The Toronto Maple Leafs are a National Hockey League team based in Toronto, Ontario.
- Founded: 1917-1918
- Formerly known as: Toronto Arenas (1917-1919), Toronto St. Patricks (1919-1926)
- Arena: Air Canada Centre (capacity 19,800)
- Uniform colours: blue, white, grey
- Logo design: a blue maple leaf with "TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS" written inside in white lettering
- Stanley Cup final appearances: 21 (13 won, 8 lost: 1917-1918 (won), 1921-1922 (won), 1931-1932 (won), 1932-1933 (lost), 1934-1935 (lost), 1935-1936 (lost), 1937-1938 (lost), 1938-1939 (lost), 1939-1940 (lost), 1941-1942 (won), 1944-1945 (won), 1946-1947 (won), 1947-1948 (won), 1948-1949 (won), 1950-1951 (won), 1958-1959 (lost), 1959-1960 (lost), 1961-1962 (won), 1962-1963 (won), 1963-1964 (won), 1966-1967 (won) )
The National Hockey League was formed in 1917 for one reason - to kick out Eddie Livingstone. The owner of the Toronto Blueshirts franchise of the forerunner National Hockey Association, Livingstone was accused of creating unfair advantages for himself and his team. Toronto was granted a new NHL team, the Arenas (run by the Arena Gardens), but Livingstone would still get to lease his players to the team. They won the Stanley Cup that first season.
The team would be renamed the St. Patricks in the midst of a losing stretch in 1919, but would once again reach the Cup in 1922, with Babe Dye (with an overtime winner in game two and four goals in the deciding fifth game) being the team's hero. They would narrowly miss the playoffs in 1923, despite Dye's 26 goals in 22 games.
In 1926, Conn Smythe, one of the team's best-known icons, purchased the St. Pats and renamed them the Maple Leafs. After five more lackluster seasons, Smythe and the Leafs debuted their new arena, Maple Leaf Gardens, in November 1931, and their Kid Line (Busher Jackson, Charlie Conacher and Joe Primeau) would propel them to Toronto's third Cup during the first season in their new digs. They would go the distance in the semi-finals against the Boston Bruins in 1932, winning in the sixth overtime of the final game, but would be overwhelmed in the Stanley Cup finals against the New York Rangers.
Star Ace Bailey would have his career cut short in 1933 after the Bruins' Eddie Shore blindsided him. Undeterred, the Leafs would reach the finals five more times in the next seven years, but would not win: bowing out to the now-defunct Montreal Maroons, to the Detroit Red Wings in 1936, to the Chicago Blackhawks in 1938, the Boston Bruins in 1939, and the New York Rangers in 1940.
They looked to suffer a similar fate in 1942, down three games to none in a best-of-seven final in 1942 against the Detroit Red Wings. Fourth-line forward Don Metz would galvanize the team, coming from nowhere to score a game-winning goal in game 4 and a hat trick in game 5, with the Leafs winning both times. Goalie Turk Broda would shut out the Wings in game 6, and Sweeney Schriner would score two goals in the third period to win the seventh game 3-1. It was the first time a major pro sports team came back from behind 3-0 to win a best-of-seven championship series. However a shadow is cast upon this achievment by the fact that the Detroit Redwings Head Coach and General Manager was suspended after attacking a referee. Without the strategical and morale advantage of their coach, the Redwings fell apart, facilitating the Leaf's victory.
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 goalie Frank McCool and blueliner Babe Pratt. They would upset the Detroit Red Wings in the 1945 finals.
The Habs would be the Leafs' nemesis two years later when, in Howie Meeker's rookie season, they met in the finals. Teeder Kennedy would score the game-winning goal late in game 6 to win the Leafs their first of three straight Cups -- the first time any NHL team had accomplished that feat. It may have been four straight (or even five, considering what happened in 1951), had the Red Wings' Leo Reise not scored in sudden-death of game 7 of a semi-final series in 1950.
The Leafs and Habs would once again meet in the finals in 1951, with all five-games going to overtime. Max Bentley scored with 32 seconds left in the third period of game 5 to send it to overtime, and defenseman Bill Barilko, who scored only six goals in the regular season, scored the game-winner to win Toronto their fourth Cup in five years. Barilko's glory was short-lived: he died in a plane crash three months after that historical moment.
Toronto would not reach the finals again until 1959, when a late-season charge put them into the playoffs on the final night of the season, they stroke through the Bruins in the semi-finals, but lost to the Canadiens in the finals. The 1960 finals were yet another Montreal-Toronto rematch, but the Habs swept the Leafs to win their fifth straight Cup.
Harold Ballard bought the Leafs in 1962, and by his death in 1990, would be chastised for his lack of will to get top players. They weren't saying that in 1962: Frank Mahovlich, second-year player Dave Keon, winger Bob Pulford and future doughnut magnate Tim Horton would lead the Leafs to their first of three straight championships.
In 1967, the Leafs and Habs met in the Cup finals for the last time. Bob Pulford scored the double-overtime winner in game 3, Jim Pappin got the game winner in game 6, and Dave Keon won the Conn Smythe trophy as the Maple Leafs won in six games. They have not won the Stanley Cup, or even been to the finals, since.
With the exception of a few brief stretches of glory, Toronto has never really been a major force in the NHL since 1967 and the era of the original six. The first of these stretches was in the late 1970s, when the team led by Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald, enforcer Tiger Williams, and Borje Salming (the first Swede to make a name for himself in the NHL) would lead the Leafs to some glory, but only once made it past the second round of the playoffs, besting the New York Islanders, a future Stanley Cup dynasty, in the 1978 quarter-finals, only to be swept by their one-time arch-rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, in the semi-finals.
Toronto missed the playoffs five times in ten years between 1982 and 1992, but in 1993, a spark was lit. Doug Gilmour, who had come over from the Calgary Flames the previous season, scored 32 goals and 127 points to lead the team in scoring. Dave Andreychuk had also come to the Leafs (from the Buffalo Sabres) and would score 25 goals in 31 games, as well as being the league's biggers power-play goal scorer. Felix Potvin was solid with a 2.5 goals-against average. Toronto had their highest point total in team history to that date, with 99. The Leafs dispatched with the Red Wings in the first round with an overtime winner in game seven, then won the Norris division by winning over the St. Louis Blues.
With Montreal facing the New York Islanders in the Wales Conference finals, Canadians were once again dreaming of a Montreal-Toronto clash for the Cup as the Leafs faced the Los Angeles Kings in the Campbell conference final. Wayne Gretzky's hat trick in game 7 put a damper on that though, as the Kings moved on to the finals.
Those hoping for an all-Canadian Stanley Cup final in 1993 had to make do with an all-Canadian Western Conference final (in the newly renamed Campbell conference) in 1994. The Leafs, however, were no match for the Vancouver Canucks, losing in five games.
After two years out of the playoffs in the late 1990s, the Leafs made another charge in the 1999 playoffs, moving out of Maple Leaf Gardens and into the new Air Canada Centre in the meantime. Mats Sundin, who joined the team from the Quebec Nordiques in 1994, had one of his most productive seasons, scoring 31 goals and 83 points. Sergei Berezin would also score 37 goals, Curtis Joseph won 35 games with a 2.56 GAA average, and enforcer Tie Domi racked up 198 penalty minutes. The Leafs ran past the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but were ravaged in five games by the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Maple Leafs would reach the second round in both 2000 and 2001, losing both times to the New Jersey Devils. In 2002, they would dispatch the Islanders and Ottawa Senators in the first two rounds, but would lose to the cinderella Carolina Hurricanes in the Conference finals.
Curtis Joseph left to go to the Red Wings in the 2002 off-season. They immediately found a suitable replacement, Ed Belfour, from the Dallas Stars. Belfour could not help their playoff woes in the 2003 playoffs, however, as they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games in the first round.
In 2004, after posting a franchise record number of points, despite finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference, the Leafs defeated the Senators for the fourth time in five years, but made another quick exit from the post-season against the Flyers, this time in six games.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a massively popular team, with the largest fan base in the NHL. However, they were also named by Sports Illustrated to be the Most Hated Team in Sports, making them also a highly controversial team.
Hall of Famers
Not to be forgotten