Hockey player
Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player, ca. 1920
© Library and Archives Canada / Photographer unknown

The Toronto Maple Leafs were designated as a national historic event in 2018.

Historical importance: The establishment of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team.

Commemorative plaque: 40 Bay Street, Toronto, OntarioFootnote 1

The Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club traces its origins to one of the first teams to compete in the National Hockey League, formed in 1917. Known by 1918 as the Arenas, it became the St. Patrick’s Hockey Club, which co-owner and manager Conn Smythe renamed the Maple Leafs in 1927. During the Great Depression, he commissioned the building of Maple Leaf Gardens, where announcer Foster Hewitt continued play-by-play broadcasts, bringing the Leafs national attention. One of the most storied major-league sports clubs in North America, Toronto’s NHL team won 13 Stanley Cup championships between 1918 and 1967.

 

 

 

Action shot of two teams playing hockey on ice
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens, Action shot, January 18, 1964
© Weekend Magazine / Louis Jaques / Library and Archives Canada / e002505695
Action shot of two teams playing hockey on ice
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens, Action shot, January 18, 1964
© Weekend Magazine / Louis Jaques / Library and Archives Canada / e002505696

The Toronto Maple Leafs

Supported by an extremely loyal fan base, the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club, also known as the Toronto Maple Leafs, is one of the most storied major-league sports clubs in North America. The team was among the earliest members of the National Hockey League (NHL), and one of only two Canadian teams in the league to survive the interwar years. Under the leadership of Conn Smythe, the former St. Patrick’s Hockey Club became the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1927. Smythe, who built Maple Leaf Gardens during the Great Depression, co-owned the team from 1927 to 1961, serving as manager for much of that time. Toronto’s NHL team won 13 Stanley Cup championships from 1918 to 1967, enjoyed two dynasties in the 1940s and the 1960s, and fostered numerous hockey legends. Broadcasts of the team’s games brought it national attention. Famed announcer Foster Hewitt called Leafs games on radio and later on the popular televised program Hockey Night in Canada.

Hockey players holding a trophy
Toronto was awarded the Stanley Cup, seen with veteran centre George Armstrong, after winning the final playoff game against the Montreal Canadiens in Maple Leaf Gardens, May 2, 1967.
© Library and Archives Canada / Accession number: 1968-074 NPC

The Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club traces its origins to one of the first teams to compete in the NHL, which was formed in 1917. By 1918, the team, which played at Arena Gardens, was known as the Arenas, before becoming the St. Patrick’s Hockey Club the following year. The team won the Stanley Cup in 1918 and 1922. In 1927, legendary Toronto investor, businessman, and athlete Conn Smythe renamed the team the Maple Leafs when he saved it from being sold to Philadelphia. The NHL, although created in Canada, expanded into the United States in the 1920s and then became increasingly dominated by American business interests. Only two Canadian teams in the league – the Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens – survived the lean years of the 1920s and 1930s when many NHL teams moved, merged, or went bankrupt. During this time, the Leafs forged its identity as the only English-Canadian team.

 

Bronze commemorative plaque
Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada commemorative plaque for Toronto Maple Leafs National Historic Event

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 the Stanley Cup that season. The team won ten more championships: in 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1967, bringing the total number of Stanley Cup wins for Toronto’s NHL team to 13. In the 1940s, goaltender Turk Broda and players Syl Apps and Ted Kennedy delighted fans with their on-ice success, and in the 1960s, coach Punch Imlach led a team dominated by Frank Mahovlich, Johnny Bower, Dave Keon, Tim Horton, and Bobby Baun. Today, the Leafs’ fan base remains fiercely loyal to their team.

Backgrounder last update: 2018-09-26

 

Related information about this designation:

The National Program of Historical Commemoration relies on the participation of Canadians in the identification of places, events and persons of national historic significance. Any member of the public can nominate a topic for consideration by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

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