Skip to main content

From the Archives: 1947's Inspiration for Today's Leafs

Stan Fischler looks at how the underdog 1947 Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup, and how lessons from that year can be a case for inspiration for the modern day team that's looking to finally end its playoff drought.
Screenshot_107

Despite what cynics may think, it is possible for Sheldon Keefe's hockey club to win a Stanley Cup; even as underdogs.

I speak firsthand because I was around 75 years ago when it was thought impossible for an earlier Leafs team to be champion.

Ah, but the lead story on the sports sections of every 1947 Toronto daily confirmed my dream of long ago.

The Globe Mailheadline -- LEAFS WIN STANLEY CUP, WORLD TITLE -- is one of my all-time favorites.

Just for a jubilant confirmation, there was the sub-headline: CANADIENS BEATEN, 2-1, IN 6TH GAME.

Being as it was my sixth year rooting for coach Hap Day's sextet, the headline was extra meaningful for 15-year-old Stanley. It heralded the first time I furiously followed every single game of the Final. It also marked the first season that I received the Toronto Globe and Mail in my Brooklyn mailbox.

I listened to Foster Hewitt's broadcast of the Final on radio station CBL-Toronto and feared the worst. On the other hand, millions of Canadians -- especially in Montreal -- favored the Habs because the Canadiens were heavy favorites to win the series.

For starters, Montreal was the defending champion, led by Hall of Famer Maurice(Rockett) Richard in his prime. And for another, the Habs had topped the league with the Leafs trailing in second place, eight points behind. However, Toronto did lead the league in penalty minutes.

"We play a tough, aggressive game," Leafs boss Conn Smythe declared on the eve of the Final. "It's just the sort that goes best in a playoff where the players have no reason to save themselves."

Smythe and his players -- not to mention Yours Truly -- got a rude awakening in Game One of the Final. Montreal won, 6-0. Leaf coach Hap Day allowed that his team "couldn't play much worse."

Game Two was pivotal in many ways, starting with Day's rebounding skaters. Goalie Turk Broda blanked Montreal, 4-0, and a stick fight between Richard and Toronto's Bill Ezinicki resulted in a one-game suspension for The Rocket.

Toronto maintained momentum with a 4-2 win in Game Three followed by a 2-1 victory thanks to a Syl Apps overtime goal. The Habs finally stopped the bleeding, 3-1 at The Forum.

The stage was set for the climactic Game Six and, for a time, it appeared that Montreal would pour it on as the Habs had in the first game. Buddy O'Connor beat Broda on the second rush of the game and the Habs were ahead, 1-0, within 25 seconds of the opening face-off.

But the Leafs tightened up and early in the second period, Howie Meeker fed Vic Lynn who beat Bill Durnan in the Canadiens net. The game remained tied 1-1 through more than half of the third period.

Finally, Day signalled his Kid Line to get on for the next shift. It was late in the third period when Ted Kennedy, Howie Meeker and Vic Lynn went over the boards.

This time Kennedy sealed the deal with a long, low shot -- with less than six minutes remaining -- that Durnan never saw. From there, Broda shut the door on the Habs.

"He brought us through," said a grinning coach Day, pointing at his clutch goaltender in the victor's dressing room.

As for The Globe and Mail's treatment of the upset, reporter Jim Vipond waxed poetic in his lead paragraph;

"A modern hockey miracle was written into the record books as Toronto Maple Leafs defeated Montreal Canadiens, 2-1, at Maple Leaf Gardens Saturday night. The sensational victory before 14,546 delirious fans, gave the world's hockey championship to the youngest major professional team in National Hockey League history. Leafs won the gruelling series against the more experienced defending titleists, four games to two."

At the start of The Final, Smythe said, "We are strictly the team to beat." Now that his team had won the Cup, Conn concluded, "We had to beat a real team of champions to become champions!"

And I was the happiest hockey fan in Brooklyn!

Who knows; there might be millions of happy hockey fans in Toronto this June. If you don't believe me, check the headline that goes with this story.

TOP HEADLINES

USATSI_18299402

Can the Rangers Weather the Hurricanes?

The star-caliber players at the top of the Rangers lineup will need to be firing on all cylinders in this series in order to compensate for some lackluster depth in areas. And Igor Shesterkin needs to be the King he was in the regular season, too, to beat Carolina.

2022 IIHF World Championship

Men's World Championship Roundup: Quarterfinal Race Heats Up After Electric Friday

Finland, Germany, Latvia and Slovakia were all victorious on a Friday that helped set the stage for a crazy final few days of round-robin play at the World Championship.

USATSI_18305450
Play

Bluelines: The Battle of the Sunshine State

Stan Fischler looks at the Florida/Tampa Bay battle, Evgeni Malkin's future, television ratings in the United States, the Carolina Hurricanes' arena, Seattle's state of coaching, how to be a Zamboni driver and more.