As the team celebrates its Centennial anniversary season, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that four additional players would be inducted into the team's Legends Row monument this year with Wendel Clark, Charlie Conacher, Red Kelly and Frank Mahovlich being honoured with statues to be unveiled this fall. The four Leaf greats will join previous inductees Ted Kennedy, Darryl Sittler, Johnny Bower, Borje Salming, George Armstrong, Syl Apps, Mats Sundin, Dave Keon, Turk Broda and Tim Horton on Legends Row bringing the total number of statues to fourteen.
The four men were honoured in a pre-game ceremony tonight as the latest Legends Row inductees were announced to fans as the Maple Leafs hosted the Ottawa Senators at Air Canada Centre.
"Throughout the Maple Leafs Centennial anniversary season, we have celebrated the great players and accomplishments of this iconic franchise while also looking towards the future and the opportunity to write the next great chapter in the club's history," said Brendan Shanahan, Toronto Maple Leafs President and Alternate Governor. "The addition of these four great players to Legends Row will mark another important moment during this anniversary season and is a testament to all that they have meant to this franchise. On behalf of the Maple Leafs, and the team's many fans, our congratulations go to Wendel, Red, Frank, and the family of Charlie Conacher, on this great honour."
One of the most beloved players in franchise history, Wendel Clark joined the Maple Leafs after being drafted first overall in the NHL Draft in 1985, the first time in club history the team held the top pick in the draft. He would immediately capture the hearts of every fan in the city with his tenacious and pugnacious presence and leadership. His impact on his team and the game could not be measured by statistics alone. Clark, the hard-working Saskatchewan native, was a throwback to the great Leafs eras of the past and he could change any game with both goals and grit.
Clark would play 13 of his 15 NHL seasons in a Maple Leaf uniform and was named the 19th captain in club history ahead of the 1991-92 season where his punishing style of play earned him the nickname 'Captain Crunch'. Nowhere was Clark's heart, determination and leadership more evident than in the Leafs' great playoff run of 1993 when the Blue and White fell one game shy of a Stanley Cup Final appearance. In June, 1994, Clark was traded to the Quebec Nordiques in a deal that brought fellow Legends Row honouree, Mats Sundin, to Toronto but he would return to the Leafs in 1995 and again in 2000 before he retired. Today, Wendel proudly serves as a Toronto Maple Leafs ambassador where he can be found representing the team in the community and at games at Air Canada Centre.
"Playing for the Maple Leafs, and in front of the great fans of Toronto, was like a dream come true," Said Clark. "To be recognized on Legends Row like this, alongside such important players for one of the greatest franchises in the game, will go down as one of the greatest honours of my life and career."
In the 1930's, Charlie Conacher helped lay the foundation for what would one day become one of the greatest franchises in hockey. Known as 'The Big Bomber', Conacher was a prolific goal scorer and he would go on to lead the NHL in scoring five times. Along with his line mates Joe Primeau and Busher Jackson, Conacher made up the thrilling 'Kid Line' and the overflowing crowds they attracted to the Mutual Street Arena with their offensive display helped inspire the building of Maple Leaf Gardens, where fittingly, Conacher scored the first Leafs goal.
Conacher joined the Toronto Marlboros in 1927 and was promoted to the Maple Leafs and the NHL in 1928 at the age of 19. Named captain for the 1937-38 season, Conacher would play nine seasons for the Maple Leafs and still holds the franchise record for the fastest game-opening goal after scoring seven seconds into a game against Boston on February 6, 1932.
Conacher was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. On January 1, 2017, prior to the NHL Centennial Classic, he was one of the first players to be named to the NHL's '100 Greatest Players' in league history.
"Our family is thrilled that Charlie Conacher is being added to Legends Row," said Brad Conacher, Charlie's son, on behalf of the Conacher family. "He is a fitting representative of an era when the Toronto Maple Leafs was as much a national team as it was a Toronto franchise. We are very appreciative of this recognition that the club is bestowing on him."
Leonard Patrick 'Red' Kelly played eight seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs, winning the Stanley Cup four times, from 1959-1967 after famously signing with the club after 13 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings where he was also a member of four Stanley Cup winning teams. Kelly, who grew up a Leafs fan in Simcoe, Ontario, was one of the most skilled and versatile players in the league, playing centre for the Leafs after previously playing defense for Detroit and winning the Norris trophy in 1954.
Kelly was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969 and was also one of the first players to be named to the NHL's '100 Greatest Players' in league history at the 2017 NHL Centennial Classic. Kelly's number 4 was first honoured by the Leafs in 2006 and was officially retired in a ceremony prior to the Leafs's Centennial Anniversary home opener in October. While a member of the Maple Leafs, Kelly was elected to the Canadian House of Commons where he would serve two terms. Kelly was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2001.
Frank Mahovlich, 'The Big M', was billed as an up and coming superstar while still a teenager. After joining the Maple Leafs late in the 1956-57 season, he would score 20 goals the following season and win the Calder Memorial Trophy as Rookie of the Year, edging out another budding star, Bobby Hull, in the process.
Mahovlich was put on a line with fellow 2017 Legends Row inductee Red Kelly for the 1960-61 season and scored 48 goals, a Leafs record that would stand for 21 years. They would go on to power the Leafs to three straight Stanley Cup Championships from 1961-64 with Mahovlich leading the team in goals all three seasons.
Mahovlich would play 12 seasons for the Maple Leafs and help bring four Stanley Cups in total to Toronto during that time. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981. Mahovlich was named to the NHL's '100 Greatest Players' in league history at the NHL Centennial Classic on January 1, 2017 and had his number 27 retired by the Leafs in October, an honour that he shared with fellow Legends Row member Darryl Sittler. Mahovlich was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1998 and was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1994.
"I am honoured to have my likeness depicted in a statue as a Toronto Maple Leaf and particularly to be in the company of my friend and teammate of seven years Red Kelly," said Mahovlich.
The Legends Row monument project, located at Maple Leaf Square outside Air Canada Centre, began in August, 2014 with the announcement of Ted Kennedy as the first player to be honoured. The statues of Kennedy, Darryl Sittler and Johnny Bower were unveiled in September of 2014, followed by the statues of Borje Salming, George Armstrong, Syl Apps and Mats Sundin in 2015, and last October, the unveiling of statues of Dave Keon, Turk Broda and Tim Horton ahead of the Maple Leafs' Centennial Anniversary season opener.
"Legends Row is a tribute to the first one hundred years of Maple Leafs history," said Shanahan. "The Maple Leafs historical committee and the team itself are very happy with how the different eras of Leafs history are represented. As we look ahead to the next one hundred years of Maple Leafs hockey, it is our sincere hope that we will soon have reason to expand this bench to recognize future Leafs heroes."