43 Years Ago: The Biggest Romp

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Jan. 2) – Perhaps on New Year’s Day, 2057, hockey pundits around here will be reflecting nostalgically on the first-ever Bridgestone Winter Classic involving a Canadian team: Wednesday’s 3-2 shoot-out win by the Maple Leafs over Detroit at University of Michigan Stadium. Barring the medical phenomenon of all time – just more than a month removed from my 99th birthday – yours truly will not be amid the pundits.

I can, however, remember 43 years backward from this date – watching on TV as an 11-year-old what is still the most lop-sided shutout victory in the annals of the Blue and White. A specific memory is leaving my recreation room to pee late in the third period and missing two goals. Astonishing is the only word to describe the 13-0 Toronto obliteration of Detroit at Maple Leaf Gardens on Jan. 2, 1971. It remains deadlocked for the biggest landslide triumph in Leafs history with a 14-1 massacre of the New York Rangers at the Gardens on Mar. 16, 1957.

The 1970-71 season was a time of misery for the Red Wings. Franchise legends Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio were still in uniform – playing for arguably the most unpopular coach in Detroit sports history. Ned Harkness had been elevated from Cornell University in Ithica, N.Y. after leading Ken Dryden and Co. to the 1970 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s hockey title (the tournament was in Lake Placid). He quickly discovered the dissimilarities between college and professional players – quarreling non-stop with Howe, Delvecchio and former Leaf Frank Mahovlich. After just 38 games, and with a dismal 12-22-4 record, he was fired and replaced by Doug Barkley. The brief juncture in Red Wings history is remembered for the phrase “Darkness With Harkness.”

The ’70-71 Maple Leafs were in the midst of rebounding from a horrible 4-13-1 start to the season. When Detroit came to town, Jan. 2, the Leafs were blazing along with a 9-1-0 record in their previous ten games, including a 9-1 demolition of Philadelphia at the Gardens a week earlier. Leafs were led by Hall of Fame goalie Jacques Plante; long-time captain George Armstrong (in his final NHL season) and fellow veterans Dave Keon, Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson and Bob Baun. Prized rookie Darryl Sittler – chosen eighth overall from London of the Ontario Hockey Association – would score 10 goals in 49 games, primarily on left wing (his great years as a Leaf, in the mid-to-late-70’s, would be at center).

Bill Hewitt and one-time Leaf defenseman Bob Goldham were in the gondola at Maple Leaf Gardens to call the Detroit at Toronto encounter of Jan. 2, 1971 on Hockey Night In Canada. Several years ago, a rather sketchy videotape of the game was televised on Leafs-TV (the in-house network owned and operated by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment). Courtesy of my trusty Nikon, here are various CBC images from that record Leaf performance 43 years ago tonight:

HAVING OPENED THE SCORING IN THE FIRST PERIOD, NORM ULLMAN (9, TOP-LEFT) IS CONGRATULATED BY TEAMMATES JIM McKENNY (18), RON ELLIS (6), DAVE KEON (14) AND PAUL HENDERSON (IN HELMET-MASK). GOALIE DON (SMOKEY) McLEOD WAS THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB FOR 10 OF THE 13 TORONTO GOALS. VETERAN ROY EDWARDS STARTED FOR THE RED WINGS AND ALLOWED THE FIRST THREE, INCLUDING THE 2-0 GOAL (TOP-RIGHT) BY LEAFS DEFENSEMAN MIKE PELYK.

EMAIL RECEIVED THIS MORNING FROM MIKE PELYK: Howard: It was a blast, but guys felt sorry for Detroit after the game. Alex, Gordie, Frank left the bench after the 1st shift of the 3rdperiod –walked into the dressing room. Smokey McLeod got no help. I played with him in Vancouver of the WHA. He was a very good goalie—probably the best puck handler ever in my mind—and with a withered leg. Great to see you in Detroit—MP4.

    

KEON CLOSED OUT THE FIRST-PERIOD SCORING (TOP-LEFT) AND SITTLER FIRED A SHOT PAST McLEOD (TOP-MIDDLE/RIGHT) EARLY IN THE SECOND FOR A 4-0 LEAF LEAD.

SITTLER CONNECTED AGAIN (TOP-LEFT) AND IT WAS 5-0 – DETROIT CAPTAIN ALEX DELVECCHIO (TOP-RIGHT) SKATING DEJECTEDLY PAST McLEOD.

HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA FLASHED AN UPDATE FROM THE CALIFORNIA AT MONTREAL GAME BENEATH THE GARDENS SCORE-CLOCK AND PAUL HENDERSON (19) THEN FINISHED THE SECOND-PERIOD MAPLE LEAF BLITZ ON McLEOD (6-0 TORONTO).

AFTER GIVING DEFENSEMAN RICK LEY (2) HELL, JACQUES PLANTE WAS INJURED IN A LATE SECOND-PERIOD PILE-UP (TOP-RIGHT) – DETROIT’S HANK MONTEITH (19) LANDING ON THE GOALIE AS GEORGE ARMSTRONG (10) AND BOB BAUN (21) ARRIVE LATE. BACK-UP BRUCE GAMBLE (BOTTOM-RIGHT) CAME IN TO START THE FINAL FRAME.

   

LEAFS SCORED SEVEN GOALS IN THE THIRD PERIOD – THE FINAL FOUR IN A 2:27 SPAN. ROOKIE BILL MacMILLAN’S SECOND OF CONSECUTIVE MARKERS (TOP-LEFT) MADE IT 8-0 AND LINE-MATE GARRY MONAHAN THEN CARRIED THE PUCK OVER CENTER-ICE AND BEAT McLEOD WITH A 63-FOOT SLAPSHOT (TOP-RIGHT) FROM OUTSIDE THE BLUE LINE.

IT WAS AN AWFUL NIGHT FOR GORDIE HOWE (TOP-LEFT) AND FORMER LEAF FRANK MAHOVLICH (TOP-RIGHT), BOTH OF WHOM RETIRED EARLY TO THE DRESSING ROOM.

    

HENDERSON SCORED TO MAKE IT 10-0 BY SHIFTING PAST McLEOD ON HIS BACKHAND (TOP-LEFT) AND WAS CONGRATULATED BY TEAMMATES ULLMAN (9) AND BAUN (21).

ULLMAN SCORED FROM THE LEFT-WING CIRCLE WITH HENDERSON CROSSING IN FRONT OF McLEOD (ABOVE). ROOKIE BRIAN SPENCER (15) RECORDED HIS FIRST NHL GOAL 28 SECONDS LATER (BOTTOM-LEFT) AND WAS HANDED THE SOUVENIR PUCK BY TEAMMATE BRIAN GLENNIE (24). THESE WERE THE GOALS I MISSED WHILE RELIEVING MYSELF.

AFTER A LATE-GAME FACE-OFF NEAR CENTER-ICE, LEAFS ROOKIE JIM HARRISON ENDED THE CARNAGE (TOP-RIGHT) RATHER APPROPRIATELY BY BANKING A PASS FROM THE CORNER OFF THE SKATE OF RED WINGS DEFENSEMAN SERGE LAJUNESSE.

  

THIRD-PERIOD LEAFS BLITZKRIEG

Bill MacMillan (Jim Dorey, Bob Baun) 0:41.

Bill MacMillan (Dave Keon, Jim Dorey) 4:25.

Garry Monahan (Mike Pelyk, Dave Keon) 7:59.

Paul Henderson (Norm Ullman) 15:38.

Norm Ullman (George Armstrong, Paul Henderson) 16:48.

Brian Spencer (Darryl Sittler, Jim Harrison) 17:16.

Jim Harrison (Unassisted) 18:05.

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