Happy Anniversar(ies)?

TORONTO (Aug. 4) — The Toronto Maple Leafs will celebrate their 100th season in the National Hockey League 15 years after commemorating their 75th anniversary. Even a mathematical klutz like me can determine that a decade has somehow gone missing between franchise milestones.

Unlike other Leaf mysteries, however, this one is easily solved.

The Toronto hockey club was a charter member of the NHL upon the league being organized in November 1917. As such, the up–coming 2016–17 schedule will represent its 100th year of existence (actually, its 99th playing season, when factoring in the labor–forced cancellation of 2004–05). For the first ten years, the franchise was known as the Arenas and St. Pat’s. Only when a group led by Conn Smythe bought the team late in the 1926–27 season did it become known as the Maple Leafs. The actual date of the name–change was Feb. 17, 1927, when Smythe finalized the purchase. His club, that night, defeated the New York Americans, 4–1, at the old Mutual Street Arena. The 2001–02 season (as indicated on the media guide cover, below) was therefore the “Maple Leafs” 75th anniversary… and the 85th year of the franchise.

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The Leafs, next season, will play on the 99th anniversary of the franchise’s first game. Formed in Montreal on Nov. 26, 1917, the NHL had four charter members: the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Arenas. The first games were held on Dec. 19, 1917, including a 10–9 home–ice victory by the Wanderers over Toronto. It would be the lone meeting between the clubs as the Wanderers’ home–rink — Westmount Arena — burned to the ground on Jan. 2, 1918, thus dissolving the franchise after only four NHL games. On Dec. 19, 2016 (a Monday night), the Leafs host Anaheim at the Air Canada Centre.

One might expect a more traditional opponent for the club’s 100th anniversary on Dec. 19, 2017.

This indicates, of course, that another “Centennial” will likely be commemorated in the 2026–27 season — the 100th anniversary of the club being called the Maple Leafs. Will it also be the 60th anniversary of the team’s last Stanley Cup triumph? Or, might the longest NHL drought end in the interim?

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THE 1976–77 TORONTO MEDIA GUIDE (LEFT) RECOGNIZED THE GOLDEN (OR 50th) ANNIVERSARY OF THE CHANGE FROM ST. PAT’S TO MAPLE LEAFS. FIFTEEN YEARS LATER, IN 1991–92, THE NUMBER ’75’ APPEARED ON THE COVER TO COMMEMORATE THE 1917 BIRTH OF THE FRANCHISE AND THE NHL.

SUMMER OF ’66

So, what was happening in hockey 50 years ago? In the summer of 1966, much of the talk surrounded expansion of the National Hockey League — still more than a year away. The six incoming teams (California Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues) were piecing together front–office personnel and building new arenas.

Here are stories and photos from the July and August 1966 issues of THE HOCKEY NEWS:

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EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

One comment on “Happy Anniversar(ies)?

  1. Great read Howard!
    Was it not on February 14, 1927 the franchise became the “Maple Leafs”? And that Feb. 17 of that year was the date of their first victory?
    I enjoyed the story of “Busher” and his passing as seen in the Hockey News, a player whom may one day have his statue on Legends Row, along with Charlie and “Gentleman” Joe Primeau.
    Finally, clarity on the Maple Leafs 100th Anniversary, thanks Howard!
    Also, Flyers/Leafs playoff tapes, I still would dearly love to have them (I mean copies), I like you was there for all the action! What a series, what drama, both on and off the ice.

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