Game 6 of the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals: Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
By Mark Weisenmiller

The year 1967 was special for Canada . Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was thinking of retiring and did so the following year. In Montreal , an international exhibition known as Expo '67 would become the most successful World's Fair of the 1960's. Canadian literature began to be respected world-wide, as writers such as Margaret Atwood and Leonard Cohen plied their trade.

The year was also special in hockey, as 1967 was the centennial year of Canada . Appropriately, two teams based in Canada , the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs, ended up playing in the year's Stanley Cup Finals.
The average age of the Canadiens players was less than that of the Maple Leafs'. Indeed, Maple Leafs Head Coach Punch Imlach called his players "The Old Fellows Athletic Club." Seven members of the team were 36 or older. The Maple Leafs two main goaltenders were Johnny Bower (42, but believed by insiders of the sport to be older) and Terry Sawchuk, 38. Five of the 36-or-older set helped Imlach win his first three Stanley Cups.

If the Maple Leafs defeated the Canadiens in the Finals, this would give them their fourth Stanley Cup championship in the past six years. To get to the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals, the Maple Leafs defeated the Chicago Black Hawks in a preliminary playoff round.

If the Maple Leafs were "The Old Fellows Athletic Club," then the Montreal Canadians seemed to be a perfect blend of youth and experience. They had such talented veterans as Jean Beliveau and Ralph Backstrom and young talents such as Yvon (“The Roadrunner”) Cournoyer and Jacques Laperriere. The Canadiens earned a trip to the Finals by beating, in the playoff season, the New York Rangers.

The Maple Leafs had a three wins to two advantage in the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals and Game Six was played in Toronto on May second. Imlach was so certain that his team would win Game 6 that neither he or anyone else in the Maple Leafs organization made travel arrangements for the squad to go to Montreal to play Game 7 if it was needed.

By far the best book on this particular Maple Leafs club is “'67: The Maple Leafs, Their Sensational Victory, and The End of an Empire” (2004) by Damien Cox and Gord Stellick. In the book, the two writers report: “Temperatures soared as high as 70 degrees Farenheit on the humid day (May second), which meant the (Maple Leafs) Gardens, filled with 15,977 fans, would be a sweatbox. The face value of tickets was $7, $6, $4.50, and $2.50, with a few $1.50 standing-room spots available for what Leafs fans hoped would be the final game of the season.”

The first period of Game Six was scoreless. The Canadiens were the more aggressive club, knowing that a loss in the game meant no Stanley Cup for 1967, but the tough Maple Leafs met the challenge. They did not back down from the strenuous efforts by the Canadiens.

About six minutes into the second period, the Maple Leafs centermen Red Kelly took a shot on Canadiens goalie Lorne "Gump" Worsley. The latter made the save, but the rebound came straight to the Leafs young (22) Ron Ellis. He shot the puck, high and hard, over Worsley, who was sprawled on the ice.

Sawchuk started Game Six and made key saves on the Canadiens Dick Duff and Beliveau. Yet when questioned by reporters after the game, he didn't even remember his best save of the period. In a hectic scramble in front of the Maple Leafs net, the puck got lose from Sawchuk's grasp and came to rest on the net crease's red line. The Canadiens John Ferguson charged in, swatted at the puck, and Sawchuk made the save by putting his glove hand behind his back and stopping the puck.

 

 

As the second period was coming to a close, the Leafs Jim Pappin took what appeared to be a soft backhand shot on Worsley. To "Gump's" horror, he saw the puck bounce off of team-mate Terry Harper's skate and go into the corner of the net. The score was now Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 0, and the buzzer sounded, signifying the end of the sceond period.

Duff scored the most impressive goal of the game at the 5:28 mark of the third period. He skated fast into the Maple Leafs zone with the puck, got past Leafs defensemen Tim Horton, made a wonderful deke move on Leafs defensemen Allan Stanley, and then, with Horton virtually on his back, Duff hooked a backhand shot past Sawchuk; Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1.

Now the Canadiens began to put pressure on the Maple Leafs, peppering Sawchuk with shots. To take some of the pressure off of Sawchuk near the end of the game, Leafs defensemen Larry Hillman shot the puck the length of the arena into the Canadiens zone. Referee John Ashley called an icing penalty and so the puck came back into the Maple Leafs zone for the ensuing face-off. There were 55 seconds left in the game.

Worsley was pulled from defending the Canadiens goal so that the team could add an extra player on offense. Imlach put out many members of "The Old Fellows Athletic Club" — Stanley (41), Horton (37), captain George Armstrong (36), Kelly (39), and young pup Bob Pulford (31) — to help Sawchuk save the game for the Maple Leafs.

The puck was dropped and Stanley won the face-off. Kelly got the puck and quickly passed it to Pulford. Pulford, in turn, passed the puck to Armstrong. The captain skated with the puck past center ice and shot the puck just before crossing into the Canadiens offensive zone. Score! The game ended with the Maple Leafs winning, 3-1, and the audience in the Maple Leafs Gardens loudly cheered.

Thus, the Toronto Maple Leafs won the 1967 Stanley Cup. As the National Hockey League expanded to 12 teams the following season, the Maple Leafs became the last team to win the Stanley Cup in the era of the so-called "Original Six" NHL teams.

 





 
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