Category Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

A very specific period where Montreal isn’t the villain

This is going to be weird to admit, but it seems like it’s time to come clean:

It took me a long time to actually hate the Montreal Canadiens. Blame it on a combination of a great sweater, a storied history and current events, and they didn’t seem much different to me than the Quebec Nordiques, for whom I still have a soft spot.

As villains, they had nothing on the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had knocked Boston out of the 1991 Wales conference finals and, in the process, Ulf Samuelsson took it upon himself to upend Cam Neely’s career with a low cheapshot to the knee. The fine tradition of Penguins ruining the careers of Bruins is one that would carry on later, of course, but that’s another discussion.

No, in the early 1990s, knowledgable about the rivalry but entering the picture just as Boston began knocking Patrick Roy and company out of the playoffs every year they met, that kind of intense dislike didn’t register. I was already starting collect hockey books, and instead, there was this deep history that was fascinating, running from Georges Vezina and Howie Morenz to Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau to Yvan Cournoyer and Guy Lafleur. Continue reading

I stole this from a hockey card

I’ve gone through a revival with the Tragically Hip in the past couple of years. I’d seen them live about a decade ago and kept a few of their albums close, but obviously, the news about Gord Downie’s condition and ultimate fate spurred a re-inspection.

In what’s sure to not be a shocker, there was a lot more there than I’d initially found all those years ago. There was a depth to the lyrics that was much richer than I’d realized, the music was at once involved and catchy … the Tragically Hip was a goddamn great band. This shouldn’t be breaking news to anyone who cares about rock and roll.

Obviously, a song that’s captured my attention in the past year is “Fifty Mission Cap.” It’s one I knew, but I clearly listened to Day for Night a lot more than Fully Completely. So it found its hooks into me in a new way — I catch myself singing it to myself constantly now, and I also decided to finally dig into the story. And so we meet Bill Barilko, a 24-year-old defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs who scored the decisive goal in the 1951 Stanley Cup Finals against the Montreal Canadiens. In a still that almost previews Bobby Orr’s famous, Cup-clinching goal 19 years later, Barilko is seen lunging forward on a loose puck, firing it past Montreal’s Gerry McNeil. Continue reading