July 27, 2016

Brent Imlach

They say every player who has ever played for the Toronto Maple Leafs knows the immense pressure that comes with playing in the city.

Though he played only three games with the Leafs, few felt more pressure than Brent Imlach.

Yes, Imlach. Son of the Leafs legendary coach George "Punch" Imlach - architect of the Leafs 1960s Stanley Cup dynasty.

Some will say he got into three NHL games because he was the coach's son. Others will say he only got into three NHL games because he was the coach's son. Either way, Brent Imlach still played in more NHL games than most of us.

Brent was a pretty good junior player with the Toronto Marlies and then the London Nationals when he got called up for three games total due to injuries with the Leafs.

Unlike most junior players, Imlach was in no way in awe of Maple Leaf Gardens and the Toronto Maple Leafs when he got his brief chance to play.

"From the time I was 12 until I was 20, I think I spent more time at Maple Leaf Gardens than I did at home," Imlach told Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun in 1999. "In the afternoons on Saturdays I would usually go up to the press box and do my homework. Then I'd stay for the Leafs' game."

His first game came against Detroit in 1966. He did not expect to get much if any ice time, and basically hid at the end of the bench watching Gordie Howe more than anybody else. But then his dad sent him out on a second period penalty kill with adamant instructions of "Don't make any mistakes! Don't make any mistakes!" By the third period he was playing a regular shift with none other than Frank Mahovlich!

Of course, being the coach's kid led to some obvious jabs in the dressing room.

"Bob Pulford said to me on the bus one day: `Your dad's a miserable son of a gun.' I said: `That's nothing; I've got to go home to him every night."

Jokes aside, Brent admitted playing for his dad was very difficult.

"I didn't want to play because everybody was going to think the only reason I was on the team was because of my dad. Even I wondered if I was there as a spy. It bothered me. But I wasn't going to let my dad down when they called me up. You might have wished for different circumstances. But now, I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Imlach may not have had made much of his own impact in the National Hockey League, but he did in business and then baseball - his dad kept leaving brochures lying around the house, he said. He quit pro hockey to attend the University of Western Ontario's business school. From there he was very successful working for Molson Breweries. He then left to run the Vancouver Canadiens Triple A baseball team as general manager.

Brent continued living in British Columbia's Lower Mainland for many years.

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