November 29, 2016
Frank Mahovlich is one of a very select few who would star with Canada's two most cherished sports franchises, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. He also starred with the Detroit Red Wings.
Starting his career in Toronto, The Big M is arguably Toronto's most cherished hockey hero, yet also one of its most criticized.
The Leafs enjoyed their greatest success with Mahovlich leading the way. He helped them to 4 Stanley Cup championships in the 1960s. Mahovlich was a big man with a long powerful stride that powered himself through the opposing team's defense. Add to that his uncanny stickhandling and an overpowering shot, and Mahovlich was pretty much a perfect hockey player.
In his book Maple Leaf Legends, author Mike Leonetti describes Mahovlich:
"Mahovlich moved like a thoroughbred, with a strong, fluid style that made it look as if he was galloping through the opposition. In full flight, he was an imposing figure. An explosive skater, Mahovlich could spot the right moment to turn it on and burst in on goal. He had a great move where he would take the puck off the wing, cut into the middle of the ice and try to bust through two defencemen for a chance on goal. He didn't always get through but when he did he scored some memorable goals. His style of offence caused teammate Dave Keon to remark: Nobody scores goals better than Frank."
Despite the team's great success and Mahovlich's status as one of the greatest of his day, many believed we never got to see the best of The Big M. Most of his best years were spent in Toronto under boss Punch Imlach. Imlach, who could never pronounce Frank's last name, tried to reign in Mahovlich. He and Mahovlich never got along. Imlach was an old stubborn hockey man who was determined to break Mahovlich, who just shrugged off Imlach's antics, although he secretly hurt for years. Therefore, many believed as good as Mahovlich was, he could have been better under a different coach.
Here is the full Frank Mahovlich biography