Cleat Geeks

Maple Leafs Add Legends Deserving Of Title

On February 21, 2015, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced they would be adding two more iconic players to Legends Row, outside of the Air Canada Centre. Former Leafs captains, George Armstrong and Syl Apps will forever be labeled legends in the eyes of Toronto fans and are two men truly deserving of the title.

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Toronto Maple Leafs Sly Apps.

This September, Apps and Armstrong will have their bronze statues added to The Square (just outside Toronto’s home arena) and will join goaltender Johnny Bower, Daryl Sitler, and Ted Kennedy as part of the evolving monument. The Leafs announced earlier this season Swedish born defensemen Borje Salming will also be added to Legends Row during the Leafs annual Fan Fest this September.

Fans of all ages will soon see Apps and Armstrong preserved for years to come, welcoming young Leafs faithful and reminding older ones of the glory years. But if these statues could talk they wouldn’t be bragging about having their number 10 honored by Toronto, or the combined seven Stanley Cup winning teams they were on or even that both players are among some of the most prolific scorers in franchise history. No, they would probably just smile politely and say ‘hello’.

If Syl Apps never dawned the blue and white of the Maple Leafs, his legacy in sports and Canadian politics would still be a remarkable one to say the least. Apps’ road to the NHL began at a very unlikely spot for most hockey players. It was the football field at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada where then Leafs owner Conn Smythe met the young economics student. Unfortunately, Apps could not join the Leafs because he was due to compete at the 1936 Berlin Olympics after winning the pole vault competition at the British Empire Games. Apps would place sixth in one of the most infamous Olympics of all time.

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The Calder Trophy has been handed out to the best rookie since 1933.

When he returned, Apps joined the Leafs for the 1936-’37 season, winning the NHL’s first ever Calder Trophy. The award had been handed out to the best rookie since 1933, however this was the first year an official trophy was given out. Known as one of the nicest players to ever play the game, Apps went the entire ’41-’42 season without recording a single penalty, earning him the Lady Bing Trophy for the leagues most gentlemanly player. He spent ten seasons with the Leafs from 1936-’48. Two of those years were spent in the Canadian Military during WW2. Shortly after his service, Apps settled right back into his spot as captain of one of the NHL’s original six franchises. As captain, Apps’ most memorable Stanley Cup win came in 1942. After being down 3 – 0 to the Detroit Red Wings, Apps led the Leafs to four straight victories becoming sports first ever franchise to erase a three game deficit and win a series. Apps played in 423 games for the Leafs. His 201 goals and 231 assists made him a point per game player , but his 56 total penalty minutes over a ten year career may have left a more lasting impression.

Upon retiring in 1948, he went on from hockey to become a member of Canadian Parliament for 12 years. In 1971 he was appointed Canada’s Minister of Correctional Services. Apps passed away in 1998 as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and recipient of the Order of Canada, which is Canada’s highest civilian honor for recognition of achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.

Most teams have to wait years, sometimes decades, before they have a leader like Toronto had in Apps. Luckily the Leafs had to wait only one full season before a young forward by the name of George Armstrong came along.

georgeArmstrong

Toronto Maple Leafs George Armstrong.

Armstrong will always be known to hockey fans as the “Chief” partly due to his Aboriginal heritage, but also because of his propensity to lead a group of men. Armstrong taught fans what it meant to be a complete hockey player, able to score goals but also be responsible on the defensive side of the puck. He will forever hold a special place in all Leafs fan’s hearts. His fourth and final Stanley Cup came in 1967 in game 6 over the Montreal Canadiens, scoring the final goal of the series in the third period. The victory marked the last time a Leafs captain would hoist the Stanley cup; and with the league expanding in 1967-’68 he was the last Stanley Cup winning captain and goal scorer of the original six era of the NHL.

George Armstrong retired from the league but not from hockey in 1971. Like Apps, Armstrong spent his entire NHL career with the Leafs. In the process of becoming the Leafs all-time leader in points with 713 and games played (1187), he also holds the distinction of captaining the storied Leafs to the most cup wins.

In 1975 Armstrong was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame. To this day, he can still be found bearing the cold of amateur hockey arenas in a scouting role for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Syl Apps and George Armstrong have always been great Leafs players, but when their bronze statues are unveiled later this year, they will finally earn the distinction of Legend.

When their bronze statues are unveiled later this year, Apps and Armstrong will finally earn the well-deserved distinction of ‘Legend’.

 

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