Toronto Feature: Nathan Phillips Square | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Toronto Feature: Nathan Phillips Square

This article is from our Toronto Feature series. Features from past programs are not updated.

This content is from a series created in partnership with Museum Services of the City of Toronto and Heritage Toronto. We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, and the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Dave Keon, Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Dave Keon was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1967 (courtesy Hockey Hall of Fame).
Maple Leafs Stanley Cup Parade
Leafs captain George Armstrong, left, and owner Harold Ballard parade the Stanley Cup in downtown Toronto in 1967 (courtesy Toronto Star).
City Hall, Toronto
City Hall has not seen a celebration of a Stanley Cup for 45 years and counting (photo 2012 by James Marsh).
Maple Leaf Gardens
Maple Leaf Gardens, c 1950s (courtesy Toronto Reference Library/Baldwin Room-979-38-1).

Toronto Feature: Nathan Phillips Square

"The Maple Leafs' Last Stanley Cup and the Hillman Hex"

No one expected the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs to win the Stanley Cup and no one expected that it might never happen again! The Leafs themselves that year knew they were flawed. They were mostly old, erratic, tired and had a poisonous relationship with their coach and general manager "Punch" Imlach. They lost the first game of the playoffs against the highly favoured Chicago Black Hawks but then the magic began as the goaltending of 42-year old Johnny Bower and 37-year-old Terry Sawchuk turned back a dispirited Hawks team.

In the final, the Leafs faced the Montreal Canadiens, who had just won 15 straight games. The determined Dave Keon won the MVP Award for his all-round play and captain George Armstrong put the final game on ice with an open-net goal.

The aftermath of that victory was a vindictive demolition of the champion by Imlach that has not been healed to this day. His treatment of Larry Hillman, the outstanding defenseman of the playoffs, was so bad that the player put a hex on the Leafs. During contract renewals that spring, Imlach refused Hillman's request, low-balled him on the counter-offer, and fined him $2,400 for refusing the contract offer. Hillman declared that the team would not win another Cup until they reimbursed him the fine plus interest. After 45 years of frustration, the curse seems intact.