to lease the Blueshirts' players for the season until the dispute was resolved. This temporary franchise did not have an official name, but was informally called "the Blueshirts" by area writers and sometimes called "the Torontos" by fans. Under manager Charlie Querrie and coach Dick Carroll, the Toronto team won the Stanley Cup in the NHL's inaugural season.

For the next season, rather than return the Blueshirts' players to Livingstone as originally promised, the Arena Company formed its own team, the Toronto Arena Hockey Club, which was readily granted full-fledged membership in the NHL. Also that year, it was decided that only NHL teams would be allowed to play at the Arena Gardens. Livingstone sued to get his players back. Mounting legal bills from the dispute forced the Arenas to sell most of their stars, resulting in a horrendous five-win season in 1918-19. When it was obvious that the Arenas would not be able to finish out the season, the NHL agreed to let the Arenas halt operations in February 1919 and proceed directly to the playoffs. The Arenas' .278 winning percentage that season is still the worst in franchise history.

The legal dispute nearly ruined the Arena Company, and it was forced to put the Arenas up for sale. Querrie put together a group that mainly consisted of the people who had run the senior amateur St. Patricks team in the Ontario Hockey Association. The new owners renamed the team the Toronto St. Patricks (or St. Pats for short) and would operate it until 1927. This period saw the team's jersey colours change from blue to green, as well as a second Stanley Cup championship in 1922.

During this time, the St. Patricks also allowed other teams to play in the Arena Gardens whenever their home rinks didn't have proper ice in the warmer months. At the time, the Arena was the only facility east of Manitoba with artificial ice.

Conn Smythe era

Querrie lost a lawsuit to Livingstone and decided to put the St. Pats up for sale. He gave serious consideration to a $200,000 bid from a Philadelphia group. However, Toronto Varsity Graduates coach Conn Smythe put together an ownership group of his own and made a $160,000 offer for the franchise. With the support of St. Pats shareholder J. P. Bickell, Smythe persuaded Querrie to reject the Philadelphia bid, arguing that civic pride was more important than money.

After taking control on Valentine's Day 1927, Smythe immediately renamed the team the Maple Leafs. (The Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team had won the International League championship a few months earlier and had been using that name for 30 years.) The Maple Leafs say that the name was chosen in honour of the Maple Leaf Regiment from World War I. Another story says that Smythe named the team after a team he'd once scouted, called the East Toronto Maple Leafs, while Smythe's grandson states Conn named the team after the Maple Leaf insignia he had worn during the first World War. Initial reports were that the team's colours would be changed to red and white, but the Leafs were wearing white sweaters with a green maple leaf for their first game on February 17, 1927. The next season, the Leafs appeared for the first time in the blue and white sweaters they have worn ever since. The Maple Leafs say that blue represents the Canadian skies and white represents snow, but in truth blue has been Toronto's principal sporting colour since the Toronto Argonauts adopted blue as their primary colour in 1873.

1930s: Opening of Maple Leaf Gardens and first Maple Leaf dynasty

After four more lacklustre seasons (including three with Smythe as coach), Smythe and the Leafs debuted at their new arena, Maple Leaf Gardens, with a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on November 12, 1931.

Led by the "Kid Line" (Busher Jackson, Joe Primeau and Charlie Conacher) and coach Dick Irvin, the Leafs would capture their third Stanley Cup during the first season in their stadium, vanquishing the Montreal Maroons in the first round, the Boston Bruins in the semis and, in the Stanley Cup Finals the New York Rangers. Smythe took particular pleasure in defeating the Rangers that year; he had been tapped as the Rangers' first general manager and coach in the Rangers' inaugural season (1926-27), but had been fired in a dispute with Madison Square Garden management before the season.

The Leafs' star forward, Ace Bailey, was nearly killed in 1933 when Boston Bruins defenseman Eddie Shore checked him from behind into the boards at full speed. Maple Leafs defenseman Red Horner was able to knock Shore out with a punch, but it was too late for Bailey, who was by now writhing on the ice, had his career ended. The Leafs would hold the NHL's first All-Star game to benefit Bailey.

The Leafs would reach the finals five more times in the next seven years, but would not win, bowing out to the now-defunct Maroons, the Detroit Red Wings in 1936, the Chicago Black Hawks in 1938, Boston in 1939, and the hated Rangers in 1940. At this time, Smythe allowed Irvin to go to Montreal to help revive the then-moribund Canadiens, replacing him as coach with former Leafs captain Hap Day.

1940s: A second decade of success

In the 1942 season, the Maple Leafs were down three games to none in a best-of-seven final in the playoffs against Detroit. However, fourth-line forward Don Metz would galvanize the team, coming from nowhere to score a hat trick in game four and the game-winning goal in game five, with the Leafs winning both times. Captain Syl Apps had won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy that season, not taking one penalty and finishing his ten-season career with an average of 5 minutes, 36 seconds in penalties a season. Goalie Turk Broda would shut out the Wings in game six, and Sweeney Schriner would score two goals in the third period to win the seventh game 3-1.

Apps told writer Trent Frayne in 1949, "If you want me to be pinned down to my [biggest night in hockey but also my] biggest second, I'd say it was the last tick of the clock that sounded the final bell. It's something I shall never forget at all." It was the first time a major pro sports team came back from behind 3-0 to win a best-of-seven championship series.

Three years later, with their heroes from 1942 dwindling (due to either age, health, or the war), the Leafs turned to lesser-known players like rookie goalie Frank McCool and defenseman Babe Pratt. They would upset the Red Wings in the 1945 finals.

The powerful defending champion Montreal Canadiens and their "Punch Line" (Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Toe Blake and Elmer Lach), would be the Leafs' nemesis two years later when the two teams clashed in the 1947 finals. Ted "Teeder" Kennedy would score the game-winning goal late in game six to win the Leafs their first of three straight Cups — the first time any NHL team had accomplished that feat. With their Cup victory in 1948, the Leafs moved ahead of Montreal for the most Stanley Cups in league history. It would take the Canadiens 10 years to reclaim the record.

1950s: The Barilko Curse

The Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens would meet once again in the finals in 1951, with all five games going to overtime. Tod Sloan scored with 42 seconds left in the third period of game five to send it to an extra period, and defenceman Bill Barilko, who had scored only six goals in the regular season, scored the game-winner to win Toronto their fourth Cup in five years. Barilko's glory, however, was short-lived: he disappeared in a plane crash near Timmins, Ontario, barely four months after that moment. The Leafs would not win the Cup again that decade.

1960s: New owners and a new dynasty

Before the 1961-62 season, Smythe sold nearly all of his shares in Maple Leaf Gardens to a partnership of his son Stafford Smythe, newspaper baron John Bassett, and Toronto Marlboros president Harold Ballard. The sale price was $2.3 million, a handsome return on Smythe's original investment 34 years earlier. Conn Smythe later claimed that he knew nothing about his son's partners, but it is very unlikely that he could have believed Stafford could have raised the money on his own.

Under the new ownership trio, Toronto won another three straight Stanley Cups from 1962 to 1964. The team featured Hall of Famers Frank Mahovlich, Red Kelly, Johnny Bower, Dave Keon, Andy Bathgate and Tim Horton, and was helmed by coach and general manager Punch Imlach.

In 1967, the Leafs and Canadiens met in the Cup finals for the last time to date, where Montreal was considered to be a heavy favourite. But Bob Pulford scored the double-overtime winner in Game 3, Jim Pappin got the series winner in Game 6, and Keon won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs as the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup in six games. The Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup since.

In 1968, Mahovlich was traded to Detroit in a blockbuster deal, and in 1969, following a first-round playoff loss to the Boston Bruins, Smythe fired Imlach. Horton declared, "If this team doesn't want Imlach, I guess it doesn't want me." He was traded to the New York Rangers the next year.

1970s and 1980s: The Ballard years

Following Stafford Smythe's death, Harold Ballard bought his shares to take majority control of the team. Ballard's term as the Leafs' owner was marked by several disputes with prominent players, including Keon, Lanny McDonald, and Darryl Sittler, poor win/loss records, and not a single Stanley Cup championship.

During the 1970s, with the overall talent level in the league diluted by the addition of 12 new franchises and the birth of the rival World Hockey Association (WHA), the Leafs were able to ice competitive teams for several seasons. But despite the presence of stars such as Sittler, McDonald, Dave "Tiger" Williams, Ian Turnbull, and Borje Salming, they only once made it past the second round of the playoffs, besting the New York Islanders (a soon-to-be dynasty) in the 1978 quarter-finals only to be swept by arch-rival Montreal in the semi-finals. One of the few highlights from this era occurred on February 7, 1976, when Sittler scored six goals and four assists against the Bruins to establish a NHL single-game points record that still stands more than 30 years later.

The serious decline started in July 1979, when Ballard brought back Imlach, a long-time friend, as general manager. Imlach traded McDonald to undermine his friend Sittler's influence on the team. Sittler himself was gone two years later, when the Leafs traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers. He was the franchise's all-time leading scorer until Mats Sundin passed Sittler's total in 2007.

The McDonald trade sent the Leafs into a downward spiral. They finished five games under .500 and only made the playoffs due to the presence of the Quebec Nordiques, a refugee from the WHA, in the Adams Division. For the next 12 years, the Leafs (who had shifted to the Norris Division for the 1981-82 season) were barely competitive, not posting another winning record until 1992-93. They missed the playoffs six times and only finished above fourth in their division once (in 1990, the only season where they even posted a .500 record). They made it beyond the first round of the playoffs twice (in 1986 and 1987, advancing to the division finals). The low point came in 1984-85, when they finished 32 games under .500, the second-worst record in franchise history (their .300 winning percentage was only 22 percentage points higher than the 1918-19 Arenas).

The Leafs' poor records during the 1980s, however, did result in several high draft picks. Wendel Clark, the first overall pick in the 1985 draft, was the lone success from the entry drafts of this period and went on to captain the team.

Early 1990s: Resurgence

Ballard died in 1990, and a year later his long-time friend, supermarket tycoon Steve Stavro, bought a majority stake in the Leafs from his estate. Unlike Ballard, Stavro hated the limelight and rarely interfered in the Leafs' hockey operations. His first act was to lure Calgary Flames GM Cliff Fletcher, who had crafted the Flames' 1989 Stanley Cup championship team, to Toronto after the 1991-92 season.

Fletcher immediately set about building a club that would be competitive once again, making a series of trades and free agent acquisitions which turned the Leafs from an also-ran to a contender almost overnight, starting in 1992-93. Outstanding play from forwards Doug Gilmour (an acquaintance of Fletcher's from Calgary) and Dave Andreychuk (acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Grant Fuhr), as well as stellar goaltending from minor league call-up Felix Potvin, led the team to a then-franchise-record 99 points, third place in the Norris Division, and the eighth-best overall record in the league. Toronto dispatched the Detroit Red Wings in seven games in the first round, then defeated the St. Louis Blues in another seven games in the Division Finals.

Hoping to meet long-time rival Montreal (who was playing in the Wales Conference Finals against the New York Islanders) in the Cup Finals, the Leafs faced the Los Angeles Kings, led by Wayne Gretzky, in the Campbell Conference Finals. The Leafs led the series 3-2, but dropped Game 6 in Los Angeles. The game was not without controversy, as Gretzky clipped Gilmour in the face with his stick, but referee Kerry Fraser did not call a penalty and Gretzky scored the winning goal moments later. Gretzky's hat trick in Game 7 finished the Leafs' run, and it was the Kings that moved on to the Cup Finals against the Canadiens.

The Leafs had another strong season in 1993-94, finishing with 98 points, good enough for fifth overall in the league – their highest finish in 16 years. However, despite finishing one point above Calgary, Toronto was seeded third in the Western Conference (formerly the Campbell Conference) by virtue of the Flames' Pacific Division title. The Leafs eliminated the division rival Chicago Blackhawks in six games and the surprising San Jose Sharks in seven before falling to the Vancouver Canucks in five games in the Western Conference Finals. At that year's draft, the Leafs would package Clark in a trade with the Quebec Nordiques that netted them current captain Mats Sundin.

A new home and a new millennium

In 1996, Stavro took on Larry Tanenbaum, the co-founder of Toronto's new National Basketball Association (NBA) team, the Toronto Raptors, as a partner. Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. was accordingly renamed Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), and it remains the parent company of the Leafs, the Raptors, and Toronto FC of Major League Soccer (MLS), to the present day.

After two years out of the playoffs in the late 1990s, the Leafs acquired goaltender Curtis Joseph as a free agent from the Edmonton Oilers and signed Pat Quinn, who had been fired by Vancouver in 1997, to serve as head coach. This resulted in the Leafs making another charge during the 1999 playoffs after moving from Maple Leaf Gardens to the new Air Canada Centre, shared with the new Toronto Raptors. The team eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but lost in five games to the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Toronto reached the second round of the playoffs in both 2000 and 2001, only to lose both times to the New Jersey Devils, who made the Stanley Cup Finals both seasons and won in 2000. The 2000 season was particularly notable because it marked the Leafs' first division title in 37 years, as well as the franchise's first-ever 100-point season. The season ended on a particular low, however, with the Leafs being held to just 6 shots in game six of the second round against the Devils.

In 2002, the Leafs dispatched the Islanders and their Ontario rivals, the Ottawa Senators, in the first two rounds, only to lose to the Cinderella-story Carolina Hurricanes in the Conference Finals. The 2002 season was particularly impressive in that the Leafs had many of their better players sidelined by injuries, but managed to make it to the conference finals due to the efforts of lesser-known players who were led mainly by Gary Roberts and Alyn McCauley.

Joseph left to go to the defending champion Red Wings in the 2002 off-season; the team found a replacement in veteran Ed Belfour, who came over from the Dallas Stars and had been a crucial part of their 1999 Stanley Cup run. Belfour could not help their playoff woes in the 2003 playoffs, however, as the team lost to Philadelphia in seven games in the first round. 2003 also witnessed a change in the ownership ranks, as Stavro sold his controlling interest in MLSE to the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and resigned his position as Chairman of the Board in favour of Tanenbaum. Stavro died in 2006.

The 2003-04 season started in an uncommon way for the team, as they held their training camp in Sweden and played in the NHL Challenge against teams from Sweden and Finland. That year, the Leafs had a very successful regular season, posting a franchise-record 103 points. They finished with the fourth-best record in the league (their best overall finish in 41 years) and also managed a .628 win percentage, their best in 43 years and the third-best in franchise history. Toronto defeated the Senators in the first round of the playoffs for the fourth time in five years, but lost to the Flyers in the second round in six games.

Post-lockout era

Following the 2004-05 NHL lockout, the Leafs began experiencing some rough times. They struggled in 2005-06, and despite a late-season surge (9-1-2 in their final 12), led by third-string goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin, the Leafs were eliminated from playoff contention for the first time since 1998. This marked the first time that the team missed the playoffs under coach Pat Quinn, and as a result he was fired shortly after the season. Paul Maurice, an experienced NHL coach who had just coached the Leafs' American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, in their inaugural season, was announced as Pat Quinn's replacement. On June 30, 2006, the Maple Leafs bought out the contract of long-time fan favourite, Tie Domi. The team's current marketing slogan is "The Passion That Unites Us All." In addition to Domi, the Maple Leafs also decided against picking up the option year on the contract of goaltender Ed Belfour. Both players became free agents on July 1, 2006, effectively ending their tenures with the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, despite the coaching change and addition of new players such as Pavel Kubina and Michael Peca, the Leafs again did not make the playoffs in 2006-07 or 2007-08.

On January 22, 2008, general manager John Ferguson Jr. was fired and was replaced by Cliff Fletcher on an interim basis. On May 7, the Leafs fired head coach Paul Maurice and assistant coach Randy Ladouceur, and replaced them with former San Jose Sharks coach, Ron Wilson, and assistants Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler.

Rivalries

As one of the oldest teams in the league, the Leafs have developed numerous rivalries. The deepest of these is with the Montreal Canadiens, which is acknowledged as one of the richest rivalries in ice hockey, and has labeled the two as "Forever Rivals. The Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cups, while the Leafs have won 13, putting them at first and second place in NHL history, respectively. The Canadiens' fan point of view is perhaps most famously captured in the popular Canadian short story "The Hockey Sweater", by Roch Carrier, originally published in French as "Une abominable feuille d'érable sur la glace" ("An abominable maple leaf on the ice") referring to the Maple Leafs sweater his mother forces him to wear.

The rivalry between the Leafs and the Ottawa Senators, known as The Battle of Ontario, has heated up since the late 1990s, owing in no small part to the Canadiens' struggles during that period. While Ottawa has dominated during most of the teams' regular season matchups in recent years, the Leafs have won all four postseason series between the two teams, including a four-game sweep.

The Leafs' biggest U.S.-based rivals of late have been the Philadelphia Flyers, who defeated the Leafs in the 2003 and 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The rivalry goes back to the 1970s when the Flyers and Leafs had the reputation as being two of the toughest (and often most penalized) teams in the league. Games between the two teams are still often very physical.

The Buffalo Sabres have also been cited as notable American rivals of the Leafs. Buffalo is the NHL team which is closest to Toronto, only a short drive along the Queen Elizabeth Way. A large number of Leaf fans typically travels to Buffalo for road games there, giving them a somewhat neutral setting.

The Leafs also maintain a traditional Original Six rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings. The teams' close proximity to each other (the two cities are just apart) and a number of shared fans - particularly in markets such as Windsor, Ontario - means the rivalry is found more in the crowd than on the ice; since the Maple Leafs moved to the Eastern Conference in 1998, the two teams have faced each other less often each season.

Fan base

Maple Leafs fans are known by the collective nickname "Leafs Nation," which the club uses on its website Maple Leafs home games have long been one of the toughest tickets to acquire in Canada, even during lean periods. The Leafs, along with the Minnesota Wild, currently have the longest sellout streaks in the NHL. As of 2008, there is a waiting list of about 2,500 names for season tickets. Earlier, they sold out every game at Maple Leaf Gardens from 1946 until the building closed in 1999. With an average of US$1.9 million per game, the Leafs had the highest average ticket revenue per game in the 2007–08 season; the previous season they earned about $1.5 million per game.

The Leafs are also commonly called the "Buds", in reference to maple buds.

Conversely, there is an equally passionate dislike of the team by fans of several other NHL teams. In November 2002, the Leafs were named by Sports Illustrated hockey writer Michael Farber as the "Most Hated Team in Hockey. Leafs fans are also known for being loyal despite being treated poorly — in a 2008 survey by ESPN The Magazine on rewarding fans, the Leafs were ranked 121st out of the 122 professional teams in the Big Four leagues. Teams were graded by stadium experience, ownership, player quality, ticket affordability, championships won and "bang for the buck"; in particular, the Leafs came last in ticket affordability.

In the United States, several cities in the Sun Belt have sizable numbers of Leaf fans, as many Snowbirds tend to flock to locales such as Phoenix, Tampa Bay, and Miami during the winter, resulting in a boost in turnout and ticket sales when these franchises play the Maple Leafs.

Season-by-season record

This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Maple Leafs. For the full season-by-season history, see Toronto Maple Leafs seasons

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes, TG = Playoff series decided on total goals

Season GP W L T OTL Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
2003-04 82 45 24 10 3 103 242 204 1452 2nd, Northeast Lost in Conference Semifinals, 2-4 (Flyers)
2004-05 Season cancelled due to 2004–05 NHL lockout
2005-061 82 41 33 -- 8 90 257 270 1291 4th, Northeast Did not qualify
2006-07 82 40 31 -- 11 91 258 269 1065 3rd, Northeast Did not qualify
2007-08 82 36 35 -- 11 83 231 260 1087 5th, Northeast Did not qualify

1 Starting 2005-06 NHL season, games remaining tied after overtime are decided by shootout.

Players

Current roster

Honoured members

The following members of the Toronto Maple Leafs have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The list includes anyone who played for the Leafs who was later inducted as a player. The list of builders includes anyone inducted as a builder who spent any part of their career in a coaching, management, or ownership role with the Leafs.

Players


Builders


Franchise scoring leaders

These are the top-ten point-scorers in franchise history, as of the end of the 2007–08 season. Figures are updated after each completed NHL regular season.

Legend: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Maple Leafs player

Player Pos GP G A Pts P/G
Mats Sundin C 981 420 567 987 1.01
Darryl Sittler C 844 389 527 916 1.09
Dave Keon C 1062 365 493 858 .81
Borje Salming D 1099 148 620 768 .70
George Armstrong RW 1187 296 417 713 .60
Ron Ellis RW 1034 332 308 640 .62
Frank Mahovlich LW 720 296 303 599 .83
Bob Pulford LW 947 251 312 563 .59
Ted Kennedy C 696 231 329 560 .80
Rick Vaive RW 534 299 238 537 1.01

See also

References and notes

External links

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