Introducing The Hockey Writers’ Countdown to Puck Drop series. From now until the puck drops on the 2019-20 NHL’s regular season on Oct. 2 when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Ottawa Senators, we’ll be producing content that’s connected to the number of days remaining on that particular day. Some posts may be associated with a player’s number, while others will be connected to a year or length of time. We’re really excited about this series as we take you through the remainder of summer in anticipation of the return of NHL hockey.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, the number 67 is a frustrating but memorable one. While the franchise readies itself for another year of hockey with their talented core, it seemed fitting that with 67 days remaining until puck drop we look back on the last time the Maple Leafs hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup.
It’s been 52 years since the Maple Leafs and their fans have enjoyed the sights and sounds of a Stanley Cup win – dating all the way back to 1967. In fact, if the Maple Leafs don’t win a Cup by 2030, the team will officially be off of the Stanley Cup and just a team name on a ring resting in the Hockey Hall of Fame – a distant memory.
With that in mind, let’s look back on the team’s last glorious season and take a trip down memory lane to 1967.
A Season of Six
At the time it was a six-team league – made up of the Maple Leafs, Chicago Black Hawks, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins. And while the Maple Leafs were the team that claimed the final headlines of the season, they weren’t exactly the team to beat going into the playoffs. In fact, there were a number of other storylines that dominated the NHL’s regular season in 1966-67.
Among which, legendary defenceman Bobby Orr made his NHL debut on Oct. 19 and the Boston Bruins missed the playoffs for the last time before a 29-year stretch of playoff hockey.
That said, the Maple Leafs finished third in the league during the regular season. They racked up a record of 32-27-11 over the 70-game season finishing two points back of the Canadiens for second and 19 points back of the regular season champions – the Black Hawks.
During the regular season, the Maple Leafs were led by Dave Keon who registered 19 goals and 52 points in 66 games, while Ron Ellis topped all Leafs with 22 goals. They had 10 players finish with double-digit goal totals, but only two topped the 20-goal plateau (Ellis and Jim Pappin).
In net, it was the duo of Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk that ultimately got it done for the Maple Leafs. Bruce Gamble helped at times during the regular season, but as a 28-year-old goaltender he gave way to the 37-year-old Sawchuk and 42-year-old Bower when it came to getting the team to where it needed to be.
As for where they finished, the third-place finish landed the Maple Leafs a first-round matchup with the top-seeded Black Hawks and it wasn’t easy.
Taking Down the Hawks
Their first-round matchup went six games. For the first four games it was a back-and-forth affair with the Maple Leafs taking a 2-1 series lead after three before the Black Hawks tied it up in Toronto.
With the series shifting back to Chicago for Game 5, the Maple Leafs had yet to score over three goals against the Black Hawks and were taking on one of the league’s top goaltenders during the regular season in Denis DeJordy.
The Maple Leafs took an early one-goal lead when Mike Walton scored his second goal of the playoffs, before the Hawks came back with two unanswered. Frank Mahovlich tied it up before the end of the first period with a power play tally and with two third period goals, the Maple Leafs took a 3-2 series lead with the series headed back to Toronto. And like every playoff season, a memory was made for one Maple Leafs player.
Once again, the blue and white took an early lead when Brian Conacher tallied his first goal of the playoffs five minutes into the first period. The Hawks tied it before the end of the period with a shorthanded goal. With no scoring in the second period, it was anyone’s game entering the third.
Conacher notched his second goal of the playoffs and the game just under five minutes into the third and it clinched the series for the Maple Leafs and they were off to the Stanley Cup Final with a 3-1 Game 6 win.
Making Memories, Landing Rivals
In the only other first-round series, the Canadiens swept the Rangers on their way to a Cup Final appearance and a date with their rival Maple Leafs.
Like their first-round series, the Maple Leafs were able to beat the Canadiens, but it took them six games and included a double-overtime win in Game 3 that finally ended thanks to a Bob Pulford goal 8:26 into the second extra frame.
Montreal followed that up with a dominant 6-2 win in Game 4 to tie the series, before the Maple Leafs notched back-to-back wins in Game 5 and Game 6 to win the series and what stands as their last Stanley Cup to date.
While 27-year-old Jim Pappin finished the playoffs with a team-leading 15 points, including the Stanley Cup winning goal in Game 6 against Montreal, it was Keon who went on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs – the only Conn Smythe he would win in his career.
While it would go down as the last Stanley Cup win for the Maple Leafs for the time being, that season was a memorable one for all those involved in the organization – including Keon, Conacher and Red Kelly who played his final NHL game.
Related: Longest Stanley Cup Droughts
With that said, it seemed fitting that we look back on the Maple Leafs 1967 Stanley Cup win with just 67 days left until they kick off the regular season in search of the NHL’s holy grail once again.
Also Worth Noting
While the number 67 is far more relevant in talking about the Maple Leafs’ last Cup run, it’s also worth noting that there are two players who’ve donned the number while in a Leafs jersey.
The first was Robert Svehla who wore 67 during the 2003 season with the Maple Leafs. Svehla came over to the Leafs in a trade that saw Dmitry Yushkevich go the other way. He played just one season with the Maple Leafs – appearing in all 82 games and tallied seven goals and 45 points over that span. After seven playoff games with the team, Svehla finished his NHL career, retiring in September 2003.
The second player was Brandon Kozun in 2015. Kozun played just 20 games with the Maple Leafs in 2014-15 with two goals and four points and hasn’t seen the NHL since that stint in Toronto.