Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Born on this date in 1915, Syl Apps Sr. was not only a hockey player, but an accomplished pole vaulter as well, winning the gold medal in the 1934 British Empire Games in London and later represented Canada at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, placing sixth.
A big player for his era, standing 6 feet tall and weighing 180 pounds, the center first played junior hockey for in his hometown of Paris, Ontario in 1930. From there he played for McMaster University, where he was recognized for his athletic ability while playing football by the Toronto Maple Leafs Conn Smythe, who signed him to play for the Maple Leafs despite never having seen him play hockey! He declined at the time in order to retain his amateur status in order to compete in the 1936 Olympics.
Syl Apps while a football player at McMaster
Apps joined the Hamilton Tigers of the Ontario Hockey Association in 1935-36 to play senior hockey, scoring 22 goals and 38 points in just 19 games and adding another 9 points in 4 playoff games.
Even though some wondered if the non-smoking, non-drinking, non-swearing Apps was too nice to play in the NHL, he joined the Maple Leafs for the 1936-37 season, winning the Calder Trophy as the league's rookie of the year following an impressive 45 points in 48 games to lead the club in scoring and place second in the league by just a single point, putting to rest any questions about his ability to compete in the NHL!
Syl Apps 1936 rookie card
While Apps raised his point total to 50 the following season, he again placed second in NHL scoring by two points to teammate Gordie Drillon. Apps did lead the league in assists with 29 and added 5 more points as the Maple Leafs made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1938.
Apps led the Maple Leafs in scoring in 1938-39 despite a reduction in his total to 40, accumulated in 44 games played. He had a fine playoff campaign, as Toronto again made it to the finals, thanks in part to Apps' 8 points in 10 games.
Note the texture of Apps' wool sweater
Despite being limited to just 27 games by a broken collarbone, he averaged more than a point per game with 30, good for second on the Maple Leafs. For the third consecutive season, the Maple Leafs would make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, but come up short once more. Prior to the season, Apps would be selected to play in the Babe Siebert Memorial Game as a member of the NHL All-Stars, who took on the Montreal Canadiens.
The popular Apps was regularly featured on the cover of the Maple Leafs program
For the 1940-41 season, Apps was named the 5th captain of the Maple Leafs. He responded with the second 20 goal season of his career and added 24 assists for 44 points to equal Drillon's team leading total.
Maple Leafs captain Syl Apps
For the 1941-42 season, Apps was yet again second to Drillon for the club lead in points with 41 and was named the winner of the Lady Byng Trophy for the Most Gentlemanly Player thanks to completing the entire season without a single penalty! In the postseason, Apps led the Maple Leafs in playoff scoring with 14 points in 13 games as Toronto would eliminate the New York Rangers in six games before defeating the Detroit Red Wings in seven games to capture the 1942 Stanley Cup in remarkable fashion, having lost the first three games of the finals and leaving no further margin for error.
The 1941-42 Maple Leafs Stanley Cup engraving, listing Apps as team captain
Apps would be limited to 29 games due to a broken leg in 1942-43, his final season with the Maple Leafs for the time being, as he enlisted in the Canadian Army during World War II. After two years away from the NHL, Apps would return for the 1945-46 season, resuming his captaincy in the process. He did not skip a beat, scoring his fourth consecutive 40 point season, thanks to a then career best 24 goals.
Apps while in the military
He would raise his goal scoring total to 25 the following season and come second on the team with 49 points in 54 games. He would equal his career best with 5 playoff goals as the Maple Leafs ousted the Red Wings in 5 games and then captured the second Stanley Cup of Apps career by defeating the Montreal Canadiens 4 games to 2.
A happy Apps with coach Hap Day and goaltender Turk Broda
Going out in style, Apps set career bests in goals, with 26 (which included a hat trick on the final day of the season), and points, with 53, to lead the Maple Leafs in scoring before they marched to the championship, defeating the Boston Bruins in five and sweeping the Red Wings in four straight for the second consecutive and third Stanley Cup of Apps career.
Apps with his third Stanley Cup, going out on top
And with that, Apps retired from the NHL at the age of 33, taking a marketing job with a department store as well as serving as Ontario Athletic Commissioner. Later in the 1960's, he became active in politics and was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1963 to 1975.
His career totals were 423 games played, 201 goals and 231 assists for 432 points and a mere 56 penalty minutes in 10 seasons, 15 of which came from the only 3 fights of his career.
In 1961 he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and later became a member of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1975 and a Member of the Order of Canada in 1977. The Maple Leafs made Apps' #10 one of the club's "honored numbers" in 1993. Another tribute arrived in 2001, when Apps was featured on a postage stamp in Canada.
His son, Syl Apps, Jr. would also have a career in the NHL, playing ten seasons after breaking in with the Rangers. He would spend the majority of his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins before finishing with three seasons as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
Syl Apps, Jr. with his father, Syl, Sr.
Today's featured jersey is a 1938-39 Toronto Maple Leafs Syl Apps jersey. This was the first season for this style sweater with this new version of the Maple Leafs crest. The striping template for this sweater was first adopted in the 1937-38 season, carrying over the original crest, which dated back to 1927 when Smythe purchased the Toronto St. Patricks franchise and changed the club's name to the Maple Leafs.
After one season with the new striping pattern, the new style crest made it's debut and lasted well beyond the conclusion of Apps' career in 1948, remaining unchanged through the 1957-58 season when a blue shoulder yoke was added.
Today's video selection is a cool old documentary on hockey in Canada featuring footage of Apps and the Maple Leafs taking on the New York Rangers in November 1939.