'67: The Maple Leafs, Their Sensational Victory, and the End of an Empire
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In 1967 the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup in a stunning defeat of the mighty Montreal Canadiens in Canada’s centennial year. Thirty-nine years later (and counting), no other Leaf team has been able to do it again. As the years pass, the legend grows. The men who were the Leafs in 1967--a scrappy group of aging players and unsung youngsters--were the kings of this universe, the last hockey heroes to skate in the world's most important hockey city. They were the men with the right stuff who enjoyed the perks and privileges that went with it.
Sixty-Seven is not just another hockey book about that legendary team, but a unique and total look at the contradictions, the legends, the shame and the glory of '67. Within five years of that '67 victory, two key members of the team, Tim Horton and Terry Sawchuk, would be dead due to alcohol and drug-related issues. The man who had succeeded Smythe as King of Carlton Street, Harold Ballard, was in jail. The seeds of what would become a horrifying pedophile scandal a quarter-century later were being planted. All that had been built up over the course of decades was in the process of being torn down.
Sixty-Seven will tell previously untold stories, funny and tragic, from the inside of that unforgettable dressing room. And beyond the story of the team, it will tell the story of the times, a time of innocence before Vietnam and Watergate, the last year of the Original Six-Team NHL, and the last gasp of the hockey dynasty built by the legendary Conn Smythe. The story of Sixty-Seven extends well beyond that of a hockey team that found a way to win.
It was from this position, acting within the lazy, theft-ridden underworld of the Gardens, that Hannah spread his sickness and committed his crimes. When it all came to light years later in 1997, 13 years after Hannah had died from kidney failure, it was suggested that he was a little-known, harmless fellow of whom little notice was taken. That wasn’t true. In the second tier of Gardens authority below the Ballards, Smythes and Imlachs, Hannah was a person with responsibilities, primarily with the equipment needs of various teams in the Marlboro chain.
Nine hundred police officers were set to ensure security and six city blocks had been cordoned off for the event. “I think we are quite unjustified in disrupting traffic in the heart of our city for these young misfits, completely lacking in talent, whose contribution to the youth of the nation is the absolute negative of all that is desirable,” read one letter to The Toronto Star, expressing an opinion that was widespread. Ballard, of course, loved it. The Beatles dominated the headlines for weeks, and on the same day separatists were burning Union Jacks in Montreal, the Beatles arrived to a crowd of 10,000 at Malton Airport.
It was the absolutely greatest playoff performance ever by an NHL goaltender,” said Pronovost. But the Leafs didn’t need memories against Hull and the Hawks. They needed an aging, and perpetually disgruntled Sawchuk to stand tall. He did. After that furious five minutes, it was the Leafs who took over Game Three, building a 3-0 lead on goals by Ron Ellis, Frank Mahovlich and Jim Pappin. Hull, probably not realizing he had bopped Ballard in the pre-game warm-up, ultimately wrecked Sawchuk’s shutout bid with a late goal and attracted the wrath of the Leafs for a late, questionable hit on scrappy Toronto winger Brian Conacher, who himself was gradually becoming an irritant in the Hawks’ side.
Unnoticed by Smythe in his anger was Eagleson, standing just a few feet away. “I don’t think the Leafs ever agreed to accept the union,” says Eagleson, revelling in the memory of that exciting day. “But they got outvoted. ” It was a vote Imlach refused to accept. While progressive thinkers like Emile Francis of the Rangers looked to accommodate the new order, Imlach and the Leafs fought back, or tried to. Bobby Baun had helped teammates negotiate better contracts, and through that and his own salary fights, had seen his relationship sour with Imlach.
In October 2002, the day before Tim Horton’s lost championship ring was to go up for auction at Waddington’s on Bathurst Street in downtown Toronto, police detectives interrupted the sale, swooping in to announce that the ring had been stolen from Horton’s heirs and would be returned to his family. His daughter, Tracy, had been 13 years old at the time of her father’s death, and was thrilled to have the family heirloom returned. She immediately placed the ring in a safety deposit box, one day to be passed on to her eldest son, Tim.