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May 07, 2008

1962: A New Leafs Dynasty Born Out Of The Ashes Of The Last One

The year is 1962. A new Leafs dynasty, this one of epic proportions, rises. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeat the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks 4 games to 2. The Leafs would win three Stanley Cup titles in succession, and four in six years.

The Leafs are led by their coach. Punch Imlach instituted a style of play that always has been the hallmark of champions. His game plan is nothing fancy, instead relying on good old determination, hard work and pride.

On the ice Toronto was led by the strapping superstar Frank Mahovlich. Though he and coach Imlach would have their differences, The Big M was essential to the Leafs dynasty. He scored 6 goals and 12 points, including 4 goals and 7 points in the finals against Chicago.

Defenseman Tim Horton was a standout as well. Never known as an offensive defenseman, Horton led all Toronto players in scoring in the spring of 1962, registering 16 points in 12 games. He assisted on the Stanley Cup winning goal by Dick Duff after a spectacular end-to-end rush.

Defenseman Bobby Baun matched up against Chicago's great winger Bobby Hull all series long. Dave Keon was a NHL All Star that season, and the ever popular Johnny Bower, the oldest player in the league, was great when he had to be.

An interesting aside about Leafs center Red Kelly: Kelly was a sitting MP in the House of Commons in Ottawa while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Though he never missed a game, he was unable to take part in Stanley Cup celebrations in Toronto as he had to get back to Ottawa on government business.

This was Toronto's first Stanley Cup title in 11 years. Adding to the legend of the victory was the finding of Bill Barilko's remains. Barilko famously scored the Stanley Cup winning goal back in 1951 for the Leafs, but then disappeared in a float plane crash in Ontario's remote north. With little luck since Barilko's death, a curse of sorts was spread when it was said that the Leafs would not win another Stanley Cup until Barilko was found and laid to rest. Weeks after the 1962 championship, the plane wreckage and remains were spotted.

Chicago wasted a truly great playoff performance by Stan Mikita. Mikita set a new record for points (21) and assists (15) in a playoff year. He had points in eleven straight playoff games. He also had two game winners and set up two other winners, along with scoring a short-handed tally.

Also, this was the year that a Montreal fan tried to steal the Stanley Cup from its glass display in Chicago Stadium. The thief almost reached the street before being stopped by a stadium police officer. According to legend the fan said "I was taking the Cup back to Montreal, where it belongs."

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