The end of this NHL season in 2014 will mark 47 years since Red Kelly held up the Stanley Cup for the Toronto Maple Leafs, his last cup as an NHL player and the last the Leafs have won. Did you know that the combined age of living players from that historic Leafs team is 2,025? Of course you didn’t, it’s an obscure fact. Still, that’s older than Jesus… and lord knows it’s about time the Leafs win another cup.
Let me take you back to the 1966/67 season. Terry Sawchuk got his 100th career shut out. Stan Mikita had the most points that season, his team; the Chicago Black Hawkes played the Leafs in the first round and lost 4 games to 2. By the way, the first round back then was the semi finals. Only 6 teams back then. That was the first year Bobby Orr strapped on his skates for the NHL and the Boston Bruins. Orr won the Calder that year even though the Bruins didn’t make the playoffs. Think about that for a second. Pretty much the entire illustrious career (minus one season) of one of the most respected and renowned players in NHL history was played during the time Toronto stopped winning cups… and I’m talking about Orr here, not Gretzky. “The Great One” is arguably the best hockey player of all time and also played his entire legendary career in that cupless time zone. We’ve seen giants come and go in those 47 years. It’s like The Leafs stepped aside for players like Messier, Lemieux, Roy, Brodeur and Gretzky to make history while they stopped making it.
Out of the entire winning 1966-67 Maple Leafs team (32 Canadian players) 6 are dead, half of those dead were goalies. One of the goalies being the late legend Terry Sawchuk. Another one is Tim Horton, who lives on with a franchise of lousy donuts and ok coffee. Coach Punch Imlach is among the deceased and the last dead player is Kent Douglas, who just died in 2009. Cause of death: Probably waiting for the Leafs to win another cup.
How many more will die waiting? If you look up lists of NHL droughts the Leafs top most of them: If it’s not bad enough that they haven’t won since ’67 they also haven’t made a Stanley Cup final since ’67. They aren’t too far off on the playoff appearance drought list either, 3rd place with 7 seasons (from 2004-2013). And lets not forget the saddest list of all, 3rd place on the longest time between cups. Ranger’s fans waiting 53 seasons, it took Chicago 47 seasons to win another cup after 1961, but those droughts are over… the Leafs still have a chance to beat those records. Just 9 more seasons and they can top that list too.
So what’s left to do Leafs fans? Embrace it? Keep cheering for the most expensive NHL team in history, worth 1 billion US dollars? Keep paying 15 bucks for one Molson Canadian at the ACC and watch the Leafs try and get to the second round of the playoffs? Yeah… but this time they have Phil Kessel.