Of note, the reason the Montreal Jr. Canadiens of Quebec played in the Ontario Hockey Association was that the club wanted to play major junior hockey, which was not available in Quebec in the early 1960's when the franchise left the Quebec Junior Hockey League in 1961.
Turnbull was then drafted 70th overall by the Vancouver Blazers of the World Hockey Association and 15th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft. Turnbull chose to sign with the Maple Leafs and immediately made the jump to the NHL, playing in all 78 games of the 1973-74 season, scoring 8 goals and 35 points as a rookie while playing with fellow NHL rookie and future Hall of Famer Borje Salming of Sweden.
One month into his 1974-75 season, Turnbull suffered a torn knee ligament which limited him to just 22 games with Toronto plus 8 rehab games with the Oklahoma City Blazers, but he did return in time to play in 7 playoff games.
Back to full health, Turnbull played 76 games in 1975-76 and reached the 20 goal mark on his way to a 56 point season and well as scoring 11 points in 10 playoff games.
By this date in 1977, Turnbull had already scored 11 goals when the Maple Leafs hosted the Detroit Red Wings at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Wayne Thomas got the start in goal for Toronto, while Ed Giacomin got the call for Detroit. The Red Wings outshot the Maple Leafs 9-8 in the first period, which passed without any scoring despite four power play opportunities, one for Detroit and three for Toronto.
After 1:55 of the second period elapsed, Turnbull started the scoring for Toronto with an even strength goal from Lanny McDonald and Salming. Pat Boutette scored for the Maple Leafs just 40 seconds later from Stan Weir, which was soon followed by Don Ashby's goal from Errol Thompson at 4:12, just 1:37 after Boutette's goal for a quick 3-0 Toronto lead.
Just over four minutes later, Tiger Williams found the back of the net with assists going to Claire Alexander and Brian Glennie to extend the Maple Leafs lead to 4. Turnbull then scored his second goal of the period unassisted at 10:26. There would be no more scoring during the second half of the period, but the five Toronto goals in eight and a half minutes were enough to end Giacomin's night as Jim Rutherford came out to tend goal for Detroit in the third period.
At the 4:58 mark of the third, Turnbull completed his first career hat trick with his 14th goal of the season, again unassisted. 1:17 later, McDonald scored his 33rd goal of the season with assists going to Ashby and Alexander at 6:15 to make it 7-0 for Toronto to the delight of the home fans.
A shade over ten minutes later, Danny Grant would spoil the shutout bid by Thomas when he scored for the Red Wings at 16:18 from Dennis Hextall and Terry Harper.
Less than a minute later at 17:10, Turnbull struck again with his fourth goal of the game from Weir and Salming.
“On our next shift, with a face–off near center–ice, B.J. [Salming] and I had a little chat,” Turnbull recalled. “He said ‘if the puck comes to me, you head straight up the middle and I’ll find you.’ So, that’s exactly what I did. Jack Valiquette won the draw back to Borje and I took off like a sprinter. He hit me with a perfect pass and I scored on a breakaway (with 1:30 left). When I turned the corner [beside the Detroit net], Salming and I were laughing like hell. How often are two defensemen able to script a play like that?” The goal made the final score 9-1 for Toronto.
Turnbull's fourth goal of the game had equaled the NHL record for Most Goals in a Game by a Defenseman, which had stood since Harry Cameron set the mark 59 years earlier on December 26, 1917 back when the NHL was merely a week old! Of note, Cameron also played for the same Toronto franchise, then known simply as the Toronto Hockey Club, setting the record in Toronto as well.
Cameron himself would equal the record on March 3, 1920, only now playing for the Montreal Canadiens. Three others would follow, first Sprague Cleghorn, also for the Canadiens, on January 14, 1922 followed by Johnny McKinnon of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Hap Day of Toronto, by now known as the Maple Leafs, during the same game, a 10-5 win by the Pirates on November 19, 1929!
Turnbull's fifth goal of the game gave him sole possession of the record, which still stands today, now 40 years later. Turnbull also became the first and only player to ever score five goals on just five shots.
Since Turnbull's record setting performance, just three defensemen have managed to score 4 in a game, Tom Bladon of the Philadelphia Flyers on December 11, 1977, none other than Turbull himself on December 12, 1981 as a member of the Los Angeles Kings and Paul Coffey on October 26, 1984 with the potent Edmonton Oilers.
Turnbull would go on to set career highs that season with 22 goals and 57 assists for 79 points, good for third on the team in scoring behind only McDonald and Darryl Sittler, who both had 90. Turnbull was also a +47 that season.
He would play five more seasons in Toronto, which included three 60 point seasons, but that would come to an end during the 1981-82 season when he was traded to the Kings after 12 games with Toronto. He would suffer a knee injury in December but eventually play 42 games for Los Angeles that season, including 11 goals and 26 points. He would also play 13 games with the New Haven Nighthawks in the American Hockey League that season.
His 1982-83 season saw Turnbull play 13 games for the Baltimore Skipjacks of the AHL and 6 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins before a back injury resulted in his retirement as a player.
Turnbull's final NHL totals were 628 games played with 123 goals and 317 assists for 440 points. He played in the 1977 NHL All-Star Game
Today's featured jersey is a 1976-77 Toronto Maple Leafs Ian Turnbull jersey as worn the night he set the NHL record for the Most Goals in a Game by a Defenseman with 5, breaking the 59 year old record of 4 first set back in 1917 and last equaled in 1929.
The Maple Leafs first wore this style jersey in 1970-71 with a lace up collar for two seasons. They then went to a v-neck collar for 1972-73 before reverting to the lace up collar for two more seasons. The v-neck returned in 1975-76 and remained through the rest of this jersey's long run through the 1991-92 season, 22 seasons in total.
The Kings wore their original simple, but loud purple and gold jerseys 13 seasons before changing to a this new style which utilized the same template as the Philadelphia Flyers where the stripe down the arms then wrapped around the cuffs at the end of the sleeves. This style was used for eight seasons before the team completely revamped their look with a new logo and adopted the black and sliver colors of the Los Angles Raiders of the National Football League to coincide with the arrival of Wayne Gretzky in Los Angeles.
Today's video section is Turnbull's breakaway fifth goal of the game to set the NHL record.