leafmania, 1962: beating chicago wasn’t as tough as this

Cup Runneth Downtown: Leaf captain George Armstrong escorts the Stanley Cup to Toronto’s City Hall on this day 61 years ago. (That’s team co-owner Harold Ballard by his elbow.) (Image: Frank Teskey, Toronto Star, Toronto Public Library)

Not trying to jinx anybody or plan parades ahead of their time: all this, please note, is just facts. Let the record show (because it does) that in Toronto, in the early 1960s, this April week was the onein which the local Maple Leafs won Stanley Cup championships.

There were three of them in a row, you might remember, from 1962 through 1964. I don’t (remember), this was before my time, but I’ve looked up those championships, done some studying of the city’s reaction, and discovered that it was, in a word, joyous.

It was on a Saturday of today’s date in ’64 that the Leafs wrapped up their third consecutive Cup, beating the Detroit Red Wings 4-0 at Maple Leaf Gardens to take the series in seven games. Andy Bathgate scored the winner for Toronto, while Johnny Bower recorded the shutout.

In ’62, the Leafs ended the series against the Black Hawks at Chicago Stadium on April 22, with Dick Duff scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory (Don Simmons was in the Toronto crease). Three days later, on a Wednesday of this very date 61 years ago, the Leafs were back in Toronto to show the Cup to a city that had been waiting since 1951 (cue the Bill Barilko song) for the Leafs to get in gear again. Toronto’s police weren’t prepared for the crowd that showed up around (Old) City Hall to greet the team; not wanting to get too specific, they later estimated that the mass numbered between 50,000 and 100,00 people. Though larger throngs had gathered in Toronto before, officials said they’d never seen one so very dense before.

The team paraded in via a fleet of convertibles to meet Mayor Nathan Phillips. That was the plan, anyway, but the mayhem forced many of the Leafs from their cars two blocks away, which meant that they continued on foot to City Hall under police escort. Here’s Al Nickleson from the Globe and Mail describing that trek:

On the way they were deluged in confetti and streamers and plagued by souvenir seekers and well-wishers. Fans plucked handkerchiefs from Leaf pockets, grabbed at their neckties and arms and banged them on the back. One boy attempted to pull the watch from the wrist of utility player Johnny MacMillan.

Majority of the crowd was made up of teenagers and there were feminine shrieks of “I touched him, I touched him,” as a Leaf went by.

“Beating Chicago in the Stanley Cup final wasn’t as tough as this,” shouted Leaf captain George Armstrong as he bulled his way through the pack.

The mammoth gathering ranged from kids in carriages to oldsters with canes, and it was a minor miracle someone wasn’t trampled or otherwise injured. Several persons collapsed and were treated by first-aid attendants.

More than 50 crying children became separated from parents and were taken to a City Hall room. Magistrates adjourned court for nearly two hours because they were unable to hear over the din set up outside and inside City Hall.

Mayor Phillips addressed the people from the steps, calling Toronto “the hockey capital of the world,” and appealing for order while asking the crowd to let the Leafs through. Inside, in the a-little-less-congested council chamber, he presented the players, coach Punch Imlach, and Leaf president Stafford Smythe with gold-plated cufflinks.

Leaf winger Eddie Shack took a seat in the Mayor’s chair. “You gotta learn to relax in this business,” he said. Also noted in Nickleson’s dispatch:

Captain Armstrong, who carried Toronto’s first Stanley Cup in 11 years into the chamber and who has Indian blood in his veins, told the assemblage, “for once the Indians came out on top.”

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