Meeting Maple Leafs’ Greats: Our Readers Share Their Stories

On Christmas Day, THW re-published a story I wrote about one of my favorite memories with my father. He was a minor league hockey player himself in St. Catherines when he was young; and, when I was about 10 years old, he took me to Toronto to see Maple Leafs’ Gardens. In his opinion, the Gardens was the center of the hockey history, and he wanted to show it to me.

NHL 1960s Toronto Maple Leafs Chicago Black Hawks
NHL game circa early 1960s. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Chicago Black Hawks, Maple Leaf Gardens. Johnny Bower, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ron Murphy and Eric Nesterenko Chicago Black Hawks. (Alexandra Studios, CC BY 2.0 – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0 – via Wikimedia Commons)

As I remember now almost 65 years later, the arena was locked. However, he knocked on the door and a custodian let us in. When he told the custodian that he wanted to show Maple Leafs’ Gardens to his son, we were allowed into the building and walked around a largely empty arena where so many legends have played.

Related: Recalling Maple Leafs History: Retro Uniforms, Rick Vaive & Harold Ballard

Obviously, reading that story spurred the memories of THW readers, who in the discussion section of posts also shared their own stories. 

I loved these stories and asked The Hockey Writers’ Managing Editor if I might share a couple of them. He agreed, so I’m happy to share the stories from two THW regulars. Here they are, with only a little editing – mostly to help them fit the format for a post.

Thanks in advance for sharing your stories.

Story One: “The Day I Met Tim Horton” (and Other Maple Leafs’ Greats)

Shared by gcogome 

Listen up my Leafdom brethren; when there is no Leaf hockey we must regale ourselves with our best Leafs’ memories….I’ll go first. My entry to this long-standing New Years’ Eve tradition is entitled: “The day I Met Tim Horton.”

Defenseman Tim Horton
BOSTON – 1960’s: Defenseman Tim Horton of the Toronto Maple Leafs moves in to check Hubert ‘Pit’ Martin of the Boston Bruins. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

He (Horton) autographed a hockey stick I was awarded for some made-up achievement in novice hockey. Not only Horton but also Jim Pappin, the 1967 Stanley Cup-winning goal scorer. Mike Walton and Bob Pulford also autographed the stick. We met them shortly after the cup-winning game at the opening of Barry Cullen’s car dealership on #8 highway between Grimsby and Winona. 

Collectibles were not a thing back then. Considering that all four of them proceeded their autographs with the same phrase, “Good luck with your hockey career,” I figured they had signed my stick for good luck. 

Related: Worst Toronto Maple Leafs Trades

I took the stick out the next day and played road hockey with it. I broke it playing road hockey nine days later. It served as a bean-row stake in my mother’s garden for a couple of years after that. 

Happy New Year, everybody.  

Story Two: Meeting Bobby Baun, Darryl Sittler & Eddie Shack

Shared by W J Bignell 

In the late 1970’s, I worked for a financial services company that did the financing for car dealerships. I had to make a call to a Toronto dealership and told the receptionist I was there to see a Mr. Baun. 

Two minutes later, Bobby Baun came out to greet me! 

I was astonished. As a kid, I had watched this NHL hard-rock defenseman score the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals on a broken ankle. Baun was downright diminutive!

He was a super nice guy and he carried on like we’d been friends for years. 

Toronto Maple Leafs Bobby Baun
Bobby Baun

Several years later, I met several NHL players at a fundraiser organized by Daryl Sittler in his home-town St. Jacobs, Ontario. Sittler went to grade school with my wife, so she introduced us. Again, Sittler was a super nice guy. 

Related: Toronto Maple Leafs’ Top-20 Goal Scorers All-Time

But what was so memorable was I had figured he and I were about the same size (around 6-foot and 200 pounds). I swear he couldn’t have had more than a 30″ waist, and his shoulders were twice the size of mine. When I shook his hand, it was like grabbing a side of beef. (These players aren’t built like us mere mortals!)

Darryl Sittler Toronto Maple Leafs
Darryl Sittler, Toronto Maple Leafs, circa 1970s (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

The fund-raiser I mentioned (organized by Sittler) was the first game by what became the Molson Pro Stars, a team of NHL players who took time during their summer to play games against local fastball teams as a way to raise funds for local charities. 

Another Leafs’ legend, Eddie Shack took part. Shack was a crazy prankster. In about the third inning he hit a single. He took a long lead off but was checked several times. 

Being of good size, and the 1st baseman being a tad small, Shack picked the guy up and ran toward 2nd. The pitcher had thrown to 1st base and, of course, there was no one there to catch the ball. Shack was ruled safe at 2nd. 

Later in the game, Shack hit another single. The local team was on to his antics, so he ran across the infield directly to 3rd base (bypassing 2nd altogether). They ruled him safe at 3rd. 

Eddie Shack Toronto Maple Leafs
Eddie Shack, Toronto Maple Leafs, September, 1974 (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

Eddie was hilarious; a real showman. (You can’t make this stuff up!)

Thanks Readers for Sharing Your Stories

I have often noted how much I appreciate THW readers and how much I learn from their comments about the team. So, I thank both gcogome and W J Bignell again for allowing me to share their stories with other readers. 

Related: Maple Leafs Trivia: How Well Do You Know Team History?

If you have similar stories and would like to share them, just add them to the discussion section of this post. And, if there are enough readers who do, I’ll be happy to share them with all of the rest of us who are Maple Leafs’ fans.

As W J Bignell writes, “You can’t make this stuff up!” 


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