Top Five Maple Leaf Players Of All Time
It was over a century ago, in 1917, that the Toronto Arenas formed one of four original teams that comprised the freshly minted NHL. They skated on the name “The St Patricks” until a 1927 rebranding, Canada’s favourite team in the modern-day NHL became the Toronto Maple Leafs of today.
Success swooped in early, with 1918 marking the first of thirteen Stanley Cup wins for the franchise to the present day. Although they boasted plenty of good rosters from 1918 to 1947, their 32-15-3 record in 1947-48 during the postwar era of the Original Six was the league’s best to date.
No team can remain at the top in perpetuity, however, and Toronto ultimately fell from their perch. They hit the ground hard in 1984-85, when the Leafs were faring with only 48 points in 80 games. It was grim times again some thirty years later, with a dead-last finish in the NHL in 2015-16.
These days, which are really not so far from those days, the Leafs are back on top as one of the best NHL teams in the league, andhas many players to thank for helping them get there.
Let’s look back as Bodog pays homage to the five best Maple Leaf players of all time.
5. Mats Sundin – joined 1994
Mats Sundin may have been born and raised in Sweden, but he was one of our own in Canada for 20 years, and the Toronto Maple Leafs for 13 seasons within that time.
As a European, the centerman put Europe on the map for the NHL. He was the first ever European to be the first overall draft in the league in 1989 just before his debut with the Quebec Nordiques in 1990. He was the first ever European player to be a team captain, which he was for the Leafs for 11 years, making him the longest serving captain for a player born outside of North America.
From his trade to the Leafs in 1994 to the year he became a free agent in 2008, Sundin was the highest scoring player for Toronto, reaching up to 94 points and 41 goals in one season.
4. Johnny Bower – joined in 1958
As a child of Ukrainian immigrants in Saskatchewan, Bower taught himself how to play hockey with a tree branch for his stick and an old mattress as goalie pads.
He didn’t trade his tree branches for a real stick until he was 29 and he made his 1953-54 debut with the New York Rangers. Then in 1958 at the age of 34, Bower became a Maple Leaf, which he continued to call his team for 11 straight seasons. During his time in Toronto, the fearless goaltender won four Stanley Cups, including one at the age of 43.
Bower isn’t famous for having the best stats in the league, as many goaltenders surpass him. His legacy comes from his tenacity in being the second oldest goaltender to participate in an NHL game up until he was 45 and some days, behind only Maurice Roberts who was nearly a year older.
3. Tim Horton – joined 1950
He is one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players in history, a three-time NHL First Team All-Star, and the entrepreneur behind the Canadian cultural staple restaurant franchise, Tim Hortons. He is the Tim Horton; up there with the best defensemen known to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As a Leaf sporting the blue, Horton used to make rivals cower in his presence as arguably the strongest man in the game, and Johnny Bower himself referred to him and his seemingly superhuman strength as “Superman”.
Horton joined the NHL in 1950 after a brief stint in the AHL with the Pittsburgh Hornets, and stayed with the Leafs until 1970, hoisting the Stanley Cup four times in those years. He played 486 consecutive games for the Leafs in the regular season (out of 1,185 total), which remained the record until 2007 when Kārlis Skrastiņš took his place.
2. Darryl Sittler – joined 1970
When it comes to an offensive powerhouse, few can hold a candle to Darryl Sittler of the Maple Leafs.
Sittler joined the Leafs through the NHL Amateur Draft in 1970 where he was the eighth overall pick, and became the team captain in 1975.
The star’s biggest offensive fame was back in 1975-76, when he made six goals and four assists for a record 10 points in one game against the Boston Bruins. To this day that is the second-highest scoring in a single game for the entire NHL, even after more than 45 years.
The Leafs hung on to Sittler until a disagreement with then manager Punch Imlach caused him to take his talents to Philadelphia mid-season in 1981-82, ripping off the Captain’s C from his uniform.
He may not have left on the most graceful terms with the Leafs, but Sittler’s legacy will always be etched in our minds as one of the best Maple Leaf players of all time.
1. Dave Keon – joined 1960
We might consider the legendary Dave Keon to be the best Toronto Maple Leafs player of all time, but that’s not just the considered opinion of the Bodog sportsbook. Keon was selected by 30 NHL experts (and a legion of fans) as the Toronto Maple Leaf’s number one player of all time during the team’s centennial celebrations in 2016.
49 years before these honours, in his prime of 1967, Keon’s team won their first Stanley Cup since 1918, and was recognized as the team’s MVP. In the same year, he won the Conn Smythe trophy, which marked the only win in the history of the franchise.
All in all, Keon played 15 seasons for Toronto from 1960–1982, marking four Stanley Cup wins to his career. He proved himself to be a proficient centerman and forechecker that had a knack for avoiding penalties, and his legacy will be remembered as the greatest Maple Leaf player of all time.
Knowing the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the best Maple Leaf players of all time is fine fodder for reminiscing, but it also plays a big role in betting on the NHL. Bodog has a thorough play-by-play to show you how to bet on the NHL today, so you can reap the rewards of Canada’s favourite NHL team and their history of bet-worthy players and games.
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