Those four little numbers have become an anchor around the neck of all who wear the blue and white and fervently follow the club. An unlikely cup victory in that year should have been the springboard for further success in the expansion era. A team that had struggled mightily to make the playoffs and were expected to be buried, first by the powerful Blackhawks and then by the two-time defending champions Montreal, triumphed against the odds and brought the franchise's 13th championship to the city.
Dave Perkins of the Toronto Star notes that celebrations were muted because success had become expected (of course he gets the obligatory dig at fans in inserted). The team seemed poised to build on a season that had seen a number of young players emerge as valuable contributors. Having just read '67 (a book I recommend to any fan of the Leafs although it will leave you depressed) I can tell you that behind the scenes Harold Ballard and Stafford Smythe had already begun the process of dismantling the infrastructure that had built the Leafs' dynasty. Coupled with Punch Imlach's deranged hatred of the union and his horrific personnel decisions and the writing was on the wall for a once proud franchise.
Tonight MLSE will honour that 1967 Stanley Cup Championship team before the Leafs take on the Edmonton Oilers. Joe Pelletier at Legends of Hockey has a profile for each player on that team which is worth a read and Reality Check at Eyes on the Prize has a two part look back at the squad (Part I and II).
The biggest news is that Dave Keon will be in attendance at an official Leafs' function for the first time since he left the Leafs after being treated shabbily by Harold Ballard. He is a player that stands out in any conversation with fans that saw him play. His anti-Leaf stance was understandable when it was personal between him and Ballard as no one would blame him for not wanting to help the man who had run him out of Toronto and the NHL after he had done so much to help. However, when his issue moved from his treatment (the current ownership has tried repeatedly to mend this rift) to the fact that his jersey was not retired it became a little self-serving. Whatever JFJ said to get Keon to participate in tonight's festivities (scheduled for 13 minutes it's a good thing that Dryden wasn't part of that team!) it was well worth it.
There have been calls for Stajan to switch numbers and for the Leafs to retire 14. The current policty of honouring numbers is one with which I agree and Stajan, who wears 14 to honour an uncle who passed away from cancer at the age of 22, should not have to deal with the media trying to advance a players' personal battle. Hopefully, tonight the focus will lie on honouring a team that was so quickly forgotten by the Leafs ownership of the period and that the ceremony will inspire the current crop of Maple Leafs to greater heights. Maybe then we can get a similar scene to the one below in colour.