October 10, 2013

Great Trades In Hockey History: King Clancy

Perhaps no single player had as big an effect of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise than did Francis "King" Clancy.

"King," a nickname inherited from his equally outstanding athletic father (a football star), joined the Ottawa Senators at the young age of 18, and soon became a regular. He quickly established himself as one of the NHL's elite. Playing along sign George Boucher, Clancy helped the Sens win Stanley Cups in 1924 and 1927.

Despite being an imp of a hockey player at just 5'7" and 150 pounds, Clancy was an electrifying on- ice presence. As wonderful a skater and stickhandler as he was, King was equally vigorous without the puck. When he reigned as one of the NHL's best blue liners with the old Senators, everyone admired him..

One of Clancy's biggest admirers was Conn Smythe, the architect of the Maple Leafs. Clancy aggressively pursued the acquisition of this player more than any other, as he knew that no other player could have such an impact on his new Maple Leafs team. Smythe, a celebrated gambler, took a big chance in the minds of most when he traded away Eric Pettinger, Art Smith and $35,000 cash (much of the money raised on a long shot bet in a horse race) in exchange for Clancy in October of 1931. It was the biggest deal in hockey history at the time. The financially troubled Sens jumped at the deal as the Great Depression was in full swing, but the team was never the same on the ice.

The Leafs were vastly improved with the pugnacious yet charismatic Clancy on their blue line. Much like the Wayne Gretzky trade to Los Angeles many years later, Clancy brought excitement and success to Toronto and set the standards for excellence for decades to come. He instilled a winning attitude complete with a Stanley Cup championship - the franchise's first while known as Maple Leafs - in 1932.

Clancy was the most celebrate Leaf ever. On St. Patrick's Day 1934, the team honoured him in a game against the New York Rangers. He was brought onto the ice in a special float. He wore a fake white beard and regal robes only to remove them and reveal a rare all-green Leafs sweater with a four-leaf clover on the back. He wore the sweater for the first period of the game before the Rangers complained about the different coloured jersey on the ice.

Clancy went on to a lifetime of work for the Leafs, serving as a coach and executive. Curiously, later in life he became known more as Harold Ballard's mercurial side kick rather than as what he truly was - one of the greatest hockey players of all time.

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