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The Official Site of the Toronto Maple Leafs

Catching Up With Ian Turnbull

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

John Iaboni has been covering the Maple Leafs and hockey for over 30 years. He now is the editor of Leafs Game Day, the official program of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

by John Iaboni
February 2, 2007

Leafs Game Day Program, Issue #3, 2006-07

Taking a shine to California during his playing days with the Maple Leafs, Ian Turnbull and his family have resided in the Los Angeles area since 1981 when Toronto traded him to the Kings for Billy Harris and John Gibson.

Turnbull and his wife, Inge, live in the trendy Hollywood Riviera section of Torrance. Their children live nearby. Daughter, Thea, continues her career as a Grade 6 teacher while son, William, is studying to be a teacher at Cal State Dominguez Hills while working at "a pretty happening place" called Club Sushi at Hermosa Beach.

From the hockey-playing perspective, the man nicknamed "Bull" formed an excellent playing partnership with the guy called B.J. (Borje Salming) from 1973 until November 11, 1981.

But even back in those days, Turnbull's life extended beyond the game. He opened a wine bar called Grapes for a time, not far from Maple Leaf Gardens. 

"I was only 25 years ahead of the curve," Turnbull says with a laugh. "It did okay, actually, but it was (laughs again) a little out there. Then, when I got traded I had the option on The Golden Griddle (across the street from the Gardens) but I couldn't see running a business from California."

Turnbull was in real estate until about five or six years ago. And now?

"Not doing too much actually," he says. "I've just got an interest in a studio gallery down in San Pedro, California. I do a little painting but I mostly make picture frames and just do stuff in a shop. We have a nice wood shop in the back."

Born in Montreal on December 22, 1953, Turnbull has no complaints about his health these days. He considers himself blessed to be able to lace up the skates a couple of times each week; he's an active member of the Kings alumni and he follows the current squad at Staples Center while keeping up with the Leafs via the Internet.

Of the 628 NHL regular-season games Turnbull played, 580 came with the Leafs. He played 42 games for the Kings and six with the Pittsburgh Penguins before packing it in after back surgery.

Turnbull scored 112 goals, 302 assists and 414 points with the Leafs, then added 13 goals, 32 assists and 45 points in 55 career playoff games (all with the Leafs). In 1976-77, Turnbull set the Leafs record for defencemen with 22 goals and 79 points. That same season, Salming had 78 points.

And on February 2, 1977 at the Gardens, Turnbull established the NHL record for most goals in one game by a defenceman with five - triggering Toronto's 9-1 win over Detroit with two goals on Eddie Giacomin and three on Jimmy Rutherford.

"It was one of those nights where things happened to click," Turnbull says. "I think Sitt (Darryl Sittler) would say the same thing about his 10-point night. Things clicked that night and on other nights you'd be doing the same damn thing and you might hit somebody's skate and it would go in the corner or it would hit the post and just didn't go in. As a professional you just take it as it comes. That's basically what happened. It was a combination of a little bit of luck although (laughing) a couple of the goals were pretty decent.

"We had a pretty good core group there that when we got cooking there weren't very many better in the league, particularly on the power play. You see now the game has gone back to that sort of genre where special teams become very important."

Another signature moment for Turnbull occurred in the 1978 playoffs after Salming sustained a serious eye injury against the Islanders. Turnbull was a force as the Leafs stormed back to win the bitterly fought quarterfinal series in seven games.

"Somebody had to step up and I think I just got out maybe a little from (the shadow of) Salming, and I don't mean that in a detrimental way," Turnbull says. "The only thing that really happened is that without him there my game sort of moved up to the forefront. Basically, a lot of the things I did against the Islanders were the same things I was doing every night. But there was more focus on me because Borje was not there, which never bothered me one way or the other because as far as I was concerned you were there for one reason and that was to win the Stanley Cup."

Turnbull enjoyed his partnership with Salming.

"We basically had a very good chemistry," Turnbull says. "He had a much more spectacular style than I did. He would be sliding all over the ice and blocking shots, doing all those sort of things. And I was a little calmer, less spectacular. I went about my business, sometimes to my detriment, I guess. It was said that I almost looked like I wasn't trying but that's not the truth at all. My style of play was very pretty slick. I didn't waste too much effort. I made the game look a little easier than it really is."

Courtesy of Leafs Game Day Program, Issue #3, 2006-07

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