Monday, August 11, 2008

The Blood Of My Chief, Vol. II

Hi everybody, and welcome to the second installment in our series about Leaf Captains, The Blood Of My Chief. If you missed it, or if you just want to read it again, Volume I is here. Most of the info was gathered from these three sites. Today's guest reader is one of my favorite actors, Mr. Christopher Walken. Thank you for being here, Chris. I hope you enjoy reading to us as much as we enjoyed your performance in Pulp Fiction.

Ted "Teeder" Kennedy, Captain from 1948-55, also 1956-7

As you can see from the photo above, the man they called "Teeder" was a charismatic and handsome Captain. In the same post-war years that saw Hollywood's golden-era of film-making, Kennedy was a real-life Maple Leafs' dreamboat with a Gene Kelly-esque charm to go along with his smooth puckhandling and playmaking. He played 13 seasons in the NHL, all with the Leafs, and won 5 Stanley Cups. In 1948, his 3rd championship, "Teeder" was a playoff sniper, scoring 8 goals in only 9 games, while adding 6 assists.The Legend of Ted would even become so great that Princess Elizabeth herself made the pilgrimage to Maple Leaf Gardens and was given a "lucky handshake" by her hero, the Toronto Maple Leafs Captain, in the hopes that it would help her secure her ascension to the throne. Over 60 years later, Elizabeth is still Queen of the British Empire. Wow.

Sid Smith, Captain 1955-56 While "Teeder" enjoyed success right away with the big club, Smith's career was a little slower to develop. Already 21 as a rookie, Sid split his playing time between the NHL and the AHL for his first two professional seasons. His 3rd year as a Leaf, 1948-49 is very interesting. He played only one game with the big club, and 68 with the Pittsburgh Hornets. However, in those 68 games, he was a scoring phenom, with 55 goals and 57 assists for 112 points! Smith rejoined the Leafs for the playoffs that year and was their secret weapon, scoring 5 goals in 6 games, and adding 2 assists, as the Leafs won their 4th Cup in a row. From then on, he was a regular in the Leafs line-up, and seven years later was named as the 7th Leaf Captain for the 1955-56 season.

Jimmy Thomson, Captain 1956-57

Unfortunately, this is the best photo I could find of Jimmy Thomson. It's not flattering, but it is amusing. He kinda looks like Bryan McCabe here, but I think he probably played more like Tomas Kaberle. A quiet, perhaps unspectacular, puck-moving defenceman, Johnson led the team in assists in 1947-48 and won 4 Stanley Cups between 1947 and 1951. He was also an honourable team player as well. After Sid Smith relinquished the "C", Thomson wore it briefly but then gave it back to Kennedy that same season, as "Teeder" rejoined the team after an early retirement. Thomson was traded to Chicago for the following season, and then retired. In a Top 100 All-Time Leafs list printed in the Windsor Star a year ago, Thomson was ranked 57th. Meanwhile, a similar list on HFBoards had him at #39.

George "the Chief" Armstrong, Captain from 1957-69

George Armstrong was a Maple Leaf for over 20 years and the Captain for more then a decade. He was the face of the Leafs in the 1960's whose presence and leadership overshadowed all others before him, and that, besides his Native heritage, is why he became known as "The Chief". After nearly a decade long drought between championships (1952-61), Armstrong brought the Cup home 3 years in a row (1962, 63, 64), and then again, one last time, in '67.

Armstrong wore number #10, was the 9th Leaf Captain, and the last to hoist Lord Stanley's mug. In the photo below we see him with number #9, Andy Bathgate after defeating Detroit in Game 7 of the Finals in 1964. In 1967, Armstrong's Cup-clinching empty net goal in Game 6 against Montreal would become the last goal a Maple Leaf would score in the Finals for 41 years and counting. Heaven only knows when the next Leaf Captain might lift the Cup, or when Toronto will again experience the Spirit of '67, or know the glory of being led by one whose name is not spoken, only admired. He is, and always will be, "The Chief".
Dave Keon, Captain from 1969-75
A huge part of the Leafs resurgence in the Sixties was the emergence of Dave Keon. The Calder Trophy in 1961 was just the beginning of his many accomplishments, which included 4 Stanley Cups. He was awarded the Lady Byng the next two consecutive years (1961-2, 1962-3), taking only a single minor penalty each season. He led the Leafs in points 3 times ('64,'67,'70), and in goals scored twice ('71, '73). In 1971, he set an NHL single-season record by scoring 8 short-handed goals.

Yet his greatest accomplishment was in 1967, when he became the first and only Leaf to date, to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the playoffs. It is the trophy named after The Builder, who renamed the team, and then named Hap Day as the first Chief of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The trophy features a spectacular replica of Maple Leaf Gardens with our emblem behind it, and is possibly the most beautiful trophy after the Cup itself. It is a tragedy of our times that another Leaf player has not claimed the trophy again since. Keon was named Captain in 1969, at the dawn of the modern era of NHL expansion, as the 10th Chief of this magnificent tribe.

Thanks again to Christopher Walken for his help in bringing history alive. Thanks as well to all our readers, especially Jacky, whoever she is. Look for Vol. III, The Blood Of My Chief to be posted soon at a blog near you, probably this one.


St.Andrews-by-the-Lake said...

Cheers to you General. May I suggest the voice of BBC's David Attenborough for your next narrative retrospective? I bet he'll come on board when he hears the fate and fortunes of the Empire once rested in the handshake of a hockey player.

general borschevsky said...

Hey thanks Jacky. David Attenborough, eh? He'd be perfect!