Darryl Sittler grew up in St. Jacob’s Ontario and was drafted 8th overall by Toronto in 1970. Over the years, Maple Leafs tradition has often called for the passing of one Leafs legend’s number to a future star. Certain numbers are associated with certain teams; number 4, number 9, number 66, number 99. For the Maple Leafs, that number is 27. In the fall of his rookie season, Darryl would make his debut wearing that number, the number made famous by the Big M, Frank Mahovlich. Darryl would live up to his club’s expectations, winning a franchise record eight straight team scoring titles. Early in this stretch, just prior to the start of the 75/76 season, Darryl was named Captain at the age of 24, making him (at the time), the second youngest to wear the “C” in club history.
Entering his first season as the leader of the Blue and White, one would be hard pressed to imagine what lay ahead for the Leafs superstar. On February 7, 1976, in front of a packed Maple Leaf Gardens, Darryl would accomplish a feat that had never been achieved before and has not been equaled since. At 6:19 of the first period against the Boston Bruins, he would set up his good friend Lanny McDonald to open the scoring… one point. At 7:01, he spotted Ian Turnbull to put the Leafs up by two… two points. At 2:56 of the second, he would score his first goal of the night… three points. He then provided the lone assist on Borje Salming’s goal at 3:33… four points. Unassisted, he scored his second goal at 8:10 mark… five points. At 10:27 he recorded the hat trick… six points. He then helped set up Borje again at 13:57… seven points. In the third he scored again, set up by Salming and his linemate Errol Thompson at 44 seconds… eight points. At 9:27 he put his fifth goal of the night past the Boston net-minder and breaking The Rocket’s record… nine points. Then, with just 3:25 left in the game, he completed the double hat trick to go with his four assists… ten points. Unbelievable.
Later that season on April 22nd, facing the Philadelphia Flyers in the Playoffs, Darryl scored five goals in a single game… another NHL record that still stands. Then, five months later at the Montreal Forum, set up by his teammate Lanny McDonald, Maple Leafs Captain Darryl Sittler would score the Canada Cup winning goal in overtime vs. Czechoslovakia. What a year.
In 1982 Darryl would play his last game with the Maple Leafs. He had become the team’s all-time leading scorer. Seven years later he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and on February 8th, 2003, Darryl Sittler became just the 10th player to have his number honoured by the club.
Anybody who grew up watching the Leafs in the 70’s counted Darryl Sittler amongst their heroes. From young children, to his own teammates… and even Terry Fox, who requested that his idol run with him during his Marathon of Hope. In August of 1991, Darryl returned to the Maple Leafs family and he’s been with us ever since, making countless appearances in the community, visiting with his old fans and making new ones every day.