Wednesday, September 30, 2009
On this date in 1997, Mats Sundin was named captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a position he would hold for ten seasons, and the 16th person to hold that distinction.
The first Maple Leafs captain was Hap Day, who was captain from 1927-28 until 1936-37. He would have a 14 season career in the NHL for both the Maple Leafs and New York Americans, winning the Stanley Cup in 1932. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961 after a 33 year career as a player, referee, coach and general manager.
Charlie Conacher was next for one season. He had been with the Maple Leafs since 1929, leading the league in scoring twice, but moved onto the Detroit Red Wings the year after being the Leafs captain. He was also elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961 and part of the 1932 championship team.
For the next two seasons, 1938-39 and 1939-40, Red Horner took over the captaincy. Horner was with the Maple Leafs from 1928 until retiring in 1940. His induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame occurred in 1965. When he passed away at age 95, he was the oldest surviving member of the 1932 Stanley Cup team.
Syl Apps was not only a hockey player, but a pole vaulter as well, winning a gold medal at the 1934 British Empire Games and represented Canada at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where he took sixth. He was captain from 1940-41 to 1942-43 and then again from 1945-46 to 1947-48 until his retirement, for a total of six seasons. He would hoist the cup for the Maple Leafs three times, in 1942, 1947 and 1948. He was also the winner of the first Calder Cup in 1937. It must have been quite the celebration in Toronto in 1961, as Apps was also enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame the same year as Day and Conacher.
Bob Davidson spent his entire 12 season career with the Leafs, wearing the "C" in 1943-44 and 1944-45. He was on Stanley Cup winning teams in both 1942 and 1945 and was known as being one of the best hockey scouts of all time after his playing days ended.
Following Apps second stint as captain, Ted "Teeder" Kennedy came next. Kennedy was with the Maple Leafs for 14 seasons, from 1942-43 until 1956-57 as the Leafs won the Stanley Cup five times in seven years and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966. During an exhibition in 1951, Kennedy greeted the future Queen Elizabeth II as a representative of the players.
A 12 year member of the Maple Leafs, Sid Smith captained the Maple Leafs in the 1955-56 season and was a member of three Stanley Cup teams in 1948, scoring a hat trick in Game 2 of the Finals after only playing one regular season game, 1949 and 1951.
Jimmy Thompson was captain the following season of 1956-57. His Maple Leafs career started in 1945-46 and lasted until 1956-57. He was a member of championship teams in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951. He would relinquish his captaincy when Kennedy would come out of retirement that season and was sold to the Chicago Blackhawks as a result of his attempts to organize a player's union.
George Armstrong would begin his NHL career in 1949 and play until the 1970-71 season, all 21 of his NHL seasons with the Maple Leafs, including being the captain from 1957-58 to 1968-69, twelve seasons in all, and the longest serving captain in Maple Leafs history. His time in Toronto included the dynasty of the mid-60's, and he was a member of the Stanley Cup winning teams in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967. He also played the most games in Leafs history, with 1187. His election to the Hockey Hall of Fame came in 1975.
Following Armstrong's record setting run, Dave Keon was the next to wear the "C" after Armstrong was said to be retiring. After Keon was named captain, Armstrong did return and continue to play for two additional seasons, but Keon remained captain. He was a Maple Leaf for 15 seasons and was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1986. He joined the Maple Leafs in 1960, winning the Calder Trophy that season. He would go on to win the Stanley Cup four times as part of the same clubs as Armstrong, in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967, the last time the Maple Leafs would win the cup. Keon eventually left the Leafs to join the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA and came back to the NHL with the Hartford Whalers to finish his career.
Toronto favorite Darryl Sittler would take over the captaincy in 1975-76 and would wear the "C" until 1981-82, although not during the 1979-80 season due to disputes with cantankerous Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard. He would eventually agree to waive his no-trade clause and be dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1982. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989 an holds the NHL record for most points in a game with ten, on six goals and four assists on February 7, 1976.
Following Sittler's unsettled run as captain, Rick Vaive held the position from 1982 until 1985-86, until being stripped of his captaincy for missing a morning practice. He would become the first 50 goal scorer in Maple Leafs history, which he managed three years in a row. He would play 13 NHL seasons, eight of which were in Toronto.
After the dismissal of Vaive the Leafs would not name another captain until Rob Ramage in 1989. He would only play two seasons with the Maple Leafs in a much travelled career that would see him play with one WHA team and eight NHL clubs.
Wendel Clark would rise to the captaincy in 1991-92 and remain the captain until 1993-94. A fan favorite in Toronto, Clark would lead the Leafs to team records in wins (44) and points (99) in 1992-93 and a return to the playoffs for the first time in three years. He would eventually be traded to the Quebec Nordiques in a deal that would bring Sundin to Toronto, but would return to the Maple Leafs again in the 1995-96 season. He would sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning as a free agent for the 1998-99 season, but return to Toronto one more time in 2000 to finish his career appropriately as a Maple Leaf. He holds the record for longest time span between All-Star appearances, 13 years.
Following Clark's trade, Doug Gilmour would assume the role of captain. Acquired from Calgary in February of 1992, Gilmour would also become a favorite in Maple Leaf Gardens. He would spend six seasons in Toronto, acting as captain from 1994 until being traded to the New Jersey Devils in 1997.
It was on this date in 1997 that Sundin would be named the 16th captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Sundin would become the first European captain in Maple Leafs history and the longest serving non-North American captain in NHL history. During his time with the Maple Leafs, he would lead the team in scoring 12 of his 13 seasons in Toronto, finishing second in the other. In a model of consistency, he would score at least 72 points 12 seasons in a row. He was the first Swedish player to score 500 career goals and leads the Maple Leafs franchise in goals with 420, the only Leaf to ever reach 400, and points with 984.
Apps, Armstrong, Clark, Conacher, Day, Glimour, Kennedy and Sittler are all among the 15 players to have had their sweater numbers honored by the Maple Leafs and one would expect Sundin to join that select group someday.
Today's featured jersey is a 1997-98 Toronto Maple Leafs Mats Sundin jersey which features the Swedish Flag patch on the left chest as worn during the 1998 NHL All-Star Game Super Skills Competition on January 17.
This was the first year of the "World vs. North America" format for the All-Star Game to promote the appearance of NHL players at the upcoming Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.
This would be the one and only time that the players would wear the flag of their home country on their NHL club's jerseys. While the World vs. North America format would remain in effect through 2002, the flag patches would not be used on the individual team jerseys during the Skills Competition again.
Today's featured videos are a tribute to Teeder Kennedy, who passed away just last month.