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From the Archives: Leafs Bounce Wings in Crazy Penalty-Filled Affair

To say that feelings of hate existed between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings during the 1946-47 season would be the understatement of the half-century. And during the 1947 playoffs, one game had an incredible 27 penalties.
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To say that feelings of hate existed between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings during the 1946-47 season would be the understatement of the half-century.

The shared feeling of antipathy was best expressed by Detroit's future Hall of Fame left wing Ted Lindsay. "I dislike those Toronto guys so much, I would happily play them for nothing."

Lindsay's counterpart on Toronto, right wing Wild Bill Ezinicki, agreed that the vice was versa. "If I saw a Red Wing coming down the street on my sidewalk, I'd cross over to the other side."

Their respective bosses, Jack Adams in Detroit and Toronto's Conn Smythe, knew all about the vigorous vitriol since they opened the warfare in the first place.

"Adams hated Smythe," said former Leafs publicist Ed Fitkin, "because Jack felt that Conn 'stole' a Detroit prospect from right under his nose. That was goalie Turk Broda who won five Cups for the Leafs."

Smythe -- in his autobiography, "If You Can't Beat 'Em In The Alley -- ripped Adams for going public with what Conn claimed was an off-the-record conversation they had about a trade.

The mutual dislike was transferred to the ice. In the 1942 Stanley Cup Final, Detroit led Toronto three games to none. But Smythe's Leafs rallied to win four in a row to capture Stanley. No team ever has duplicated that feat in a Final round..

Not only did the Leafs defeat Detroit in another seven-game Final in 1945 but continued the mastery with a youth-infused team in 46-47.

Being an intensely loyal Toronto fan, I was filling my scrapbook with stories I had read in the Toronto Globe and Mail about the Leafs unexpectedly first place challenge

By late March, my guys began looking like a Cup contender when the rivals met on March 23d, 1947 at Olympia Stadium in The Motor City. Globe hockey writer Jim Vipond covered the game and the newspaper's headline suggested a Pier Six brawl had taken place.

LEAFS BOUNCE WINGS, 5-3 IN 27-PENALTY BATTLE.

In his opening paragraph, Vipond amplified the ferocious feelings on the ice.

"It was one of the wildest hockey games ever witnessed in Olympia Stadium," wrote Vipond. "It was two hours of knock-'em-down-and-drag-out mayhem. Toronto won the game, 5-3, but the scoring was incidental."

Making matters worse -- or better, depending on whether you enjoy fights -- was the fact that a rookie referee, George Hayes, was overseeing, and occasionally overlooking, the fisticuffs.

Jim Vipond: "Fights occurred frequently in every period and the penalty box was seldom empty with a steady procession of blue and red-shirted players back and forth to the sinbin.

"The game was held up for minutes on end while the perspiring referee, surrounded by screaming players, and not helped one bit by the jibes of the Detroit sports writers."

In his game story, Vipond suggested that the Wings' boss, Adams, had ordered his players to "soften up the Toronto team.

"The Red Wings played it rough from the start with Jack Stewart, Ted Lindsay and Sid Abel to the fore of the battle at all times," Vipond added.

Sure enough, the Motor City-Queen City War continued into the first round of the playoffs; and thereafter. Toronto won the semi-final round four games to one.

A year later the Leafs beat Detroit in the Cup Final and completed their playoff mastery again in 1949 with a four games to nothing rout.

Red Burnett of the Toronto Daily Star summed up the Smythe-Adams;Leafs-Wings war after the four-game sweep:

"Conn Smythe not only made the shrewdest deal of his career when he bought Turk Broda for peanuts from Detroit in 1936 but he stole several Stanley Cups from the Norris interests and insured the same number for the Maple Leafs!"

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The Globe's photo above the story actually was taken during the Leafs 5-3 win over the Rangers. New York's Tony Leswick (18) is about to be stopped by goalie Turk Broda. The Leafs player in the center is Syl Apps while the Rangers Edgar Laprade is on the right.

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