Gentleman Joe Primeau was a playmaking wizard. He centered the 1930s famed “Kid Line” between Busher Jackson and Charlie Conacher. But Primeau got a late start as a hockey player.
Though born in Lindsay, Ontario, Primeau was raised in mild Victoria, British Columbia. Outdoor ice was almost non-existent. Not until his family moved to Toronto did he take up the sport. Hockey was a big part of the Primeau household, but Joe did not learn to skate until almost 13 years old.
Legendary sportsman and businessman Conn Smythe gets credit for discovering Primeau. While Smythe was building the New York Rangers, he brought in Primeau as a prospect. But the Rangers front office felt Primeau, at 5’11” and about 160 pounds, was too small and refused to sign him.
When Smythe was unceremoniously released by the Rangers, he rememberd the slick passing centerman. Smythe later joined the Toronto St. Patricks, a team later re-named to become the Maple Leafs. Signing Primeau was one of Smythe’s best moves. Primeau’s arrival took a while though, as his game needed polish. Primeau appeared only sparingly in his first two seasons. Most of those two years he spent with the minor league Toronto Ravinas.
Primeau found a permanent spot on the Leafs in 1929-30. The Kid Line appeared and changed hockey history forever. While Jackson and Conacher are remembered for their scoring theatrics, it was Primeau who was the glue of the unit.
Joe Primeau passed away on May 14, 1989 at the age of 83.
John William "Johnny" Bower (born John Kiszkan on November 8, 1924 in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan), nicknamed "The China Wall", is a Hockey Hall of Fame goalie.
Born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Bower served with the Canadian Army during World War II in England from 1940 to 1943 and was discharged due to rheumatoid arthritis. After the war, Bower returned to Prince Albert in 1943 to play junior hockey in Prince Albert and in the AHL — largely for the Cleveland Barons — for eleven seasons in the late 1940s and 1950s, and proved himself the star goaltender of the circuit, winning numerous awards and leading his teams to three Calder Cup championships.
During his first professional year of hockey, he changed his name from John Kishkan to Bower, to make it easier for sports writers.
He was finally picked up by the New York Rangers of the NHL for the 1953–54 season, but was sent back down to the minor leagues the following season. Bower would toil in the minors four more years in Providence (Reds 1945–1946, 1955–1956 and 1956–1957), Vancouver (Canucks 1954–1955), Cleveland (Barons 1945–1953 and 1957–1958) and then again with the Rangers in 1954–1955, before being claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1958 Inter-League Draft. He would play eleven full seasons in all with the Leafs, the remainder of his career.
The height of his NHL career came during the Maple Leafs' three consecutive Stanley Cup victories in the early 1960s — 1962, 1963 and 1964.
After the 1962 victory, Bower complained about Bobby Hull, Chicago Black Hawks left winger and his hard slap shot, improved from that of Montreal Canadiens left-wing Bernie Geoffrion. Bower said, "He needs another shot like I need a hole in the head, which I may get."
His career would be hampered by poor eyesight, but despite that he remained a top-tier goaltender. He was known for his hard-nosed, scrappy playing style and would win another Stanley Cup in 1967 by tandeming with another Hall of Famer (Terry Sawchuk). He is the 2nd oldest goalie to play in the Stanley Cup Final at age 42 years, 5 months, 13 days. Bower claimed, "I wasn't all that glad to see the two-goalie system come in. I wanted to play as many games as I could." But Bower and Sawchuk shared the Vezina Trophy as best NHL netminder in 1964–65. His last full season was 1968–69. In 1969, Johnny became the oldest goaltender to appear in a Stanley Cup playoffs, at 44 years, 5 months, and 28 days. He played a final game in the fall of 1969 and on March 19, 1970, Johnny announced his official retirement - four months after his forty-fifth birthday. When asked, in light of his retirement, if he might reveal his true age, he replied "If you don't know by now, you never will".
His Career statistics include: 552 games played, 250 wins, 195 losses, 90 ties, 37 shutouts, and a 2.51 GAA. In addition, he remains the AHL career shutout leader. Bower was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976, and the AHL Hall of Fame in 2006. In 1998, he was ranked number 87 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players. He was assistant coach for the Leafs from 1976–1978. Bower is also a member of the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame since 1994. In January 2004, Bower was featured on a postage stamp. As part of the NHL All-Stars Collection, Bower was immortalized along with five other All-Stars. In 2005, the Royal Canadian Mint featured Bower on a non-circulating fifty-cent coin, as part of its four-coin Legends of the Toronto Maple Leafs coin set. In 2007, it was announced that Bower would receive a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.
Kenneth Wayne "Ken" Dryden, PC, (born August 8, 1947) is a Canadian politician, lawyer, businessman, author, and former NHL goaltender. Dryden is married with two children and four grandchildren and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was a Liberal Member of Parliament from 2004-2011.
Dryden pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree at Cornell University, where he also played hockey until his graduation in 1969. At Cornell, Dryden led his team, the Cornell Big Red, to the 1967 National Collegiate Athletic Association championship and three consecutive ECAC tournament championships.
Dryden made his NHL debut in 1971 for the Canadiens, playing only six regular-season games after a late-season call-up but sporting a minuscule 1.65 goals-against average. This earned him the number 1 goalie job for the playoffs and the Canadiens rode their hot young goalie to win the Stanley Cup. He then became the backbone of 5 more Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1979.
During that first playoff season, Dryden won the Conn Smythe Trophy (1971), as the playoffs' most valuable player. The following year Dryden won the Calder Trophy, 1972, as the Rookie of the year. In the autumn of 1972 Dryden played for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet national ice hockey team.
His regular season totals include a .790 winning percentage, a 2.24 goals against average, and, most incredibly, winning 258 games and losing only 57 games while recording 46 shutouts in just 397 NHL games.
Dryden was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983. His #29 was retired by the Canadiens on January 29, 2007.
After retiring from hockey Dryden became a dedicated author for a time. His book The Game (1983, ISBN 0-470-83355-6) was a commercial and critical success, being nominated for a Governor General's Award.
Francis Michael "King" Clancy (25 February 1903 – 10 November 1986) was a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman who played 16 seasons in the National Hockey League for the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs before becoming a coach, referee, and team executive.
Clancy's nickname "King" originates from his father, who was the first 'King Clancy' and played football for Ottawa. At the time the football was not snapped as is done today, but was 'heeled' back from the line. Frank's father was very good at this and was named 'King of the Heelers' or 'King' for short. This nickname was eventually transferred to Frank.
Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Clancy played for junior teams in the Ottawa area and began his NHL career in his hometown playing for the Senators, where he would establish himself as among the league's top players and help the Senators to Stanley Cup wins in 1923 and 1927. Although he was one of the smallest defencemen of his era, he was tough and fast and would not back down. According to Brian McFarlane, it was said that King Clancy started a thousand fights and never won one.
During a 31 March, 1923 Stanley Cup game against the Edmonton Eskimos, Clancy became the first hockey player to play all six positions during one game. In the third period, goaltender Clint Benedict was given a two-minute penalty. At the time, goalies served their own penalties. Not wanting to leave the net open, Clancy played goal for the two minutes Benedict was gone.
On 11 October 1930, coming off what would be the most productive season of his career, with 17 goals and 40 points in 44 games with the Senators, Clancy was traded to the Maple Leafs, with Toronto manager Conn Smythe giving up $35,000 and two players for him. In his second season with the Leafs, Clancy helped his team win the Stanley Cup.
After a sluggish start to the 1936–37 season, Clancy announced his retirement just six games into the season. He retired as the top scoring defenceman in NHL history, with 136 career goals.
When you think Montreal Canadiens and the 1971 amateur draft, one name typically comes to mind: Guy Lafleur.
And well it should.
Indeed, The Flower, as Lafleur was known, evolved into one of the greatest Canadiens ever.
But there was another Habs draft pick that year who was also pretty special. His name was Larry Robinson. Selected in the second round, he went on to win nine Stanley Cups, six as a player and three as a coach.
He, too, is regarded as one of the greatest Canadiens ever, at least on the blue line.
Interestingly, as a kid, Robinson never liked the Canadiens.
"I was a Chicago Blackhawks fan," he said in his Hockey Hall of Fame bio. "I really liked their uniforms and Bobby Hull was my idol. The reason I didn't like the Montreal Canadiens was because they won all the time."
And that didn't change during Robinson's time with the Habs.
Robinson, who played his final year of junior hockey with the Kitchener Rangers, went on to become a pillar on that great Canadiens dynasty of the 1970s.
Funny enough, after the draft, the Canadiens were still not high on his list of favorites.
"When I first got drafted, I was kind of disappointed," he continued in his bio. "I had been talking to a few scouts from Los Angeles and a couple of other teams. When I got drafted by Montreal, I looked at the lineup and thought, 'Holy Mackerel, I'm never going to make it with them.'"
That's how deep the Canadiens were on defence and how much seniority meant in their system. Robinson didn't actually play his first game in the NHL until January 8, 1973, when the Canadiens had injury problems. Heck, that spring he wasn't even used in the first round of the playoffs against the Buffalo Sabres. But he was still a Stanley Cup winner that year.
Soon after, the one they called "Big Bird" made his mark on Canadiens teams that were great offensively and among the very best defensively.
With the likes of Robinson, Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard on the blue line, the Habs had four seasons allowing less than 200 goals against and five more at 240 or less during the 1970s. The team won the Stanley Cup six times in that decade.
Big, strong, mobile, skilled and feared by many because of his size, Robinson won two Norris Trophies and was First or Second Team all-star six times.
Born in Winchester, Ontario, Robinson spent 17 years in Montreal and three more with the Los Angeles Kings. Not once did his teams fail to make the playoffs.
Robinson was a presence on the ice in so many different ways. Tall and rangy, he could rush the puck up the ice. He possessed a powerful shot from the point, and was a punishing body checker. Few ever dared to drop the gloves with him.
Indeed, legendary Canadiens goaltender Ken Dryden remembered back to the 1976 Stanley Cup final. The Canadiens were facing the Philadelphia Flyers, also known as the Broad Street Bullies. Dryden reflected on the impact Robinson had on that series, scoring a key goal early in the series and establishing a strong physical presence and push back with his body checking.
"They had to bring hammers and crowbars to fix the dent in the boards," recalled Dryden.
Robinson won his first Norris Trophy in the 1976-77 season, finishing with 19 goals and 85 points. The season after that he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs most valuable player. The second Norris came in 1980 after Robinson amassed 75 points.
Robinson's final Stanley Cup win as a Canadien came in 1986. By the time he left the Habs in 1989, Robinson was offensively the best Canadiens' defenceman ever, regular season and playoffs.
He won another Cup, this time as a coach, with the New Jersey Devils in 2000.
"Considering how long I played hockey and how many Cups I got to win as a defenceman with Montreal, it was my first Stanley Cup win as a head coach that is actually my greatest day in hockey," said Robinson.
Not surprisingly, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2007, his number 19 was raised to the rafters in the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Lionel Pretoria Conacher, MP (May 24, 1900 – May 26, 1954), nicknamed "The Big Train", was Canada's top all-around athlete in the 1920s, excelling in Canadian football, ice hockey, lacrosse, baseball, boxing and wrestling. He later became a politician and was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the Canadian House of Commons.
Conacher was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1900. He grew up in poverty and was one of ten children. His father was a Toronto teamster. Lionel quit school after the 8th grade to help support his family. He soon realized that sports offered a way out of poverty. He then pursued athletic success.
Junior football and rugby
Lionel first played organized football from 1912-1916 with a Toronto junior team, the Capitals, where he played middle wing (offensive tackle). Canadian football was different then from what it is today. There were fourteen players a side and a touchdown was worth only five points (as it had been in the U. S. before 1912). The Capital won the city championship each year Conacher was a member of the team. In 1919 he played halfback on the Ontario Rugby Football Union's (ORFU) Capitals. In 1920 Conochar joined the Toronto Rugby Club in the senior division of the ORFU.
He went on to play for the Toronto Argonauts, and was part of the 1921 Grey Cup winning team. This was the first Grey Cup game ever played between the eastern and western champions. Lionel scored two touchdowns for the Argonauts. The very next season Lionel was named as team captain of the Argonauts. The team went undefeated again, with one tied game. Conacher rushed for 950 yards, in six regular-season games, including 215 yards on eight carries against Ottawa. Conacher only played two season with the Argonauts. While he played for them, the team was 15-1-1 in regular-season and play-off competition, winning one Grey Cup. He also set a season record by scoring 33 singles, including eight on 25 punts in another game versus Ottawa. This record still holds today, even though Canadian teams now play sixteen games instead of six.
Canadian Pro Football
By 1932, Conacher was a professional in four sports and ineligible to play Canadian football, which was still exclusively amateur. Therefore in 1933, he organized the first professional football league in Canada. He played halfback and captained the Toronto Crosse and Blackwell Chefs. The team was named for its sponsor, a food products company. The Chefs played teams from Rochester and Buffalo. In 1934 Conacher's team was called the Wrigley Aromints, because of a change of sponsors, this year marked his last year in football.
In 1963 Lionel Conacher was chosen as one of the charter members of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. However while football was Lionel's favorite sport, it did not pay well in the 1920s and 30's. However hockey did pay well and Conacher began to play more hockey games.
From 1925 to 1937, Conacher played in the National Hockey League with the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Americans, Chicago Blackhawks, and Montreal Maroons. Winning the Stanley Cup in 1934 with the Chicago Blackhawks, and 1935 with the Montreal Maroons.
Hockey was Conacher's weakest sport. Conacher didn't start skating until he was 16 years old. However he quickly learned the skill while with the Toronto Century Rovers and the Aura Lee Athletic Club. He then joined the Toronto Canoe Club juniors in 1919-20. The club captured both the Ontario Hockey Associations junior crown and the Memorial Cup that season. Conacher then returned to the Aura Lees to play for their senior team for two years.
In 1922, Conacher played hockey for the North Toronto Seniors and he was in the line-up on February 8, 1923, in the first hockey match ever broadcast on radio. At this stage, Conacher was so highly regarded that the Toronto St. Pats and Montreal Canadiens both invited him to play in the NHL. That year while still active in amateur baseball, hockey and lacrosse, Lionel turned down an offer by Montreal Canadians manager, Leo Dandurand, to turn pro. Dandurand is reported to have offered Conacher $5,000 plus help in setting up his own business.
In 1924 and 1925, Conacher captained the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets as they won consecutive United States Amateur Hockey Association titles. The following year the Yellow Jackets became the expansion Pittsburgh Pirates of the NHL. He was instrumental in keeping most of the Yellow Jackets together when the team went professional.
Conacher went professional when he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1925. He was soon named the team's captain and scored the first goal in franchise history, against the Boston Bruins on November 26. On December 2, in front of 8,200 fans, Lionel also scored the Pirates first goal in Pittsburgh.
In 1927 Conacher was traded to the New York Americans, where he played four seasons and played alongside defencemen Leo Reise and Bill Brydge. In 1929 until 1930, Conacher served as the Americans player-coach.
Conacher joined the Montreal Maroons for the 1931 season. His time with the team included a career-best 28 points in 1932-33. He then joined the Chicago Blackhawks for the 1933 season, and was a key figure in the club's first-ever Stanley Cup victory that season. He finished second to the Canadiens' Aurel Joliat in the voting for the Hart Trophy and earned a spot on the NHL's First All-Star Team.
The next season, Conacher returned to the Maroons, where he'd spend his last three NHL seasons and won his second Stanley Cup in 1935. He ended his hockey career after the Maroons were eliminated from the playoffs by the New York Rangers on April 23, 1937. That final year he was runner-up to Babe Siebert in the 1937 Hart Trophy voting and was placed on the NHL Second All-Star Team.
In 1920, Lionel hit the game-winning home run to give his team the Toronto semipro baseball crown, then promptly took a taxi across the city and scored four goals for his lacrosse team, which was losing 3-0 when he arrived. In 1926, he played professional baseball as an outfielder for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League. His team won the pennant and the Triple A championship.
In 1920 Lionel won the Canadian amateur light heavyweight boxing title. In 1921 Lionel boxed a four-round exhibition with Jack Dempsey.
Lionel also played lacrosse for the Toronto Maitlands, and helped guide that team to the Ontario Senior Lacrosse championship in 1922. In 1931, Conacher became professional in a third sport when he played for the Montreal Maroons in the International Indoor Professional Lacrosse League. In 1965, he was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
In 1916 Conacher won the amateur lightweight wrestling championship of Ontario in the 125 pound weight class at age 16 year old. After training with Ali Hassan, he made his pro debut in May 1932 for Toronto promoter Ivan Mickailoff. Conacher went 27-0 as a pro wrestler in Canada and the United States in 1933 and never lost a match in his career.
Paul Coffey was born in Weston, Ontario. He played in the Toronto minor hockey system and moved up to the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. Coffey was drafted in the 1st round, 6th overall in 1980 by the Edmonton Oilers. By his second season, Coffey had emerged as one of the premier offensive defenseman in the NHL. He was a fast and graceful skater with an amazing knack for scoring points. He scored over 100 points five times in his career, including two 40+ goal seasons in Edmonton.
Coffey's stay in Edmonton was short-lived as he was unable to re-negotiate his contract in 1987. He was traded along with Dave Hunter and Wayne Van Dorp to the Pittsburgh Penguins, playing on an emerging offensive powerhouse featuring Mario Lemieux. He led the Pens to their first every Stanley Cup championship in 1991 but was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings the following season. Paul Coffey would play in LA for one more season before being dealt to the Detroit Red Wings.
In the twilight of his career, Coffey was no stranger to trades and signings as he made his way around the league playing with the Hartford Whalers, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes, and the Boston Bruins. Even though he played more games with teams other than the Edmonton Oilers, Paul Coffey is still associated with the high scoring Oiler teams of the early 1980s.
Coffey is currently the highest scoring defenseman in NHL history and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004. The Edmonton Oilers retired Coffey's number 7 during a ceremony held at the Rexall Centre on October 18, 2005.
Paul Henderson (born January 28, 1943 in Kincardine, Ontario, Canada) is a retired Canadian hockey left winger who played 13 seasons in the National Hockey League for the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs and Atlanta Flames. He grew up in Lucknow, Ontario and is best known for scoring the winning goal against the USSR in game eight of the 1972 Summit Series.
Henderson is best known for scoring hockey's most famous goal (a.k.a. the Goal of the Century), helping Team Canada clinch the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union in the last couple of seconds of the final game.
Paul Henderson played his junior career with the Hamilton Red Wings of the OHA from 1960 to 1963. He would help lead Hamilton to the Memorial Cup title in 1962.
Henderson played 13 seasons in the NHL. He began his career in 1962 with the Detroit Red Wings, staying there until 1968 (with the exception of the 1963 season, when he played for the Pittsburgh Hornets of the AHL). He was traded by Detroit with Norm Ullman and Floyd Smith to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Frank Mahovlich, Garry Unger, Pete Stemkowski and the contract rights to Carl Brewer on March 3, 1968.
He was among the NHL players selected to compete against the USSR in the 1972 Summit Series. He became famous in Canada after scoring the winning goals in the final three games of the eight-game series, securing the Canadian victory. He also played for Canada in the 1974 Summit Series in which Canadian WHA players were pitted against the Soviet team.
In 1974 Henderson left the Maple Leafs and the NHL altogether, jumping to the rival WHA where he played for the Toronto Toros. He remained with the Toros franchise after its relocation to Birmingham, Alabama and re-named the Birmingham Bulls. He stayed with the team when it transferred to the CHL in 1979.
He returned to the NHL in 1980 for one final season, playing for the Atlanta Flames. The following season he returned to the CHL's Birmingham Bulls and retired in 1981.
Philip Anthony "Espo" Esposito, OC (born February 20, 1942) is a retired professional hockey centre who played 18 seasons in the National Hockey League for the Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. He is an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and is considered to be one of the best to have ever played in the National Hockey League.
Esposito signed with the Chicago Black Hawks as a teenager, and after a sparkling junior season with the St. Catharines Teepees of the Ontario Hockey Association in 1962, spent two seasons with Chicago’s minor league affiliate, the St. Louis Braves, scoring 90 points in his first season and 80 points in only 46 games in his second.
Midway through the 1964 season, Esposito was called up to the parent Black Hawks to make his NHL debut. Centering for the great Bobby Hull beginning in the 1965 season, he proved himself a quality playmaker, twice finishing amongst the league-leading scorers over the next three seasons.
In 1967, he was dealt to the Boston Bruins in a blockbuster trade, along with Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield. While the hitherto unremarkable Hodge and Stanfield became stars in the black-and-gold, Esposito blossomed into the greatest scorer of his day, becoming the first NHL player to score 100 points in a season with 126 in the 1969 season. He would top the "century" mark six times in all, including five consecutive seasons between 1971 and 1975 (plus a 99-point season in 1970). Esposito would also capture the Art Ross Trophy in 1969 and 1971–74 as the top regular season scorer. Esposito was named to the NHL’s First All-Star team six consecutive times (from 1969–74), and won the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player in 1969 and 1974. His Boston fans printed and displayed bumper stickers during his best years to celebrate his scoring: they read, "Jesus saves, Espo scores on the rebound." Esposito, while not a fast or graceful skater, was best known for his unmovable presence in front of the opposition net from which he could score from all angles. Esposito has said: "Scoring is easy. You simply stand in the slot, take your beating and shoot the puck into the net."
During these great years, centering one of the most renowned forward lines in history with Hodge on right wing and left winger Wayne Cashman, Esposito and fellow superstar Bobby Orr led the Bruins to Stanley Cup victories in 1970 and 1972, and first-place finishes in the league in 1971, 1972, and 1974.
During 1970–71, Esposito shattered the record for most goals scored in a season when he finished up with 76. This record stood until 1982 when Wayne Gretzky scored his 77th, 78th and 79th goal against the Buffalo Sabres on February 24, 1982 at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. Esposito was on hand to present the game puck to Gretzky. Esposito also set the single season point-scoring record in 1971 with 152, a mark likewise now held by Gretzky. Only three other players have reached the 150 point-scoring plateau — Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Bernie Nicholls — and only Gretzky, Lemieux, Brett Hull, Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny have scored 76 or more goals in a season. That season also saw Esposito shatter the single season mark for shots on goal with 550, an unsurpassed mark which only one other player has approached within a hundred (Alexander Ovechkin in 2008–09).
After his performance in the Summit Series, where he was the inspirational captain for Team Canada and its leading scorer in the series, he won the 1972 Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s outstanding male athlete of the year and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. Esposito also scored the first goal of the series and he scored or assisted four times in the deciding game. During that series, his scolding of Canadian fans, who booed the national team after a 5–3 loss to the Soviet Union in Game Four, was credited with firing up his teammates: "If the Russian fans boo their players in Moscow like you people are booing us, I’ll come back and apologize personally to every one of you, but I really don’t think that will happen. We gave it and are doing our best. All of us guys are really disheartened. . . . We came out here because we love Canada. They’re a good hockey team, and we don’t know what we could do better, but I promise we will figure it out. But it’s totally ridiculous — I don’t think it is fair that we should be booed."
He also played for Team Canada in the inaugural Canada Cup in 1976, on a line with Hall of Famers Bobby Hull and Marcel Dionne. The following year, Esposito would represent Canada once more in the 1977 World Championships.
On November 4, 1977, Esposito scored his 600th NHL goal at Vancouver, becoming the first player to reach that milestone in a Rangers uniform. He retired in 1981, then only second to Gordie Howe in career goals and total points, and third in assists to Howe and Stan Mikita.
George "Punch" Imlach (March 15, 1918 – December 1, 1987), was an NHL coach and general manager. He is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Born in Toronto, Imlach attended Riverdale Collegiate Institute and played junior hockey in the OHA for the Toronto Young Rangers (1935–38) and senior hockey with the Toronto Goodyears (1938–40) and the Toronto Marlboros (1940–41). He enlisted in the army during World War II, where he coached for the first time, with an army team in Cornwall, Ontario.
In July 1958, at the age of 40, the Toronto Maple Leafs hired Imlach as one of the team's two assistant general managers, along with King Clancy.
Imlach was known as a harsh taskmaster who frequently abused his players verbally and physically. He had a preference for older players, many of whom were his strongest supporters as they felt Imlach was giving them their last chance at winning the Stanley Cup. By contrast, many younger players, such as Frank Mahovlich, chafed at Imlach's autocratic coaching style.
Imlach took over a team that had finished last the previous season and was mired in last place again at the time he took over for Reay. However, the team staged a strong run late in the season and finished a point ahead of the New York Rangers for fourth place, allowing them to squeeze into the playoffs. They defeated the favoured Boston Bruins in the first round before losing to the league-leading Montreal Canadiens in five games in the Stanley Cup Finals. Three years later, Imlach led the Leafs to their first Stanley Cup in 11 years. He won three more Cups in 1963, 1964 and 1967.
In February 1964, he traded Dick Duff, Bob Nevin and three young prospects – Rod Seiling, Arnie Brown and Bill Collins – to the Rangers for Andy Bathgate and Don McKenney. While Bathgate and McKenney played key roles in the Leafs' Cup win that year, Imlach may have traded away the Leafs' future in the process. Nevin played a major role in the Rangers' resurgence in the late 1960s, while Duff won four more Cups with the Canadiens. The players acquired by the Leafs were both gone following the next season. In the 1965 intra-league draft, Imlach left Gerry Cheevers, a young goaltending prospect, unprotected. He was snapped up by the Boston Bruins and went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career there.
Following expansion of the NHL from six teams to 12 for the 1967–68 season, the Leafs struggled and Imlach responded by pulling off another big trade. In February 1968, he sent Mahovlich, 20-year-old Garry Unger, Pete Stemkowski and the rights to Carl Brewer to the Detroit Red Wings for Paul Henderson, Norm Ullman and Floyd Smith. Two months later, he sent 28-year-old Jim Pappin to the Chicago Black Hawks, where he would become one of that team's top scorers. In December 1968, Imlach was asked by Stafford Smythe to give the coaching job to John McLellan, but Imlach refused and told Smythe to fire him or leave him alone. During the season, Mike Walton walked out on the team, saying he wouldn't play for Imlach again. He returned about a week later. On April 6, 1969, minutes after an early and embarrassing playoff elimination at the hands of the Boston Bruins, Imlach was fired by the Leafs. He still had a year remaining on his contract, which paid him about $35,000 a year. In the dressing room after the announcement was made, veteran Leafs Johnny Bower and Tim Horton both said they would leave with Imlach (they both returned the following season, although neither would remain with the Leafs for long). Imlach's assistant, Clancy, had previously said that he would walk away if Imlach was fired, but he was persuaded to stay with the team. Jim Gregory was immediately announced as Imlach's replacement as general manager.
After being fired by the Leafs, it was expected that Imlach would join the NHL's new Vancouver franchise. Imlach, Joe Crozier, and Foster Hewitt had become partners in the Vancouver Canucks of the Western Hockey League and were in line to become owners of the Vancouver NHL team. But they didn't have the financial resources to buy the team, which went to Medical Investment Corporation (Medicor). Medicor bought the WHL Canucks for $2.8 million, with Imlach making a reported gain of more than $250,000. He was offered a job with the NHL Canucks, but instead accepted an offer from the NHL's other expansion team, the Buffalo Sabres, as their first coach and general manager in 1970.
Over his career, Imlach amassed a coaching record of 423 wins, 373 losses and 163 ties to go along with four Stanley Cups. His 365 wins with the Leafs are still the best in franchise history. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 1984.