Mike Ulmer has worked for seven news organizations including the National Post and, most recently, the Toronto Sun. Mike has written about the Leafs for 10 years and wrote Captains, a book about the club's greatest leaders.
February 16, 2007
(TORONTO) -- The greatest of all Leafs is on the line from Florida, talking about 1967.
"Somewhere along the line, we started believing we could win the thing," Dave Keon said of the remarkable 1967 victory.
"That was our biggest asset. We believed we could do it."
Keon will fly north and interrupt his Florida retirement to join his former teammates February 17 and mark the 40th anniversary of that Stanley Cup triumph.
His team clinched with a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens, May 2, 1967.
While he did not score in the deciding game, the-five-foot-nine Keon was judged the Conn Smythe Trophy winner after notching three goals and five assists in 12 games.
He was 27-years-old and entering the prime of his career. Unfortunately, the Leafs, with 11 out of 19 players over 30, were not and his was Keon's final title with the Leafs.
That Dave Keon was the best Maple Leaf shouldn't draw much debate. Mats Sundin bumped Keon down to third in all-time scoring this season, Darryl Sittler is the all-time leader, but Keon's numbers 365 goals and 858 points, still stand up. Keon spent three years in the WHA. His 102 goals and 291 points weren't transferable.
Keon was a four-time Stanley Cup winner and a peerless defensive centre who spent every night facing the likes of Jean Beliveau, Stan Mikita or Phil Esposito and he played the game with a unerring geometric genius.
"Trying to move the puck past Keon," Hall of Fame defenseman Bill Gadsby once memorably said, "was as easy as shaking your shadow in the sunshine."
The belief that 1967 could be the year really sunk in after the Maple Leafs eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.
The New York Rangers occupied the fourth and final playoff spot, just three points behind the Maple Leafs. The Hawks had the game's two biggest scorers in Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull and counted five players in the league's top 10 scorers which is five more than the Leafs had.
"Chicago was the team that was supposed to win the Cup," Keon said.
"In the first game against Montreal, we lost 6-2 but we were mentally fatigued," Keon said. "The next game, we won 3-0 in Montreal."
Keon said what made Punch Imlach's Over The Hill Gang so tough, was it's collective experience marshaled by Imlach behind the bench and led by Armstrong on the ice.
"George was our leader. There were other guys, (Tim) Horton, (Allan) Stanley, Frank (Mahovlich), Red (Kelly), players who had experience and understood that you have to do certain things to win.
"That meant checking, winning face-offs, doing things like killing penalties, things that may not be fun but things you need done."
He remembers Sawchuk, 37, in the twilight of a magnificent career, calling on every bit of his dwindling skills.
"He was a shadow of the player he was before he came to us but he still played great for us."
Keon would not find 1967 his greatest victory. "The most special was the first time I won it, it was the first time the Leafs had won it in 11 years."
Sixty-seven would be the last hurrah for the gang that won Stanley Cups that decade. Keon would play here until 1976, spend three seasons in the WHA and then another three with the Hartford Whalers.
This marks his first return to the Maple Leafs after a long time away. Time has done nothing to diminish his image. The King is back.