TORONTO – Bob Baun is living proof that history can be made during the NHL playoffs.
It’s been nearly 47 years since he scored on a broken ankle to help the Toronto Maple Leafs win the 1964 Stanley Cup and he hasn’t stopped hearing about it since.
“I still get about 3,000 pieces of mail a year,” Baun said Thursday in an interview. “It’s amazing when you think of that and how many years ago it was, to still get that kind of mail.
“People don’t forget it.”
The moment is captured in the NHL’s lastest “History Will Be Made” commercial promoting the playoffs. The spot is titled “One Leg” because that’s essentially all Baun was playing on when he scored the overtime winner in Game 6 of the final against Detroit—a fact that is painfully obvious in the grainy black and white footage that shows him celebrating the goal.
Baun was forced out of the NHL by a broken neck in 1972 and went on to get involved in a number of different business ventures. But one thing that continued to follow him no matter where he went was his famous goal.
“(In 1987 or 1988), I arrived at this hotel in Bangkok and here the guy that was the manager had all my pictures in his office,” said Baun. “I couldn’t believe it.”
He’s also met four U.S. presidents, including an encounter with Richard Nixon in a New York airport shortly after winning the 1962 Stanley Cup. Among the questions Nixon asked was about that year’s championship series with Chicago.
Baun was not an offensive defenceman—he had just three goals in 96 career NHL playoff games—but he was known for giving an honest effort.
That is touched on in the commercial when he’s shown being carried off the ice on a stretcher while the announcer says: “This big crowd of over 15,000, you can see them standing up and giving him a hand as they carry him off—they recognize a fella that gives such tremendous service.”
He would return in overtime and score the biggest goal of his life. All of the recognition that came from that moment is not something he ever totally got used to.
“That notoriety or whatever, you wonder why,” said Baun. “It’s been special.”
Baun spent 13 seasons as a member of the Maple Leafs and was part of the franchise’s last four Stanley Cup championships.
He loved his time in the city and enjoyed everything that came with being part of the team.
“Toronto has always been the best,” said Baun. “It has the greatest hockey fans, greatest sports fans. It doesn’t matter what you do, if you play tiddlywinks, this would be the place to play because people just love you and they want to know what you’re doing.
“You don’t have privacy,” he continued. “This isn’t the place to play if you want privacy. Even then it was the same, just as much or more so.”
The 74-year-old Baun spends his winters in Florida now but still keeps tabs on the team.
While he feels optimistic about the current direction of the Maple Leafs, he’s also growing impatient while waiting for the franchise to end its long championship drought.
“I can’t hold my breath much longer,” said Baun. “Mr. Burke, I think he’s on the right track. He’s not going to panic, I know that right now. … They’ve still got some problems but you’ve got to work from that goaltender out. You’ve got to get that stronger and then gradually get the forwards in place.”
The commercial featuring Baun can be found at: http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=1083&id=105745