Born in Rouyn-Noranda Quebec in 1940, the son of a school teacher and a miner, Dave Keon had… by the age of 12, become property of the Detroit Red Wings, but on October 6th, 1960 he would make his NHL debut as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In that season, he would win the Calder Trophy.
Dave joined the Maple Leafs at just the right time, as the Leafs were about to embark upon a remarkable Championship run. As it turned out, he was to be the final piece to the puzzle.
Dave described the Leafs approach in the 60’s in the following way, “Our goal was to win the Stanley Cup or die trying.” and in 1962 he became a Stanley Cup Champion in only his second season.
In 1963 he led the Leafs in Playoff scoring, sealing the championship with two short-handed goals in the Cup clinching game against Detroit. Following the victory, Dave had already made his way to the dressing room, when the Gardens crowd began chanting “We want Keon”. Dave wouldn’t disappoint, returning to the ice and a thunderous ovation. After the celebrations coach Punch Imlach told reporters “It may sound like a lot of big talk but I wouldn’t trade Dave Keon for Gordie Howe.”
In 1964, it was Keon’s Game 7 hat trick against the Canadiens, that got them to their third Final in a row. Ever humble and always the team player, he would simply say of the accomplishment, “I’m happy I got three… they came in handy.” Two weeks later, Dave Keon and the Leafs would win their third Cup in a row, defeating the Red Wings.
In 1967, the Leafs would win their fourth Cup in six years, defeating the Canadiens with Dave Keon being awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs most valuable player. Reflecting upon the victories, Dave showed the ultimate respect for Montreal by saying, “to me, when you win the Stanley Cup… you always look back… who did you beat… did you play the Canadiens… and did you beat them? And yes we did play them… and we beat them.” Longtime Montreal Canadiens reporter Red Fisher would say of Dave Keon, “He was the Canadiens killer… he would destroy them on some nights with the way he approached the game.”
Two years following the 67 Cup, the future Hall of Famer was named Captain of the Maple Leafs, a position he would hold for six years. In his career, he would be awarded the Lady Byng trophy twice and after 15 seasons with the blue and white, Dave Keon had become the highest scorer in Toronto Maple Leafs history.
Dave would retire at the age of 42, the last of the Original Six Maple Leafs. In his Leafs career Dave averaged only five penalty minutes a season but when asked to sum up Keon’s style of play, Imlach would say, “he played with bulldog tenacity. That’s the only way he knew how to play the game. What more can you ask?”