Toronto Maple Leafs
Supported by an extremely loyal fan base, the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club is one of the most successful sport franchises in North America. The team was among the earliest franchises of the National Hockey League (NHL), and one of only two Canadian teams to survive the interwar years. Under the leadership of Conn Smythe, the former St. Patricks team became the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1927. Smythe built Maple Leaf Gardens in the heart of the Depression and co-owned and managed the team from 1927 to 1961. The team won 13 Stanley Cup Championships from 1918 to 1967, enjoyed two dynasties in the 1940s and the 1960s, and fostered numerous hockey legends. The first Canadian hockey team to produce nation-wide broadcasts of their games, which featured the voice of famed announcer Foster Hewitt, the Leafs helped create Hockey Night in Canada, an enduring Canadian cultural and sporting tradition.
Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club has its origins in several early professional teams, including the Arenas and the St. Patricks, and joined the newly formed NHL in 1917. The NHL, although created in Canada, became increasingly dominated by American business interests. Only two Canadian teams – the Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens – survived the lean years of the 1920s and 1930s when many NHL teams moved, merged, or went bankrupt. Toronto forged its identity as the only English Canadian team, especially after legendary Toronto investor, businessman, and athlete Conn Smythe saved it from being sold to Philadelphia in 1927. Changing the name to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Smythe promoted the classic rivalry between the Leafs and the Canadiens. With announcer Foster Hewitt, they exploited commercial radio and helped create the popular Hockey Night in Canada program on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
In November 1932, the Toronto Maple Leafs played their first game in Maple Leaf Gardens, and with the “kid line” of Charlie Conacher, Joe Primeau, and Busher Jackson, went on to win their first franchise Stanley Cup that season. The team won ten more between 1942 and 1967. The popular Francis Michael “King” Clancy arrived from the financially troubled Ottawa Senators in the 1920s, and other star players included Howie Meeker and Red Kelly. In the 1940s, goaltender Turk Broda and players Syl Apps and Ted Kennedy delighted fans, and in the 1960s, coach Punch Imlach led a team dominated by Frank Mahovlich, Johnny Bower, Dave Keon, Tim Horton, and Bobby Baun. They won four Stanley Cups (1962, 1963, 1964, and 1967). Since the NHL expansion in 1967, and the controversial rule of Harold Ballard, the Leafs have not yet won another Cup. Still, this has not deterred the loyalty of Leaf's fan base. The team is a financial success with a past that evokes an inspiring story of survival, and it appeals to the firmly held conviction among Canadian hockey fans that hockey is Canada's game.