Skip to Main Content

A brief history of the Toronto Maple Leafs

by Michael Stainkamp
The Toronto Maple Leafs joined the NHL during its inaugural season in 1917 as the Toronto Arenas. In 1919-20, and for the next eight seasons, the Toronto franchise was called the St. Patricks and finally settled on the Maple Leafs in 1927.

The NHL was formed with four teams: The Arenas, the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, and the Ottawa Senators. The Wanderers were forced to fold just six games into the season when their arena burnt down. The remainder of the season was played between the three remaining teams. The Arenas won the NHL's first ever Stanley Cup when they defeated the Pacific Coast Hockey League Champions, the Vancouver Millionaires.

Late in the following season, the Toronto Arenas withdrew from the NHL due to financial difficulties, but the Toronto franchise reemerged in the 1919-20 season, this time with new owners and a new name -- the Toronto St. Patricks. The name was selected in hopes of attracting the city’s large Irish population to attend the home games.

In the St. Pats' second season, they took home their second Stanley Cup, again beating the Millionaires. That series was full of firsts as Babe Dye scored a record 9 goals in the five games and was awarded the first-ever penalty shot. His 36-foot shot sailed over the goalie's head, though.

Over the next few seasons, the St. Pats were unable to win a championship, but they produced many successful teams and laid the foundation for a winning Toronto franchise.

One of the most historic changes in Toronto's franchise history came when Conn Smythe, the architect of the New York Rangers, bought the St. Pats. He immediately prevented the team from moving to Philadelphia, changed the team's name to the Maple Leafs and change the team colors to blue and white. The name "Maple Leafs" came from a World War I fighting unit, the Maple Leaf Regiment.

Toronto returned to the top of the NHL in 1932 when it beat the Rangers in three straight games to sweep the best-of-five series. It was the franchise's first Cup victory since becoming the Maple Leafs. The Leafs would remain a contender but didn’t win the Cup again until 1942 when they became the only team to lose the first three games in a Final series and come back with four-straight wins. They beat the Detroit Red Wings to take home the fourth Cup in franchise history.

The Leafs played well throughout the '40s, winning the Cup in 1945, 1947, 1948 and 1949. They also started off the '50s with a Cup win in 1951. They stayed competitive but reached the peak of their success in the 1960s. They won three straight Cups from 1962-1964 and another one in 1967, bringing their franchise total to 13.

The Leafs haven’t been able to duplicate the success the team had in the earlier years of the franchise but have shown potential with the addition of new General Manager Brian Burke. With players such as Colby Armstrong and Phil Kessel, the team has a bright future and figures to contend for the playoffs.
View More

The NHL has updated its Privacy Policy effective January 16, 2020. We encourage you to review it carefully.

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.