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A Brief St. Pats History

The Toronto Arenas were purchased by the Toronto St. Patricks of the Ontario Hockey Association on December 7th, 1919. The pro NHL team adopted a shorter version of their amateur counterparts and were set to take the ice for the 1919/20 season with a new name (St. Pats) and new colours (green and white).

The OHA St. Patricks were named in an effort to appeal to Torontonians of Irish decent. In 1847, the city had 20,000 Irish residents. That year, 38,000 more arrived as a result of the Irish Potato Famine. From then on, Toronto became known as Little Belfast, taking on many of the Irish city's characteristics, not the least of which was the rivalry between Irish and English.

Babe Dye

Prior to their first season sporting their new name, the Irish signed Cecil "Babe" Dye to join the club. The future Hall of Famer was without question the star of the team during the St. Pats years. He would lead the team in scoring for five straight seasons and in 177 games, he would score 174 goals and total 210 points, for the best goals per game average in franchise history. For his career, he still sits fourth in this category, trailing only Mike Bossy, Cy Denneny and Mario Lemieux. His teammate Hap Day said of Dye, "He never wasted a moment. He got the puck and shot it on the net from anywhere. He had a terrific shot - maybe the hardest of all time." Babe was also an accomplished baseball player, playing seven seasons of pro ball, with amongst other teams, the Buffalo Bisons of the International League. Babe was a career .317 hitter over 757 games, while also lacing up for the St. Pats.

Following the name change attendance soared, setting new records; the team's fortunes began to improve (four straight seasons of playing 500 or better), the appeal of the pro game began to surpass that of the amateur variety, and Toronto's Irish community started to pour into the Mutual Street Arena from nearby Corktown. 

Prior to the 21/22 season the St. Pats signed 5 foot 5, 130-pound goaltender John Ross Roach, who also went by the nickname, the Port Perry Woodpecker. With a line-up that already boasted future Hall of Famers Dye, Captain Reg Noble, Harry Cameron and star Corb Denneny, the Irish were poised to challenge for the franchise's second Stanley Cup. 

In the 1922 NHL Finals, the St. Pats took the two game cumulative score O'Brien Cup, eliminating the Senators on the back of Roach's shutout in Game 2. One Toronto paper described his performance as, "The most masterful exhibition of goaltending ever shown locally. The wee lad blocked with his stick, feet, body, hands, head, pads and in every conceivable manner. He turned down effort after effort, that was ticketed through, and his great display alone saved the Irish." 

The St. Pat's would move on to face the Vancouver Millionaires in the Stanley Cup Final. Game one, at the Arena Gardens was fittingly played on St. Patrick's Day. Game two saw the Irish knock off the Millionaires in overtime, courtesy of Babe Dye. Game Three is most famous for being the first hockey game ever broadcast on radio. In Game Four, Toronto was led by Shrimp Andrews' two goal performance, on their way to a 6-0 win. In Game Five of the best of five series, Babe Dye led the way with a remarkable four goal night, as the St. Pats took the deciding game 5-1. The Stanley Cup was Toronto's once more.

Following their Cup year, the team's fortunes began to slip, they weren't winning, Toronto's Irish community was no longer showing up in the numbers they once did and by 1927, the team was up for sale and appeared to likely to be headed to Philadelphia for the price of $200,000. There was to be no pro hockey in Toronto. 

Enter Conn Smythe; veteran of WWI and the former General Manager of the New York Rangers. Smythe convinced one of the St. Pats owners, J.P. Bickell, to retain his $40,000 stake in the team and was able to bring together other investors to foot the rest of the bill. Smythe himself put up a 5% stake and took on the role of Manager. The change in ownership was made official on Valentine's Day, 1927 and the team would play its final game as the St. Pats two days later, against the Detroit Cougars in Windsor Ontario.

At this time almost 80% of the city's population was English. It didn't make sense to the new ownership that the club would have a name that only appealed to one group, so the change was made from St. Pats to Maple Leafs. Smythe would say, "The Maple Leaf to us, was the badge of courage, the badge that meant home… It was a badge that meant more to us, than any other badge that we could think of... so we chose it... hoping that the possession of this badge would mean something to the team that wore it and when they skated out on the ice with this badge on their chest... they would wear it with honour and pride and courage, the way it had been worn by the soldiers of the first Great War in the Canadian Army."

The team played their first game with the Maple Leaf on their sweater on February 17, 1927 at the Mutual St. Arena, while still wearing the green and white colours of the St. Pats. George Patterson scored the first goal of the game, Ace Bailey, the eventual game winner, as the St. Pats era in Toronto hockey, officially came to a close.

Notable Toronto St. Pats

Hap Day* | #17 | D
Ace Bailey* | #25 | RW
Corb Denneny* | #95 | RW
Reg Noble* | #55 | LW/C
Jack Adams* | #90 | C
Harry Cameron* | #77 | D
Babe Dye* | #31 | RW
John Ross Roach | #1 | G
Bert Corbeau | #2 | D

King Clancy

The Leafs Most Famous Irishman

King Clancy Joins the Leafs

In 1930, Conn Smythe felt the Maple Leafs needed just one more key player to win the Stanley Cup and he has his mind set on Ottawa Senators defenceman King Clancy. The Senators asking price was too high; they wanted players and $35,000. Money was tight and Conn couldn't swing the cash so he headed to Woodbine to try to win the money he needed to make the trade. Smythe owned one of the horses racing that day. Her name was Rare Jewel and she was listed as a 106 to 1 shot to win - steep odds to be sure.

In attempt to improve his chances, Conn fed his horse a generous amount of Brandy. Heavily inebriated, Rare Jewel would go on the win the race, netting Smythe the highest race payoff in Canada that year. He used the funds to purchase King Clancy from the Sens. Two years later the Leafs would win the Cup and King would remain an intrical part of the Maple Leafs organization until 1986.

King Clancy Facts

  • Won one Cup with the Leafs in 1932
  • Was the fifth player to have his number (7) honoured by the Maple Leafs in 1995
  • He was named an NHL First or Second Team All Star with the Leafs, four years in a row
  • The Leafs still own his original Gardens Banner and began hanging it from the rafters of Air Canada Centre for the game closest to St. Patrick's Day, back in 2014.
  • The Maple Leafs will add King's original ACC banner to this tradition as the club along with the Clancy family have agreed that the Leafs should retain ownership of all three Clancy banners
  • Clancy served with the club in some capacity or another for 56 seasons
  • King has an NHL Award named after him that is given annually to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy contribution to his community
  • King remains the only active player to ever have a "night" thrown for him, when on St. Patrick's Day 1934 King Clancy Night occurred at Maple Leaf Gardens. King was pushed to centre ice, seared upon a throne and wore a green sweater adorned with a shamrock to start the game until the opposing coach complained and he put on his regular Leafs sweater
  • King Clancy is the only player who after his passing, was given the honour of having the Leafs team wear a commemorative patch for an entire season (86/87)