Tuesday, May 2, 2017

It's 20 years since Imlach's Old Leafs won the Cup

Leafs captain George Armstrong holds the Stanley Cup for photographers on the ice at the Montreal Forum following Game 6 of the 1967 Stanley Cup finals.
By Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail
May 2, 1987

The year was 1967. Expo had just opened, the summer of love was about to bloom and, to everyone's surprise, the aged Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.
Twenty years ago today, coach Punch Imlach led what he called The Old Fellows Athletic Club to what has been Toronto's most recent hockey championship.
Now the heirs to that storied team are trying to rekindle the Leaf's once-proud tradition.
If some of the current Leafs do not appreciate their historic task, they have an excuse. Left winger Wendel Clark was a baby when the Leafs last won the Cup. Rookie forward Vincent Damphousse had not even been born.
For some of the old-timers, it was easier to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs than to watch the current team on television.
"I die with the Leafs," said Allan Stanley, the stay-at-home defenceman who now stays at his resort near Bobcaygeon, Ont. "When I watch, I work just as hard as I did when I was playing the game. I make every move with them. I squeeze by the defencemen, and I hit those forwards. I'm tired when I'm through."
Stanley said he never gets as tired as he was after his team beat their arch rivals the Montreal Canadiens. It was the last of the classic showdowns among the original six teams of the National Hockey League.
The Leafs had had a lousy regular season in 1967, losing 10 games in a row and barely qualifying for the playoffs.
Montreal's victory seemed so certain that the Cup had already been placed on display in Quebec's building at Expo, while Czechoslavakia's pavilion had a magnificent glass sculpture dedicated to Montreal's triumph.
Imlach's warhorses spoiled the celebration.
With Toronto ahead three games to two, they played the sixth game before 15,997 roaring fans at Maple Leaf Gardens. Ron Ellis and Jim Pappin scored for the Leafs in the second period, before Montreal's Dick Duff finally was able to get a shot past Terry Sawchuk in Toronto's goal.
Time and again Sawchuk, 37, frustrated Montreal's attack. "He was hotter than a $3 bill," remembers Gump Worsley, his opposite number in the Montreal cage.
With only 55 seconds left in the game, Montreal coach Toe Blake lifted Worsley for a sixth skater. Imlach sent out his best to take a face-off in the Leafs end. Stanley, 41, beat Montreal's Jean Beliveau to the puck and held onto his rival. Red Kelly, 39, grabbed the disk, promptly throwing it ahead to Bob Pulford, a mere wisp of 31. Pulford caught team captain George Armstrong, 37, on the fly on an open wing. Armstrong popped the puck into the empty net.
"I really credit Imlach with sticking with us old guys," said Armstrong, named Chief Shoot the Puck by an Alberta tribe. "He remained loyal to the old players who had produced for him in the past. But I guess it was his downfall."
The Leafs missed the playoffs the following season, as age, and expansion, took their toll.
But the old squad had one final week-long party of drinking and high jinks that began after the game when Pappin and Mike (Shakey) Walton tossed Imlach into the dressing room showers.
Schools closed early three days later so that school children could attend the ticker-tape parade through downtown Toronto. More than 30,000 fans cheered their favourites riding in open sports cars bearing white pennants on which their names were emblazoned in blue.
The players got gold wrist watches from the city, lifetime passes to the Gardens in the form of a medallion, and a bonus of $5,250 as Cup winners.
At Expo 67, the Cup was moved from the Quebec building to its new home in the Ontario pavilion, where it was guarded by two OPP officers in formal dress. Brian Conacher, a rookie forward with the Leafs, remembers with delight that the Czechs had to turn their trophy around.
Eight of those Leafs — Armstrong, Kelly, Stanley, Johnny Bower, Marcel Pronovost, and Frank Mahovlich, as well as the late Terry Sawchuk and Tim Horton — have been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Armstrong, currently the chief scout for the Quebec Nordiques, said Leaf fans should not fret over the current drought.
"There're 21 teams in the league," he said. "If each of them wins once, it'll take 21 years. So it's not up yet."
Coach Punch Imlach pours champagne into the Stanley Cup in the Leafs dressing room. He'd soon wind up in the showers, fully dressed.

The Maple Leafs victory parade on May 5 rode up Bay Street before stopping at Toronto's modernistic City Hall. Leafs captain George Armstrong shares the trophy with team owner Harold Ballard, who would soon enough bring ruin to the franchise.