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Toronto Maple Leafs centre Dave Keon was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1967 (courtesy Hockey Hall of Fame).

[Editor's Note: The Canadian Encyclopedia is proud to present its second free app, Toronto in Time, highlighting the stories of the city. “The Maple Leaf's Last Stanley Cup” is one of over 160 unique stories in the app, available for iOS and Android.]

No one expected the 1967 Maple Leafs to win the Stanley Cup and no one expected that it might never happen again! The Leafs themselves that year knew they were flawed. They were mostly old, erratic, tired and had a poisonous relationship with their coach and general manager “Punch” Imlach. They lost the first game of the playoffs against the highly favoured Chicago Black Hawks but then the magic began as the goaltending of 42-year old Johnny Bower and 37-year old Terry Sawchuk turned back a dispirited Hawks team.

In the final, the Leafs faced the Montreal Canadiens, who had just won 15 straight games. The determined Dave Keon won the MVP Award for his all-round play and captain George Armstrong put the final game on ice with an open-net goal.

Then: Leafs captain George Armstrong, left, and owner Harold Ballard parade the Stanley Cup in downtown Toronto, 1967 (courtesy Toronto Star). Now: City Hall has not seen a celebration of a Stanley Cup for 45 years and counting (photo © 2012 by James Marsh).

The aftermath of that victory was a vindictive demolition of the champion by Imlach that has not been healed to this day. His treatment of Larry Hillman, the outstanding defenseman of the playoffs, was so bad that the player put a hex on the Leafs. During contract renewals that spring, Imlach refused Hillman’s request, low-balled him on the counter-offer, and fined him $2,400 for refusing the contract offer. Hillman declared that the team would not win another Cup until they reimbursed him the fine plus interest. After 45 years of frustration, the curse seems intact.

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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. That is one very strong hex! Great article … I enjoyed the read! Thanks

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About James Marsh

James Marsh was born in Toronto and has spent most of his working life in publishing as an editor and writer. He has edited over 200 books in Canadian history and social science and is the author of several books and over 100 articles on Canadian history. James was editor in chief of all three print editions of The Canadian Encyclopedia (1985, 1988 and 1999) and of The Junior Encyclopedia of Canada and guided the encyclopedias into the digital world with numerous editions on CD-ROM. He remains Editor Emeritus of The Canadian Encyclopedia. James is a member of the Order of Canada and recipient of the Centenary Lorne Dawson Chauveau Medal of the Royal Society of Canada in recognition of his achievement of producing The Canadian Encyclopedia.

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