The Toronto Maple Leafs are in their 100th season. In that time, 98 goalies have taken to the ice wearing that jersey. From Hap Holmes to Curtis McElhinney, some great goalies have played for the Blue & White.
Even with so many great goalies playing for the Leafs, it wasn’t actually that hard to narrow it down to the top three. While there have been 10 Hall of Famers in the Leafs crease, most of them didn’t stick around for that long. Bernie Parent, for example, only played 65 games for the Leafs. Gerry Cheevers only played two. King Clancy and Charlie Conacher, a defenseman and a winger respectively, spent some time in net back when goalies had to serve their own penalties.
Before we get to the top three, let’s list some honorable mentions: Ed Belfour, Mike Palmateer, Jacques Plante, Felix Potvin and Terry Sawchuk.
Even though he didn’t make the top three, I’m just going to leave this here.
Walter “Turk” Broda
Games Played: 629
If you’re a Leafs fan today, there’s a good chance that you know the name Johnny Bower. He still shows up at team events at the ripe old age of 92. However, as great a goalie as “The China Wall” was, there was one goalie that was around longer and performed just as well.
Turk Broda was acquired from the Detroit Red Wings for $7,500. Having never played a game for the Red Wings, he made his NHL debut with the Leafs in the 1935-36 season. He proceeded to play in Toronto for his entire career until retiring after 1951-52. He appeared in a total of 14 seasons with the Leafs. It would have been 16 had he not served in World War II during the 1943-44 and 1944-45 seasons.
Broda was involved in what is probably the NHL’s first weight controversy. In 1949, head coach Conn Smythe ordered the goaltender to lose weight and threatened Broda’s starting job. He even brought up two goalies from the minors to back up his threat. In what would come to be known as “the battle of the bulge”, Broda would lose enough weight to keep his job.
He won the Stanley Cup on five occasions, in 1942, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951 (I bet most Leafs today would love to live in that era). He won the Vezina Trophy in 1941 and 1948. He also made the NHL First All-Star Team in those two seasons. He made the NHL Second All-Star Team in 1942 as well.
He was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967 and was also named the tenth-best Maple Leafs player of all time. He was among the NHL’s Top 100 players as part of their Centennial Celebrations in 2017.
Games Played: 475
I wouldn’t really call Bower the second best goalie. If he and Broda were a goalie tandem today, they would be labeled 1A/1B so that’s what we’ll call it here. He wasn’t around as long as Broda but had almost as much of an impact.
Actually born John Kiszkan, he changed his last name to Bower during his first professional season to make it easier on sportswriters.
Bower began his career with the New York Rangers, appearing in 77 games over three seasons. He joined the Maple Leafs for the 1958-59 season and would play the final 11 seasons of his career with the Blue & White.
During his tenure with the Maple Leafs, he won two Vezina Trophies (1961 and 1965) and was named to the NHL First All-Star Team in 1961. Bower won four Stanley Cups while with the Leafs, in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976. He was also one of the first players inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2006 and has a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. He is ranked above Broda on the Top 100 Leafs list as he is ranked No. 7. Both goalies have their No. 1 retired by the team.
Bower was also named as one of the top 100 NHL players of all time.
Games Played: 270
This one was really hard decision, probably the hardest. Felix Potvin did some great things for the Leafs in the 1990s and led the Leafs to two Conference Finals in a row. However, Cujo also brought the Leafs to the Conference Finals. He was a good goaltender while he was playing with the St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers, but he didn’t become great until he became a Maple Leaf.
While he wasn’t with the Leafs for as long as some others, he made a very big impact. His lowest win-total in his initial four-year tenure was 29 and that was still seven more wins than the combined number of losses and ties that season. He set the Leafs record for wins in a season with 36 in 1999-2000. He held that record until Andrew Raycroft won 37 games in 2006-2007. He won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2000. He was also named to Team Canada for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Overall, he played 270 games with the Maple Leafs and won 138 of them.
While he is still waiting to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, he was inducted to St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. He was No. 35 on the in the Best Maple Leafs of all time.