Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How Long It's Been: The Toronto Maple Leafs Won the Stanley Cup


May 2, 1967, 50 years ago today: The Toronto Maple Leafs defeat the Montreal Canadiens, 3-1 at Maple Leaf Garden in Toronto, to win Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and win the Stanley Cup.

It is their 4th Cup in the last 7 seasons, and the 13th in their 50 seasons of play.
This is what a Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup ring looks like.

Shortly thereafter, head coach and general manager George "Punch" Imlach, recognizing that there were a lot of old players on the team, began to break it up. In the 50 seasons since:

* They have finished 1st in their Division just 1 time, in 2000.

* They have failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs 22 times.

* They've at least qualified for the Playoffs' round of 8 18 times.

* They've been 1 of the last 4 teams standing only 5 times: 1978, 1993, 1994, 1999 and 2002.

* They haven't even reached the Stanley Cup Finals. Not one time in half a century.

* They didn't do it this time, either: In the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, they fell to the Washington Capitals in 5 games.

This guaranteed that the drought would not only extend past the 50th Anniversary of the last Cup, but would reach a 51st, even if they do somehow win it all next year.

May 2, 1967. 50 years exactly since the Toronto Maple Leafs last won a Stanley Cup, or even played in a Stanley Cup Finals game. How long has that been?

*

It was the last season of the National Hockey League's inaccurately-named Original Six Era, which had lasted 25 years, since the 1942-43 season. There were just 6 teams, with 20 players each, so 120 players in the entire League. That year, the following players who are now in the Hockey Hall of Fame were active:

* Toronto Maple Leafs, Stanley Cup winners, 10 players: Captain George Armstrong, Red Kelly, Frank Mahovlich, Dave Keon, Bob Pulford, Tim Horton, Allan Stanley, Marcel Pronovost, and both goaltenders, Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk (although Sawchuk, as well as Kelly and Pronovost, got in mainly for what they did earlier in their careers, with Detroit).

* Montreal Canadiens, Finalists, 9 players: Captain Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Dick Duff, Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Laperriere, Jean-Claude Tremblay, Serge Savard, and both goaltenders, Lorne "Gump" Worsley and Rogatien "Rogie" Vachon (although Rogie got in for what he did later, with Los Angeles).

* Chicago Blackhawks, Semifinalists (lost to Toronto), and winners of the Prince of Wales Trophy, then awarded to the team with the best regular-season record, 5 players: Captain Pierre Pilote, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Glenn Hall, and a player soon to be traded to the Boston Bruins and build the Hall of Fame part of his career, Phil Esposito.

* New York Rangers, Semifinalists (lost to Montreal), 5 players: Bernie "Boom-Boom" Geoffrion, Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle, Harry Howell and goaltender Eddie Giacomin. (Geoffrion was elected mainly for what he did earlier with Montreal. Bob Nevin, the Captain, has not been elected. Red Berenson played on that team, and was a very good player, but is not in the Hall because he's been the head coach at the University of Michigan, which is what he almost certainly will be elected for, and can be, now that he's finally retired.)

* Detroit Red Wings, missing the Playoffs, 6 players: Captain Alex Delvecchio, Gordie Howe, Doug Harvey, Norm Ullman, Andy Bathgate, Leo Boivin. (Harvey was in mainly for what he did earlier, with Montreal. Same with Bathgate, with the Rangers. Same with Boivin, with Boston. The Wings were the 1 team in '67 that did not have at least 1 goalie reach the Hall of Fame.)

* Boston Bruins, missing the Playoffs with the worst record in the League, 4 players: Captain John Bucyk, rookie defenseman Bobby Orr, and 2 goalies, Gerry Cheevers and Bernie Parent. (Parent would get in for what he did later, in Philadelphia.)

The Leafs played at Maple Leaf Gardens, which has been converted into a smaller arena for Ryerson University, and a shopping all. The Canadiens played at the Montreal Forum, which has also been converted into a mall.
Maple Leaf Gardens, on the day of
the final Maple Leafs game there, February 13, 1999

The Rangers played at what became known as "the old Madison Square Garden," with the new Garden then under construction, and the old one would soon be torn down. The Blackhawks -- usually spelled as 2 words, "Black Hawks," in those days -- played at Chicago Stadium, which was torn down in 1995, a few months after the United Center. The Bruins played at the Boston Garden, which was torn down in 1998, 3 years after what's now known as the TD Garden opened. The Red Wings played at the Olympia Stadium, which was torn down in 1987, 8 years after the Joe Louis Arena opened.

The NHL's Great Expansion was about to be announced, creating 6 new teams. Of these "Second Six," 4 of them celebrated their 50th Anniversary this season: The Philadelphia Flyers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles Kings. The Minnesota North Stars moved to become the Dallas Stars in 1993, and barely acknowledge their Twin Cities existence. And the Oakland Seals became the Cleveland Barons in 1976, and were merged with the North Stars in 1978.

Eduoard "Newsy" Lalonde, Fred "Cyclone" Taylor, and "Phantom" Joe Malone, all stars at the time of the NHL's founding in 1917, were still alive. Ken Dryden was at Cornell University. Bobby Clarke, Darryl Sittler and Guy Lafleur were in junior hockey. Denis Potvin was 13 years old, Mike Bossy 10, Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky 6, Scott Stevens 3, Steve Yzerman about to turn 2, Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy a year and a half, and Jaromir Jagr, currently the NHL's oldest active player, wasn't born yet.

The Leafs were then coached, and managed, by George "Punch" Imlach. Current Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had just turned 4. Terry Collins of the Mets was in high school, Alain Vigneault of the Rangers was 6, Jeff Hornacek of the Knicks and Todd Bowles of the Jets were 4, Joe Girardi of the Yankees was 2 1/2, Kenny Atkinson of the Nets was born a month later, and Doug Weight of the Islanders, John Hynes of the Devils and Ben McAdoo of the Giants weren't born yet. The Islanders, the Devils, and the Nets also hadn't been started yet.

In dethroning the Canadiens, who had won the last 2 Cups, as Champions, the Leafs joined titleholders the Baltimore Orioles, the Green Bay Packers, and the newly-crowned Philadelphia 76ers. The Heavyweight Championship of the World was officially vacant, as Muhammad Ali had been stripped of it just 4 days earlier, for refusing to be drafted into the U.S. Army.

The Olympics have since been held in America 4 times; Canada 3 times; twice each in France, Japan and Russia; and once each in Mexico, Germany, Austria, Bosnia, Korea, Spain, Norway, Australia, Greece, Italy, China, Britain and Brazil. The World Cup has since been held twice each in Mexico and Germany, and once each in America, Argentina, Spain, Italy, France, Japan, Korea, South Africa and Brazil.

The President of the United States was Lyndon Baines Johnson. Former Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and their wives, were still alive. Richard Nixon was preparing his 2nd run for the Presidency. Gerald Ford was House Minority Leader. Jimmy Carter was preparing his 2nd run for the Governorship of Georgia. Ronald Reagan was in his 1st year as Governor of California. George H.W. Bush was a Congressman from Texas, and his son was at Yale University. Bill Clinton was at Georgetown University. Barack Obama was 6 years old. Donald Trump was at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, getting both medical and collegiate deferments to keep him out of serving in the Vietnam War.

The Prime Minister of Canada was Lester Pearson, for whom Toronto's airport is now named; of Britain, Harold Wilson. Queen Elizabeth II was Britain's monarch -- that hasn't changed. England's Football League had been won by Manchester United, and, upon the final whistle of the clinching game, away to West Ham United, their fans began tearing up London's East End. This is widely seen as the beginning of the modern age of "football hooliganism."

Glasgow's Celtic was 23 days away from defeating Internazionale of Milan to become the 1st British team to win the European Cup, at the national stadium of Portgual, earning the '67 Celtic squad the name "the Lisbon Lions." (Their opponents, who had won the European Cup in 1964 and '65, were known as La Grande Inter.)

John Robarts was the Premier of Ontario, Canada's equivalent to the Governor of a State. Current Premier Kathleen Wynne was about to turn 14. The Governor of the State of New York was Nelson Rockefeller, and of New Jersey Richard J. Hughes. The Mayor of Toronto was William Dennison. Current Mayor John Tory was about to turn 13. The Mayor of New York was John Lindsay.

LBJ was about to appoint Thurgood Marshall to be the 1st black Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The last Justice from May 2, 1967 to still be on the Court was Byron White, who retired in 1993.

The Nobel Committee did not award a Peace Prize for 1966 -- and wouldn't for 1967, either -- so the 1965 honoree was still the holder: UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund.

Major novels of 1967 included The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron.

In non-fiction, Desmond Morris published The Naked Ape, and Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore published a book about the effects of mass media: Trading on McLuhan's earlier saying, "The medium is the message," they titled it The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. William Manchester released his study of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, The Death of a President. JFK's brother, Robert F. Kennedy, published To Seek a Newer World, and Martin Luther King wrote Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? In just 8 months, both MLK and RFK would also be assassinated.

Major films debuting in the Spring of 1967 included The Dirty Dozen, Barefoot In the Park, A Guide for the Married Man, the Reluctant Astronaut, The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (portraying Asians as villainous was still considered okay, as was casting non-Asians in the role, in this case Christopher Lee), the Elvis Presley movie Double Trouble, the spoof version of the James Bond story Casino Royale, the official Bond film You Only Live Twice (whose posters mocked the mockers and said, "Sean Connery IS James Bond"), and D.A. Pennebaker's documentary about Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of Britain, Don't Look Back. Spencer Tracy died, shortly before the release of his last film, with Katharine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

Color television was about to debut in France. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting was established. TV shows Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, The Monkees, That Girl, The Time Tunnel, Family Affair, The Rat Patrol and the The Hollywood Squares all debuted in the season that had just ended.

Cult classics Batman, Get Smart, and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour were still on the air. A TV version of The Green Hornet, by the same production team as Batman, came and went, despite a crossover between the 2 shows. Laugh-In, The Carol Burnett Show, Mannix, Ironside, The Flying Nun, a cartoon version of Spider-Man (introducing the "does whatever a spider can" theme song) and The Prisoner were a few months away from their debuts.

The Beatles had rewritten the rules of rock and roll album-making, as they were about to release Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Doors had released their self-titled debut album, including "Light My Fire" and the even more controversial "The End." (Jim Morrison didn't actually say the F-word on the album, but he sure as hell implied it.)

The Velvet Underground released The Velvet Underground & Nico, with its cover of a banana painted by their patron, Andy Warhol. It introduced the world not just to Nico, the German chanteuse, but also the voice, guitar, and, most importantly, lyrics of Lou Reed, including "Waiting for the Man" and "Heroin." As Brian Eno later said, "Not very many people bought The Velvet Underground & Nico. But, of everybody who did, nearly everybody went out and formed a band.

Jimi Hendrix, with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, released his debut album, Are You Experienced? It included "Purple Haze," "Foxy Lady," and "Fire" (as in, "Let me stand next to your... "). The Jefferson Airplane released Surrealistic Pillow, which included "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit." The Grateful Dead released their self-titled debut album, which was mostly covers of blues songs. The Youngbloods released their self-titled debut album, which included "Get Together."

Otis Redding and Carla Thomas released King & Queen, which included "Tramp." Aretha Franklin released I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, which included the title track and Otis' song "Respect."

Laura Nyro released her debut album, More Than a New Discovery, which included "Wedding Bell Blues" (later a Number 1 hit for the 5th Dimension), "And When I Die" (later a hit for Blood, Sweat & Tears) and "Stoney End" (later a hit for Barbra Streisand). Dolly Parton released her debut album, Hello, I'm Dolly. Tom Jones went country with The Green, Green Grass of Home, including the already-known title track.

The Turtles released Happy Together. The 5th Dimension released Up, Up and Away. David Bowie released his self-titled debut album, although it gave no hint as to the innovation and shock value that would come later.

In spite of all this grooviness that was in place and on the way, the Number 1 song in America was "Somethin' Stupid," the father-daughter duet between Frank and Nancy Sinatra. Elvis married his longtime girlfriend Priscillia Beaulieu. He was still making weak music and weaker movies. He really needed a change of direction.  Within a year, he would get it, and remind everyone just who was King around here, anyway. The Jackson 5 had begun performing on "the chitlin circuit," and would soon debut at New York's Apollo Theater.

There were still living veterans of America's "Indian Wars" of the 19th Century, the Spanish-American War, the Boer War, and the British Army from the Battle of Omdurman.

Postage stamps cost 5 cents in both the U.S. and Canada, and a subway ride was 20 cents in both New York and Toronto. Had those prices gone up only by the rate of inflation, those figures should now be as follows: The U.S. stamp, 37 cents (it's 47 cents); the Canadian stamp, 35 cents (it's 85 cents!), the New York subway $1.50 (it's $2.75) and the Toronto subway $1.40 (it's $3.00). A Canadian dollar in that Centennial year of Confederation (the anniversary is July 1) was worth about 92 cents U.S.; today, it's 73 cents.

The average prices of a gallon of gas was 33 cents, a cup of coffee 38 cents, a McDonald's meal (cheeseburger, fries, shake -- the Big Mac was introduced the next year) 75 cents, a movie ticket $1.25, a new car $2,750, and a new house $14,250. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 891.65 on May 2, 1967.

Computers were huge, and most certainly did not fit on top of a desk, never mind a lap, or in a pocket. Cars were available with telephones, but a cordless phone was still something seen in science fiction. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee were 12 years old.

The Moon landing program was stalled as a result of the Apollo 1 fire, man had not yet broken Earth orbit, and there was considerable doubt as to whether NASA would meet President John F. Kennedy's 1961 "goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon, and returning him safely to the Earth." The Soviets had their own space-program problems, with Vladimir Komarov unable to open the parachute of Soyuz 1, and crashing, becoming the 1st person to die as the result of a spaceflight.

In the Spring of 1967, in addition to the events already mentioned, Canada continued its Centennial celebrations with the opening of Expo 67, a world's fair in Montreal. Israel saw its Arab neighbors preparing to invade, and launched a pre-emptive strike, in which they took Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights, all within 6 days. A right-wing military coup overthrew the government and monarch of Greece. Biafra declared its independence from Nigeria, sparking a nasty civil war.

Striking workers rioted in Hong Kong, and the police killed 51 of them. Over 300 people are killed in a department store fire in Brussels, Belgium. The Ostankino Tower in Moscow, then the world's tallest freestanding structure, began operation for radio and television signals. Australia overwhelmingly passes a referendum removing passages discriminatory to its indigenous peoples from its Constitution. And the 1st automatic teller machine (ATM) is installed in London.

In America, Dr. Martin Luther King gave a speech denouncing the Vietnam War, and the 1st major demonstrations against it are held in New York, Washington and San Francisco. Race riots occur in Tampa, Buffalo and Boston, warmups for the rougher ones in Newark and Detroit in the Summer. And the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional all laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

Konrad Adenauer, and Langston Hughes, and early pro football star Guy Chamberlain died. John Smoltz, and Paul Gascoigne, and hockey goaltender Curtis Joseph were born.

May 2, 1967. It was the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. Or even reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
Will these proud old men -- or any of them -- ever see another Cup won in Toronto? It's getting less and less likely.

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