It was a team like no other.
The 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs are the answer to this trivia question – what was the only team to come back to win a best-of-seven Stanley Cup final after falling behind 3-0?
The Leafs lost the first three games to the Detroit Red Wings before storming back to win it all. And as raw rookie forward Gaye Stewart recalled, the Leafs were called "world champions" in those days. The heading above a photo of that team says, "Stanley Cup, emblematic of World's Professional Hockey Championship"’.
"That was a dig against the Russians," Stewart said. The Leafs, with Conn Smythe as GM, Hap Day as coach and Frank Selke Sr. as business manager, produced a 27-18-3 record during the regular season before ousting the New York Rangers 4-2 in the best-of-seven semi-final.
The final should have been a bit of a mismatch because the Wings had been very mediocre during the regular season with a 19-25-4 record. Somewhat shockingly, the Wings won the first two games in Toronto by scores of 3-2 and 4-2. In game 3 at home, the Wings won 5-2 to take a 3-0 series lead.
Then the comeback began. The Leafs, sparked by goaltender Turk Broda, came back to win games 4, 5, 6 and 7 by scores of 4-3, 9-3, 3-0 and 3-1. In Game 7 in Toronto, Syd Howe gave Detroit a 1-0 lead but Russian-born legend Sweeney Schriner scored twice and journeyman Pete Langelle fired the winner to lift the Leafs to the win.
"When the score was tied, Smythe came into the dressing room and said, 'Here’s $100 for the guy who scores the winning goal,'" recalled defenceman Wally Stanowski, 85. "So Pete Langelle got the $100.
"There was a little strategy involved in that series," Stanowski continued. "One of the Maple Leaf directors, Colonel Wm. MacBrien, talked to us the day before Game 4 and said, 'Don’t read what's in the newspapers.’ It (publicity) made Detroit a little overconfident. They had all the champagne ordered for after Game 4. The champagne has never been opened. The colonel said to play it one game at a time. By the time the seventh game came around, Detroit was pretty desperate. There was a lot of pressure on them."
It was a bittersweet victory for two of the Leafs because Day caused a few heads to rumble with what was called a "very public benching" of star forward Gordie Drillon and defenceman Bucko McDonald for the final four games of the series. In the off-season, Drillon was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. "There was a reason for Gordie getting benched," Stanowski said. "In the third game, there was a puck deep in our end and Gordie was only about six feet from the puck and he could have gotten it easily but he made no attempt to get it. A Detroit player, who was further away, came in, grabbed the puck and scored. The deal with Bucko – he wasn’t that good a skater and Detroit had a good skating club."
When all is said and done, you hate to say it but those Red Wings are the greatest hockey choke of all time. "I had just turned pro not long before that," recalled Stewart, who played the final three games of the series against the Wings. "I didn’t do much but I was only 18 at the time so it was exciting. I was floating in awe. I didn't recall being nervous. After the series I went back to high school at Northern on Mount Pleasant and people asked me, ‘Where were you?'"
What Stewart was trying to say was that there was little publicity in those days and not many people had realized he was playing for the Leafs.
The Dunlops were Canada's representative to the 1958 World Championships, as the defending Allan Cup champions. The team took an ocean liner to the championships in Norway because team manager Wren Blair was terrified of flying. Everyone was sick for six days because of the rough waters but the chance to restore Canada's pride was worth it. After a 14 game exhibition tour of Europe the Dunlops competed at the World Championships in Oslo, Norway.
Notable members of the team are, former Whitby mayor Bob Attersley, former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Sid Smith and Boston Bruins president Harry Sinden. Harry Sinden was captain of the 1958 Dunlops, while former Leaf captain Sid Smith was a playing coach. The Town of Whitby honoured this great team for their incredible achievements with their induction into the Whitby Sports Hall of Fame.
This was a dream team, one of the finest in Canadian junior hockey history. No less than 11 players from the 1963-64 Memorial Cup-winning Toronto Marlboros graduated to the NHL. That’s how superior that team was, a squad concocted when the Metro junior league dissolved following the 1962-63 season and when the Neil McNeil team returned to the junior B ranks. So for the 1963-64 season, the Marlies joined the OHA, taking some Neil McNeil players with them in the process.
Consider this: the Marlboros were 60-10-8 overall that season, including 40-9-7 in regular-season play in the OHA’s Major Junior Series and they were 20-1-1 in post-season play. It’s generally believed that the 1968-69 Montreal Junior Canadiens are considered the finest junior team ever assembled in Canada. Some 15 members of that team went on to the NHL. The Marlies are rated second best. Pete Stemkowski led the Marlies in scoring that season with 103 points, including 42 goals and 61 assists. Mike Walton was second with 92 points on 41 goals and 51 helpers. Ron Ellis was third with 84 points, 46 of them coming on goals. Andre Champagne and Grant Moore posted 71 points each and star defenceman Rod Seiling contributed 13 goals and 54 assists for 67 points. Gary Smith was the workhorse goaltender, playing 54½ games with a GAA of 3.41, while backup Bill Henderson got into a mere game and a half.
Research shows that defenceman Jim McKenny was the only player to dress in all 56 regular-season games. “It wasn't really fair,” McKenny said of the power the team possessed. “It was a combination of two teams: the Marlboros and Neil McNeil. It wasn’t fair to the rest of the teams in Canada. We were too good. We were so much better. If Boston had been able to combine their sponsored teams in Oshawa and Niagara Falls, they would have had a pretty good team, too.”
In the playoffs, the Marlies swept the Montreal Junior Canadiens (4-0) in the OHA final. Then they dumped the North Bay Trappers (2-0) and the Scotty Bowman-coached Montreal Notre Dame de Grace Maple Leafs (3-1-1) in regional playdowns. Finally, they disposed of the Edmonton Oil Kings in four games in the Memorial Cup final, which was played at Maple Leaf Gardens. “When we played Edmonton, they didn’t have a chance,” McKenny said. “We had the biggest team in hockey that year. We had big guys like Ray Winterstein and Jack Chipchase on defence. They were huge.”
As it turns out, Stemkowski, Walton, Ellis, Champagne, Smith, Seiling, McKenny, Brit Selby. Wayne Carleton, Gary Dineen and Nick Harbaruk made it to the NHL. And so did Gregory, a Colgate-Palmolive purchasing agent, who went on to be a GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs and, at 68, served as the NHL’s senior vice-president of hockey operations. “It was fantastic coaching those guys. When you get older, the team gets better in your head.” Gregory said.
“My only regret was the short time I spent with them,” Dineen said. “I was playing for Father David Bauer and the Canadian Olympic team in Innsbruck and I only joined the team after the completion of the Olympics. As a matter of fact, I think the team was disappointed that when I joined the team, I only weighed 160 pounds, which brought the team average down to 191 pounds,” Dineen said, chuckling. “We were the biggest team in hockey just ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks.”
In 1967, the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals. Montreal was considered to be a heavy favourite. But Bob Pulford scored the double-overtime winner in Game 3, Jim Pappin got the series winner in Game 6, and Dave Keon won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs as the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup in six games. The Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup since.
The 1992 Toronto Blue Jays season was a season in Major League Baseball. It involved the Blue Jays finishing first in the American League East with a record of 96 wins and 66 losses, closing the season with an attendance record of 4,028,318.
In the American League Championship Series, the Blue Jays defeated the Oakland Athletics in six games. In the World Series, Toronto faced the Atlanta Braves, who had won their second straight National League pennant. However, the Blue Jays once again prevailed in six games, becoming the first non-U.S.-based team to win a World Series.
Despite their post-season success, the Blue Jays had many ups and downs during the regular season. The Jays started off winning the first six games of the regular season and Roberto Alomar was named the AL Player of the Month for the month of April.
On August 25, they had lost six of their last seven games and were only two games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the standings. At this point, general manager Pat Gillick decided to acquire a fiery right-hander from the New York Mets named David Cone. The trade resulted in the Jays sending minor league prospect Ryan Thompson and utility infielder Jeff Kent to the Mets. The deal sent the message that the Blue Jays were committed to winning. Cone would have 4 wins, 3 losses and a 2.55 ERA.
The regular season also marked the end of the road for Dave Stieb, who made his last start for the Blue Jays on August 8 and only lasted three innings. On September 23, Stieb announced that he was finished for the season. 1992 was Stieb's final season for the Jays before briefly coming out of retirement years later.
Four days later, on September 27, Jack Morris would make club history by becoming the first pitcher in franchise history to win 20 games in a season. Morris would have to wait through a two hour rain delay at Yankee Stadium to get the win.
Heading into the last weekend of the season, only the Milwaukee Brewers were still in contention. Led by manager Phil Garner, the Brewers had won 22 of 29 games since August 29. The Brewers trailed the Blue Jays by 2 games, and the Jays were heading into a weekend series vs. the Detroit Tigers. On October 3, Juan Guzmán had a one-hitter through eight innings and Duane Ward picked up the save as the Jays won the game 3-1 and clinched the American League East Division title.
The 1992 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays will be remembered as the first team from Canada winning a World Series and for that feat, they were elected into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2001. So then it was only natural that the 1993 World-Series champion Jays be on the ballot again for 2002 and lo and behold, they were elected.
During the regular season when they attracted more than 4-million fans to the SkyDome, the Blue Jays (with East York's Rob Butler helping out) captured first place in the AL East with a 95-67 record. Then the Jays went to beat the Chicago White Sox 4-2 in the best-of-seven AL championship before outduelling the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 in the World Series, thanks to Joe Carter’s clutch homer in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 6.
"There was a lot of pressure on us in '92," Carter said. "It was all about business. In '93, we had the experience of post-season play and winning the World Series under our belts. We were so relaxed. We enjoyed what we had accomplished in 1992 and all the pressure was off us in ‘93.’’ Now about that home run by Carter at 11:39 p.m. on Oct. 23 – well, it came on a 2-2 pitch from Mitch Williams of the Phillies. On the previous pitch, Carter swung ("badly", he says), missed on a slider. As he geared up for pitch five, Carter recalled saying, "I have to make sure I hit the ball. Don’t worry about yanking it. Just see the ball and put the ball in play somewhere." He put the ball – a fastball down and in – in play allright, over the left-field fence to give the Jays the win, the first time a player ended a World Series with his team behind. "If I could do cartwheels, I would have done cartwheels as I rounded the bases. That’s how happy I felt," Carter said.