TORONTO-The Toronto Maple Leafs have as much history behind their sweater as any team to ever play in the National Hockey League. From the early days of a 48-point Maple Leaf emblem on the chest in 1927, to the more modern look now of only 11 tips, the Leafs jersey has evolved with the change of times.
Along the way, over 700 men have donned the blue and white and while many names will have to be looked up in a hockey dictionary, a select few have been honoured with banners that hang from the Air Canada Centre rafters.
17 names are suspended above the Leafs ice, but only 11 individual numbers. The reason for this is because in the early 1990’s Leafs alumni felt it would serve a better purpose to “honour” instead of “retire” the great ones who once skated in blue. Many of the greats had already come and gone sharing the same digits along the way.
The only two men to have their numbers retired are Bill Barilko and Irvine (Ace) Bailey and the reason behind that is because of how their playing career’s tragically ended.
Bailey’s number six was the first jersey to be retired by any NHL team way back in 1934. However with Bailey’s blessing, Ron Ellis took a turn with it on his back during the 1970’s. Along with Barilko’s number five, both were permanently retired October 17th, 1992 at Maple Leaf Gardens.
The most recent of the 11 great numbers to be given tribute was Doug Gilmour’s 93 with the ceremony happening on January 31st, 2009. Perhaps the most popular number to ever be sewn onto a Leafs jersey, 93 became a staple throughout the mid 90’s with many fans wearing it themselves.
Fact is, there will be more numbers “honoured” in the future by Toronto because there are too many player’s who impacted the organization in some sort of fashion.
There are also Leafs who had their moment of fame but aren’t remembered the way the greats are.
For that reason, this series will look at Leafs alumni number by number, reflecting on some of the most notable Leafs to ever play the game; not just the one’s recognized in the ACC.
Keeping in order, the first number in this series is one.
Traditionally a number worn only by goalies, the number one dates back as far as the game itself. In all, 41 men protected the Leafs goal with it on their back.
The first player to wear a one for the Leafs was John Roach. Originally a member of the Toronto St Pats dating back to 1921, when Conn Smythe purchased the franchise and changed the name to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1927, Roach came along under the new regime.
After being traded to the New York Rangers, Lorne Chabot took over the net, the number and won the Leafs their first Stanley Cup under their new alias in 1932. Although it was Toronto’s third Cup on record, their first two came as the Arenas and St Pats.
Future Hall of Famer George Hainsworth played 149 games during the 1930’s but the Leafs wouldn’t win another Cup until 1942 when Walter Broda starred in an infamous comeback against the Detroit Red Wings; coming back from being down 3-0 to beat the Wings in seven games.
Known as Turk, Broda played 14 seasons with the Leafs from 1936 to 1952. He retired at the age of 38 as the Leafs goalie leader in wins (302), shut-outs (62), play-off games (101), play-off wins (60), play-off shut-outs (13), and regular season games (629).
Three All-Star teams, two Vezina Trophies and a Hall of Fame induction in 1967 pad the fact that he also led the Leafs to more Stanley Cup championships than any other goalie with five. Four of those came within five seasons between 1947 and 1951.
His statistics could have been even greater if he didn’t serve in WWII from 1943-1945; the prime of his career.
Upon Broda’s retirement in 1952, it would be another decade before the Leafs won another Cup.
The likes of Ed Chadwick, Harry Lumley and Cesare Maniago all had chances to continue the success left behind by Broda but it never happened. Lumley did however win the Vezina in 1954 and was also named an All-Star twice. Changing that trend and leading the charge in 1962, and winning the first of three Stanley Cups in a row, was the China Wall, Johnny Bower. Acquired by the Leafs in 1958, Bower was already pushing 34 years of age with 11 years of American Hockey League experience.
In the AHL, he was a four time Calder Cup champion, a three time MVP and to this day still holds the record for wins with 359.
He played all 12 of his NHL seasons with the Leafs and won a total of four Stanley Cups; the standout being his final one in 1967 at the age of 42. Along with four All-Star games, Bower won two Vezina Trophies and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976. After retiring in 1970, he would serve as a scout for the next 20 years with the only NHL organization he knew.
On March 11th, 1995 Walter Broda and Johnny Bower were honoured together by the Leafs raising their number one’s to the roof.
Replacing Bower in 1970 and wearing number one, was future Hall of Famer Jacques Plante. In his 18th NHL season, the inventor of the mask put together an All-Star year with a 1.88GAA but he was far removed from his days in Montreal. After three short seasons, he was traded to Boston; where he would retire at the end of the season.
Following Plante, only 12 other men have worn the number one from 1973 to 2011.
The 80’s saw a majority of career back-ups including Michel Laroque, Bruce Dowie and Tim Bernhardt.
The 90’s started off the same way the previous decade finished, Peter Ing and Daren Puppa took their try in the Leafs net wearing the number one only to be shipped out in the wake of the Leafs first rebuild in years.
The most memorable goalie from that decade wearing one was perhaps Damian Rhodes, who backed up Felix Potvin during the Leafs back to back drives to the Conference Finals. He was a member of the organization from 1990-96 but, surprisingly, only played in 47 games in that time. He was eventually traded to the New York Islanders in return for Kirk Muller.
The most recent goalies to wear number one for the Leafs are Andrew Raycroft and Justin Pogge.
Brought in to start the 2006/07 season, Raycroft was known to allow one bad goal a game but still managed to tie the team record for wins in a season with 37. The following year he would become Vesa Toskala’s back-up before leaving to play for the Colorado Avalanche.
Pogge managed only seven NHL appearances after being groomed as the goalie of the future. His 4,35GAA as a Leaf wasn’t good enough and since being traded by Brian Burke, the former World Junior gold medalist has seen time with the Bakersfield Condors, San Antonio Rampage, Albany River Rats and Charlotte Checkers.
Since the expansion era of 1967, the number one sweater has never been the same to Leafs nation. The history of the number is where it belongs; in the rafters with Toronto’s greatest goalies of all time, Turk Broda and Johnny Bower. Fans will see more goalies try out the numeral, but it will take a superstar career to join those two legends. Furthermore, with a majority of today’s NHL goalies wearing higher numbers, the tradition of every team having a number one no longer exists.
Complete List of all 41 Leafs to wear the Number One
Baz Bastien 1945-46
Gord Bell 1945-46
Tim Bernhardt 1984-87
Paul Bibeault 1943-44
Johnny Bower 1958-70
Turk Broda 1936-43 & 1945-52
Lorne Chabot 1928-33
Ed Chadwick 1955-60
Gerry Cheevers 1961-62
Bruce Dowie 1983-84
Bruce Gamble 1965-71
Ben Grant 1928-32 & 1943-44
George Hainsworth 1933-37
Peter Ing 1989-91
Ed Johnston 1973-74
Mark Laforest 1989-90
Michel Larocque 1980-83
Harry Lumley 1952-56
Cesare Maniago 1960-61
Frank McCool 1944-46
Gerry McNamara 1960-61 & 1969-70
Gord McRae 1972-73 & 1974-78
Jacques Plante 1970-73
Justin Pogge 2008-09
Daren Puppa 1992-93
Andrew Raycroft 2006-08
Jeff Reese 1987-92 & 1998-99
Damian Rhodes 1990-91 & 1993-96
Curt Ridley 1979-81
Johnny Roach 1926-28
Jim Rutherford 1980-81
Don Simmons 1961-64
Al Smith 1965-67 & 1968-69
Gary Smith 1965-67
Rick St. Croix 1982-85
Phil Stein 1939-40
Vince Tremblay 1979-83
Dunc Wilson 1973-75
Ross Wilson 1955-56
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