Born in Brandon, Manitoba in 1914, Walter “Turk” Broda would join the Maple Leafs 22 years later.
Unlike most pro hockey players, who earn their nicknames at some point during their careers, Walter was known as Turk since childhood, having been given the moniker, because his freckled face resembled that of a turkey’s egg.
Originally property of the Red Wings, Turk was purchased from Detroit for the price of $7,500. Considered to be a steep price during the Great Depression, the deal turned out to be an incredible bargain.
Over his first seven seasons, Broda would only miss four games and in his career, he would play more games in goal than any other Maple Leaf, suiting up for the second most playoff games in club history along the way. In 1942, the Maple Leafs would drop the first three games of the Cup Final to Detroit, but Turk was able to bounce back with a comeback for the ages… four straight wins, a feat that had never been accomplished in the Final before… and has not been equaled by any other goaltender since.
It was said that “when the playoff bucks were on the line, the Turk could catch lint in a hurricane.” Over his career Broda, would sport a playoff goals against average under two.
Shortly after the '42 Cup win, Turk would take a leave from the Maple Leafs to serve in the army during the Second World War. Two and a half years later, he returned to help lead the Maple Leafs to even more Championship glory in '47 against Montreal, in '48 and '49 versus Detroit and again in '51 against the Canadiens.
No player in Leafs history won more Stanley Cups than Turk Broda.
Beginning in the 30’s, and through to the 50’s, there wasn’t a bigger personality on the team than Turk, weather posing for iconic photographs, serving up memorable quotes for the media, being active in the community or serving as a role model for his teammates. Like his fellow Hall of Famer Johnny Bower, he would finish his career as the oldest player in the NHL. Turk won more games and shut out more opponents than any other Toronto goalie, winning a pair of Vezina Trophies along the way. Upon his retirement, he held the distinction of having become the winningest goalie, since the foundation of the NHL.
To celebrate his contributions to the team, the Maple Leafs held Turk Broda Night, in front of a capacity crowd at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Toronto Star had high praise for the retiring netminder, citing that “No other athlete of the present generation, has managed to get quite the same grip on the affections of Canadian sports fans, as the Turk”.
As for Broda, he would always describe himself as “just a fellow who likes to play hockey. The Maple Leafs paid me for my work in practices. I threw in the games for free.”