What’s In a Name?

Toronto Maple Leafs
Image via Wikipedia

The Toronto Maple Leafs by any other name would still win a Stanley Cup!

Yes we are finally on the second team of the Original Six. Don’t be all, “Bell, you never blog.” I work and I sleep, and at neither of those times do I have the ability to consciously type anything. Sometimes I drink too, and when I get home I still don’t have the ability to write anything sensible. Hilarious, yes. But I usually fall asleep while I’m writing…

Anyways, how ‘bout those Toronto Maple Leafs?

Pay careful attention because the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs is a bit confusing.

In 1917, the NHL was formed by a group of disgruntled NHA teams who were tired of fighting with Eddie Livingstone, owner of the Toronto Blueshirts (Wicked lame name, just saying.) They wanted him out, but since they couldn’t just vote him off the island, they created their own league – the NHL. However, they knew they would need a team to represent Toronto in their league, thus began the Team-That-Would-Be-Known-As-The-Toronto-Maple-Leafs. Although the Arena Company was granted a “temporary” Toronto franchise and allowed to lease players from the Toronto Blueshirts, they didn’t have a name for the new team so they were often referred to as the ‘Blueshirts’ or the ‘Torontos.’ Who needs a name? This no-name Toronto team won the Stanley Cup in 1917 – the NHL’s inaugural season. The next year they did not lease out Blueshirts players. Not only did the Arena create their own club, “The Toronto Arena Hockey Club,” they took a shot that would ultimately kill the NHA by allowing only NHL teams to play at the Arena Gardens in Toronto.

Livingstone didn’t take this well. He sued the Arena to get his players back which is why the Arenas won only 5 games in the 1918-1919 season. Ouch.

Lucky for them, according to the omniscient Wikipedia, there was no Stanley Cup winner that season because of a worldwide flu epidemic that year. So the Arena proclaimed they were the champions that season by default. Obviously.

Unfortunately the lawsuit with Livingstone forced the Arena Company into bankruptcy. Manager Charlie Querrie found new owners in the people who had run the amateur team in Ontario. The no-name team was given a real name, the ‘Toronto St. Patricks’ or ‘St. Pats’ for short. The colors went from blue to green and they won another Stanley Cup in 1922.

After a lost lawsuit to Livingstone – he’s one obnoxious part of this history, isn’t he? – the St. Pats were up for sale. Though tempted by a $200,00 bid from a Philly group, Toronto Varsity coach Connie Smythe convinced Querrie to keep it in the family. In 1927, with a $160,000 bid, the persuasive Smythe took control of this Toronto team and gave it a name:

The Maple Leafs.

For all you grammarians out there (who probably hate reading my blog), there is a reason they are the Maple Leafs not the Maple Leaves. Although there are a few different stories, the one I like best is that the team was named after the Maple Leaf Regiment from World War I. Though you probably already know this, the regiment is a proper name, hence the adding of an ‘s’ to the word leaf. Hence, the Maple Leafs.

In their first season their colors were green and white, but the following season saw jerseys of blue and white. The colors haven’t changed since them. In the 1930s the Maple Leafs became a success, garnering another Stanley Cup. They also hosted the first NHL All Star Game to benefit their star forward Ace Bailey who was nearly killed when Bruins defenseman Eddie Shore checked him from behind into the boards at full speed. Though Maple Leafs defenseman Red Horner knocked shore out, Bailey was already writhing on the ice. His hockey career had come to an end.

Side note: I had to get more information on this, partly because the idea of his career ending breaks my heart, and partly because I just hope for the best in my Bruins. So I looked into this a bit further. Luckily, I found this: One on One with Ace Bailey. Below are some excerpts.

Then, on December 12, 1933, during the second period of a game between Toronto and the Bruins in Boston, hometown hero Eddie Shore was checked hard by Toronto defenseman Red Horner while carrying the puck into the Leafs end. “Eddie Shore was having a very frustrating night,” explained Red Horner. “He was playing a great game but it wasn’t getting him or the Bruins anywhere. They couldn’t score on us. (Coach) Dick Irvin sent out King Clancy and myself and Ace Bailey up front to kill off the (two) penalties. Bailey was a very expert stickhandler, and he ragged the puck for awhile. Eventually, Shore got his stick on the puck and made a nice rush deep into our end. Shore came down my side and I gave him a very good hipcheck.” As play moved back into the Boston end, Shore, dazed by the hit and searching for revenge, skated wildly towards Ace Bailey, likely thinking that he was charging Horner. “He wanted to get even for the check I’d just put on him. He thought Bailey was me. He charged into Bailey on an angle from the side. He hit Bailey and flipped him in the air, just like a rag doll. Bailey landed on his head just a few feet from where I was standing. Bailey hit the ice and he went into some kind of convulsion. I thought to myself, ‘That’s the end of Ace!'” Bailey lost consciousness and began bleeding from a head wound. Horner, sickened by the sight of his injured teammate, coldcocked Shore, knocking him to the ice unconscious. “Shore skated away in a very nonchalant fashion. I wasn’t going to let him get away with that, so I went after him.”

Both Bailey and Shore had to be carried off the ice by teammates. Shore suffered a three-inch gash to his head, but Bailey’s injury was far more serious. He was being attended to by Boston doctors in the Bruins’ dressing room when Shore, having regained consciousness, went over to apologize. “It’s all part of the game,” Bailey said before convulsing and lapsing into unconsciousness again. “

Ace Bailey (left) of the Toronto Maple Leafs s...
Image via Wikipedia

When Bailey was brought back, after missing 16 season games, he was quoted, “There was no bad feeling between us,” explained Shore. “It was purely accidental.”

On February 14 1934, at the All Star Game, Eddie Shore and Ace Bailey shook hands in front of a roaring crowd at the Maple Leafs Garden.

“I hold no grudge,” Bailey later said. “I see Eddie often when he comes up to Toronto for the games. It was just one of those things that happens.”

The 40s brought more success to the Maple Leafs, even when forced to turn to rookies as their heros dwindled because of age or the war. The 50s saw only one Stanley Cup go into Toronto’s hands. Though Bill Barilko scored only 6 goals in the regular season, he scored the game winning goal in in 1951 game against the Montreal Canadiens. Four months later Barilko disappeared in a plane crash near Timmins, Ontario and the Maple Leafs didn’t win another cup that decade.

In 1967 the Maple Leafs won their last Stanley Cup. Though a formidable opponent, they haven’t seen made it past the playoffs in years.

I don’t like ending on low-notes though, so let’s talk rivalries because they have a hefty list. Numero Uno on the Toronto Maple Leafs list is the Montreal Canadiens. After that comes the Ottawa Senators a rivalry also known as “The Battle of Ontario,” then the Philadelphia Flyers, then the Buffalo Sabres and last but not least the Detroit Red Wings. The latter two have to do more with their proximity to each other, being no more than a couple hundred miles from Toronto.

Toronto has had it’s ups and downs, it’s different names and colors, but they’ve got the second longest history in the NHL. They’re also the most valuable team in the NHL coming in first with $470 million. THen there’s the Canadiens and – shock of the century – the New York Rangers.

I wonder what the B’s would do with that kind of  money?

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