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Baun recalls goal that helped Leafs win '64 Cup

by John Kreiser
The man who scored perhaps the most famous playoff goal in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs wants you to know he didn't do it with a broken ankle.

"It was a broken leg. It wasn't a broken ankle," Bob Baun told when asked about the milestone moment of his 17-year career.

Baun blocked a Gordie Howe shot midway through the final period of Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup Final in Detroit, a game the Leafs had to win to stay alive. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher, but had no intentions of calling it a night. Baun received treatment at the infirmary in the old Olympia. When he was told he couldn't do any more damage to his leg, he took a shot of painkiller and was able to return to the game.

"It was an emotional thing. You don't understand those kinds of things until it's all over," Baun said. "For years I didn't know all the permutations around it. For years I didn't realize it. I played two shifts in the third period after they froze it the first time."

Baun actually started the overtime getting treatment for the injury.

"I didn't come out of the dressing room on time," he said, "not 'til almost the time when I scored the goal.

"Punch (Imlach, Leafs coach) asked for Kent Douglas and Carl Brewer to go on the ice. I just happened to arrive at the same time, and I told Kent, 'You stay. I'll go out,' and I jumped over the boards and went on the ice. It couldn't have been three seconds until the puck came to me."

Baun, never a big offensive threat, took a pass from Bob Pulford and fired a shot from the blue line that somehow found its way into the net 1:43 into the extra period, giving the Leafs a series-tying 4-3 victory.

Even Baun admits his goal wasn't exactly a cannon blast.

"I always call that the 'triple-flutterblast with the follow-up'" he said with a laugh. "It hit (Detroit defenseman Bill) Gadsby's stick and went in the opposite direction, past (Terry) Sawchuk and into the net.

"But it's just like golf -- you don’t care how it goes in the hole."

The moment is among those captured in the NHL's latest series of "History Will Be Made" commercials -- his spot is entitled "One Leg." The fact that Baun was in pain is obvious even on the old black and white footage that shows him celebrating the goal.

Baun refused to let a doctor examine his foot and ankle and took a regular shift two nights later at Maple Leaf Gardens when the Leafs won 4-0 in Game 7 to earn their third consecutive Stanley Cup."

"We beat them easily back in Toronto after that," he said. "I don't think it was even a contest."

The overtime goal was the third and final playoff goal in his career, which spanned 964 games, plus 96 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Baun also was a member of the 1967 team that beat Montreal for the franchise's fourth Cup in six years -- but he feels the Leafs could have done even better.

"I always thought that if we had the same coaching as Montreal had -- Punch Imlach was a good (general) manager, but if he'd been as good a coach as Toe Blake in Montreal, we could have won, with the players we had at that point and the players we had coming up through the system, I always said we could have won seven or eight Stanley Cups," he said. "Most of us had played juniors together, and we were the first team to win back-to-back Memorial Cups at the time I played there, with the Toronto Marlboros. We had a powerhouse -- there were something like 14 or 15 guys off that team that turned pro. It was quite amazing."

The Leafs let Baun go to Oakland in the 1967 Expansion Draft; he played a season for the Seals and was in his third season with Detroit when the Leafs brought him back in 1970-71. He retired after a neck injury early in the 1972-73 season.

Though at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds Baun wasn't a big player -- even by the standards of his era -- he said he much preferred to play against bigger forwards.

"The guys that drove me crazy were the little guys, the guys that were sneaky," he said. "I loved the big guys because they always wanted to roll over me. I played against Bobby Hull since we were 8 years old and it was always the same -- who was strongest? He always played into my hands, and it was always fun playing against him. There were no high sticks or things like that.

"The little guy who drove me crazy was Camille Henry in New York. Camille was a wonderful little hockey player, but he'd always stay away from the goal -- he was always floating around somewhere, and you never knew where he'd pop up. That's the type of person I had problems with. The power players -- it worked to my advantage."

Long before teams were known for using defensive systems, the Leafs played the kind of shut-down hockey that today's coaches would envy -- in the early 1960s, they once went nearly five years without losing a game in which they led after two periods. Baun was a big reason the Leafs were so good at turning leads into victories.

"I was very premeditated in my strategy of how I played the game," he said. "I forced everything to the weak side, and I had wonderful defense partners and probably the best group ever of right wings you could have had -- strong backcheckers and people who stayed on their wing; you knew where they were going to be all the time."

Baun, now 74, said he still keeps up with the Leafs -- "I still stay reasonably in tune with what's going on" -- though he said he gave up his tickets at Air Canada Centre a few years ago because he spends much of the winter in Florida. But he does his best to keep up with his old teammates and rivals.

"I see a lot of everybody," he said. "Johnny Bower and I do a lot of stuff together, and Ronnie Ellis, who works for the Hall of Fame -- they're two of the closest. I see Bobby Nevin all the time. Shackie (Eddie Shack) I see a lot, and Harry Howell.

He's still hoping the Leafs can win the title that has eluded them since 1967.

"I can't hold my breath much longer," Baun said. "They've still got some problems, but you've got to work from that goaltender out ... then gradually get the forwards in place."
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