Ninety-three years and a day ago, the NHL was formed. The original NHL has five teams, one of which played four games before shutting down, and of the four, only the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs (which in 1917, were known as the Toronto Arenas) survived. In tribute of this fact, I have decided to watch a classic hockey game featuring the two original teams of the National Hockey League. This particular game took place in 1967, and is notable because this is the last game the Toronto Maple Leafs have played in the Stanley Cup Finals up until now. Meanwhile, teams like the Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks, and Tampa Bay Lightning have won Stanley Cups while the once proud Maple Leafs just can't seem to find their way to claiming Lord Stanley's prize. So, here are a few observations about the last Stanley Cup win for the Toronto Maple Leafs:
- These teams were so loaded with talent that you could swing a stick in any direction and most likely hit a Hall of Famer. For the Maple Leafs alone, there were 10 players that suited up in this game that would go on to be elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame, including both goalies (Terry Sawchuk and Johnny Bower). Not to be outdone, the Canadiens dressed six men that wound up in the Hall of Fame.
- Not only were the Maple Leafs loaded with talent, they were also, shall we say, experienced. Bower was the oldest player in the league at 42, but he had some contenders for that title on his own team, as defenseman Allan Stanley was 40, center Red Kelly was 39, Sawchuk and defenseman Tim Horton was 37, and defenseman Marcel Pronovost and right wing George Armstrong was 36. To say the Leafs were full of veteran presence would be an understatement.
- However, no matter how old they were, these Leafs could still play. Sawchuk was by far the player of the game, saving 40 shots and making even the toughest saves look easy. Sawchuk made a lot of key saves, but he was also helped by the Maple Leafs' veteran defense, particularly Pronovost, as the Leafs kept the Canadiens at bay and made the Canadiens take the majority of their shots from a long distance. Kelly had a strong game, as he had two assists in what proved to be his final game, and it was the team captain, Armstrong, that put in the empty-netter in the last minute to seal the game for Toronto. Not only that, but Armstrong, along with forwards Dave Keon and Ron Ellis, helped throttle the potent Montreal power play.
- Even though it came in a losing effort, the best individual play came from Montreal left winger Dick Duff. In the middle of the third period, Duff took the puck back in his own zone, raced across the ice, put a big time deke move on Tim Horton, skated around Allan Stanley and firing an off balance shot past Sawchuk for Montreal's only goal. Duff's goal not only cut the lead to 2-1, it also woke up the Canadiens, as they began to press harder and harder for the tying goal, but Sawchuk recovered quickly and stood strong.
- I must say that I haven't watched a lot of hockey from the 1960s, so this was a bit of a different experience. For one thing, only two players on the ice were wearing helmets, and the Montreal goalie, Gump Worsley, didn't even wear a mask, which to me seems like a rather bad idea, but since Gump played well into his 40s, I guess it worked for him. Sawchuk had a mask on that looked to be made out of plastic and made him look like a demented horror film character, well that, and his constant stoop that had developed from years of playing goalie. In fact, if you were to take a look at the short, stocky Worsley, and Sawchuk, who stood and skated as if he were in constant pain, you would never guess they could be fast enough to play goalie, but by golly, both men played quite well, as Worsley also made over 40 saves, including a few that were rather spectacular.
Well, I guess that's enough for now, as I am tired and I want to go to bed. If you have any memories or thoughts about this game, then I would like for you to post those in the comments section. Also, if you have any ideas for future posts, then let me know about them either by leaving a comment of by sending me an e-mail at KtheC2001@gmail.com.