As I’ve already admitted, the Leafs are my favourite team. That said, I will do my absolute best to compose an unbiased summary of their history. Even though my family was a huge contributor to the profits of certain pizza joints of food service Niagara every Saturday night of my childhood. To start, interestingly enough, they weren’t always known as the Leafs.
When the team was first formed in 1917, they were simply known as the Torontos, or the Blueshirts. That said, the team wasn’t technically the Blueshirts … but the players were. Let me explain. The Toronto Blueshirts – along with the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the Quebec Bulldogs, and the Ottawa Senators – had all been members of the National Hockey Association.
That is, until the owners of the Canadiens, the Wanderers, the Bulldogs, and the Senators, had a dispute with Eddie Livingstone, the owner of the Toronto Blueshirts. Because the owners of the four aforementioned clubs could not technically expel Livingstone from the NHA, they decided to simply form their own league and not invite Livingstone to join them. They called it the National Hockey League. Even though the four members left the NHA, they remained voting members, and suspended the NHA’s operations, leaving Livingstone alone and without a functioning league.
But this was just the beginning for hockey in Toronto. The founders of the NHL wanted a team from Toronto, and also needed another team to fill out their league, as the Montreal Bulldogs had to drop out of the league for a few years. So it was that a temporary NHL franchise was given to the Arena company, who proceeded to lease out the Blueshirt players (who, frankly, weren’t doing much else at this point). This team, unofficially known as the Torontos or the Blueshirts, went on to win the Stanley Cup in the inaugural season of the NHL.
The next season, the Arena Company formed its own NHL team, called the Toronto Arena Hockey Club, who became known as the Arenas. Unfortunately, Livingstone wasn’t too thrilled about this, as he had been promised his team back. He sued in an attempt to regain his players, which resulted in an expensive legal battle that forced the Arenas to sell first their star players, and then their franchise.
The managed at this time was a man called Charlie Querrie, and he assembled a managerial team consisting mostly of members who had been running the St.Patricks, an Ontario Hockey association team. The team under this new ownerships was called the St.Patricks, and their colours changed from blue to green (rather strange for us to imagine now). That year, which was 1922, the Toronto St.Pats went on to win their second Stanley Cup.
The Toronto Maple Leafs got the name we know and love today in 1927 when they were sold to Conn Smyth, who had been the coach of the Toronto Varsity Graduates. Charlie Querrie had been forced to sell the team after losing a legal battle to our friend Eddie Livingstone. Though he’d been offered more money by a group in Philadelphia, he was convinced to keep the team in the city, having been convinced by Smyth and one J.P. Bickell that civic pride was more important than money. Good thing, too, seeing as the Leafs are now the most valuable franchise in the NHL.
Here’s a clip of the Leafs’ 1967 Stanley Cup win over the Canadiens: