The Curse of the Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs - Losers since '67Hello out there we’re on the air, it’s hockey night tonight…

It is the time of year where Torontonians bleed blue blood and although our team is the worst in the league, our passion for hockey is unwavering. Unfortunately, this year we have already been voted the worst franchise in ANY league before the puck even dropped.

Still we hold second for the most cups ever won, and at one point the Leafs were a team not to be messed with, so how did we become so bad? The Curse of the Maple Leafs is a folklorish tale involving death, missing players and 46 years of barely coming close to a cup. For any Tragically Hip fans, you may be familiar with part of this story.

It all started with Bill Barilko, a Leafs defenceman that (only had scored six goals during regular season,) scored the winning goal after meeting up with Canadiens in five consecutive over-time games in 1951. At this point the Leafs and the Canadiens were competitive rivals and battled regularly for the hockey reign. But all of Barilko’s glory was short lived, as he went missing four months later on a fishing trip.

As The Tragically hip wrote in their hit song Fifty Mission Cap, Bill Barilko disappeared, that summer, he was on a fishing trip. The last goal he ever scored, won the Leafs the cup. They didn’t win another, ’till 1962, the year he was discovered.”

And that’s the truth! They won the cup in ’42, ’45, ’47, ’48, and ’51, but after Barilko’s disappearance they didn’t take home a cup for 11 years, until Barilko’s body was found in 1962 in a plane wreckage 36 kilometres off course. He was on his way home from Quebec where he was on a fishing trip with his dentist.

The Leafs didn’t win another cup for another 11 years after they found Barilko either. In ’62, Leaf lovers thought their curse was broken and they continued to win three consecutive cups and four in total that decade (’62, ’63, ’64, ’67).

They’ve not had a single cup since. 46 years since Toronto gained the glory, although we still are number two for most cups won.

Also, in ’62 Conn Smythe, the owner and coach who dubbed their grammatically wrong name Toronto Maple Leafs”, sold nearly all of his shares to his son, Stafford and a couple other conglomerates. Immediately following the transaction, the Leafs won a hat-trick of cups, along with the victory in ’67.

Soon after Stafford fell ill and died in ’71. All of his shares were quickly bought by his partners and Maple Leaf Gardens commercialized, ripping out the 48-year-old gondola games were once broadcasted in, replacing them with private boxes. The Gardens slowly became more tainted and was sold and turned into a Real Canadian Superstore in 2004.

During the 70’s, the World Hockey Association was born and 12 teams were added. Everything we knew and loved about hockey was changing forever. What does that say about our beloved Leafs? Once triumphed over all others (minus those Habs) now voted worst team, ever. Yet still social media is filled with banter about how this year is going to be the year.

How has this become of the team that once introduced Wendel Clark, Darryl Sittler, Doug Gilmour and Felix Potvin, who coincidentally all made names for themselves on other teams.

What is it that has stained the franchise so? Barilko? Smythe and The Gardens? Although Toronto is the NHL’s most valuable team, valued at 1.15 BILLION DOLLARS, it is no longer the team of Johnny Bower and Tim Horton, (both who have been idolized by corporations,) all of that revenue has not made a difference in our success rate.

One thing we do know- The Leafs are cursed!

Oh the good old hockey game, it’s the best game you can name…

Toronto Maple Leafs - 3x5 Flag - Blue