The Maple Leafs Have 10 Seasons, Or They’re Removed From the Cup

On Tuesday this week, I had the great opportunity to speak with the legendary Toronto Maple Leafs right-winger Ron Ellis on the phone. How we happened to talk is a bit of a long story, but talk we did. First, what a fine gentleman – he had plenty of time for me, and we had a really nice conversation. Second, how nice for an old-timer like myself to talk to another old-timer like Ron. We shared lots of memories of hockey in the 1950s and 1960s.

One thing that Ron told me that he was pleased about was having the opportunity to play in an NHL that included only the Original Six. As he noted, hockey was much different then and he was reliving how hard it was – back in the day – to even break into the NHL. It was the first time I had considered how different life would be with only six teams and perhaps 120 total players to the NHL today that has 31 teams and more than 700 players. It was, as Ron said, much more difficult to break into the league.

Then, of course, I was reminded of the Maple Leafs last Stanley Cup win. That, as all Maple Leafs fans know too well, was the 1966-67 season – the last season of the Original Six. The NHL expanded to 12 teams in 1967-68.

The Maple Leafs Have 10 Years to Win the Stanley Cup Or Goodbye

I know the opening of this post is a bit of circuitous meandering to get to my point, which is that the next ten seasons will be important for the Maple Leafs if they wish the team’s name to remain on the actual Stanley Cup. And, that’s because the next band on the trophy will be removed in the year 2030. And, on that last band is included the record of the Maple Leafs’ last Stanley Cup win from the 1966-67 season.

In other words, to put it succinctly, the Maple Leafs have 10 years to win a Stanley Cup before their name is removed from the iconic trophy. The Hockey Hall of Fame announced last December that it has placed the latest band removed from the barrel-shaped cup — featuring 12 championship teams from the 1953-54 season through the 1964-65 campaign — on permanent display in the Hockey Hall of Fame. That means it’s off the Cup.

The next band on the trophy will be removed in 2030 and replaced with a fresh one to allow for the engraving of future championship teams. That band includes the Maple Leafs’ last Stanley Cup win from the 1966-67 season. For me, that seems a tragedy.

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My Father’s Pride in the Maple Leafs

All this reminds me of a quick personal story of myself and my father traveling to Toronto to see Maple Leafs Gardens. Here’s the story.

When I was a young boy – I am thinking about eight or nine – my father took me to visit Maple Leaf Gardens. He was usually a quiet man, but I recall that this day he was unusually excited. Walking down the street outside the Gardens, he told me about the Toronto Maple Leafs and the great hockey played there. He was excited to show me this iconic Canadian building.

But, the most memorable thing about that day to me was that Maple Leaf Gardens was locked. We couldn’t get in. We tried several doors – all locked. My father knocked loudly on the front door until a janitor came and opened the door to see what he wanted. “Why isn’t Maple Leafs Gardens open?” he asked the man. “It should be open so people can come visit it,” my father implored.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. My father convinced the janitor into letting him give his son – me – a tour of the arena. The space was all ours. And, there we went, dad and son, walking through the vast emptiness of this historic place. I also remember that day being struck by my father’s unusual animation when he talked. Clearly, Maple Leaf Gardens was something special for him, and hockey was something special for Canada.

I Wasn’t Worried Last Season, However I Might Have Been Wrong

I recall when I first read the news that the Toronto Maple Leafs would be removed from the Stanley Cup if the team didn’t win it again within 10 years. My first thought was that – of course – the Maple Leafs would probably win during 2018-19 or at least 2019-20, but I was thinking with my heart.

And, given the way things are going this season, what if they don’t? Could the Stanley Cup be truly representative of the NHL if it no longer held any etched memory of one of Canada’s two great Original Six teams?

I get the logic that every 13 years, in an effort to make the Stanley Cup a “living” trophy, a ring is removed from the Cup to be forever enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Even if the Hall of Fame is less than a ten-minute walkabout from Scotiabank Arena, it seems wrong. There’s got to be a better way than to risk removing either the Toronto Maple Leafs’ or the Montreal Canadiens’ history from the Stanley Cup.

So Many Great Canadian Hockey Memories

Hockey really seems Canadian to me. I have so many Canadian hockey memories. I remember Paul Henderson’s tap-in goal on Sept. 28, 1972, against Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak to win the Summit Series.

If you haven’t read Roch Carrier’s story “The Hockey Sweater,” which I found for free in a thrift shop and couldn’t believe my good fortune.

The lucky loonie buried at center ice at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, where the Canadians beat the Americans 5-2 for the gold medal.

And, the Toronto Maple Leafs etched on the Stanley Cup. Here’s hoping the Maple Leafs can pull off another Stanley Cup championship in the next 10 seasons so the team can keep its name etched on the Stanley Cup.

Come on, Maple Leafs. Let’s make sure this is the year when the name of this historic NHL franchise will be re-etched on the Stanley Cup.

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