No one expected the 1967 Maple Leafs to win the Stanley Cup and no one expected that it might never happen again! The Leafs themselves that year knew they were flawed. They were mostly old, erratic, tired and had a poisonous relationship with their coach and general manager “Punch” Imlach. They lost the first game of the playoffs against the highly favoured Chicago Black Hawks but then the magic began as the goaltending of 42-year old Johnny Bower and 37-year old Terry Sawchuk turned back a dispirited Hawks team.
In the final, the Leafs faced the Montreal Canadiens, who had just won 15 straight games. The determined Dave Keon won the MVP Award for his all-round play and captain George Armstrong put the final game on ice with an open-net goal.
The aftermath of that victory was a vindictive demolition of the champion by Imlach that has not been healed to this day. His treatment of Larry Hillman, the outstanding defenseman of the playoffs, was so bad that the player put a hex on the Leafs. During contract renewals that spring, Imlach refused Hillman’s request, low-balled him on the counter-offer, and fined him $2,400 for refusing the contract offer. Hillman declared that the team would not win another Cup until they reimbursed him the fine plus interest. After 45 years of frustration, the curse seems intact.
By James Marsh