The Toronto Maple Leafs are an NHL franchise in the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference.
The franchise was founded in 1917, when teams in Montreal and Quebec decided to attempt to form the NHL. The Toronto Blueshirts won the first Stanley Cup in NHL history. The following season, the franchise changed its name to the Toronto Arenas. Legal disputes and financial difficulties led to the worst season in franchise history, and the team was sold again in 1919, changing their name to the Toronto St. Patricks. In 1927, Conn Smythe purchased the franchise, and renamed the team the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the 1930s, the Maple Leafs became one of the most dominant teams in the fledgling NHL, after opening their new arena Maple Leaf Gardens. With some of the league’s greatest early players on the roster, Toronto won the Stanley Cup again in 1932. In 1933, Maple Leaf Gardens was host to the first NHL All-Star game, held to benefit injured star Ace Bailey, who was nearly killed by a hit from Bruins’ defenseman Eddie Shore. Toronto consistently made the playoffs throughout the decade, but would not win the Cup again until 1942, when Turk Broda and Syl Apps led them to an upset over the Detroit Red Wings. The Leafs would win again in 1945, beating Detroit with a roster depleted by injuries and World War II.
In the late 1940s, one of the greatest rivalries in sports was born, when the Maple Leafs met the Montreal Canadiens in the Cup Finals a number of times. In 1947, 1948 and 1949, Toronto won the Stanley Cup, making the Leafs the first team to win three Cups in a row. The Leafs lost in 1950, but would beat Montreal again in 1951, in a Cup series that featured five overtime games. In the 1960s, Toronto rode a Hall of Fame lineup to three straight Cups between ’62 and ’64. Frank Mahovlich, Johnny Bower and Red Kelly headlined a Leafs powerhouse that would win the last Stanley Cup in franchise history, beating Montreal again in 1967. Over the next two decades, Harold Ballard became the new owner, and led the team into a plethora of problems. Ballard was a very involved owner, leading to contract disputes with star players like Darryl Sittler, and no Stanley Cup titles.
In the 1990s, Cliff Fletcher was hired by new owner Steve Stavro and turned the struggling franchise into an immediate contender. The acquisition of Doug Gilmour jumpstarted the offense, while Wendel Clark and goalie Felix Potvin turned out to be excellent prospects. The Leafs made a deep playoff run, losing a controversial seven game series to the Los Angeles Kings. The following season, the Leafs made it to the Conference Finals again, losing to Pavel Bure and the Vancouver Canucks in five games.
In the mid-‘90s, Toronto struggled to make the playoffs, until 1999, when Pat Quinn coached them to the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to Buffalo in five games. Toronto posted 100 points for the first time in franchise history, winning the Northeast Division, but losing in the second round of the playoffs. Toronto continued to make the playoffs for the next few seasons, but continued their losing ways in the Conference Finals.
Since the lockout, Toronto has yet to make the playoffs, missing the playoffs by only one game in 2007. After a disappointing season in 2007-08, coach Paul Maurice was fired and a number of high profile contracts were cut loose, including Darcy Tucker and Bryan McCabe.
Toronto plays out of the Air Canada Center, which seats 18,819 fans for hockey games.
Stanley Cups won: 1917-18, 1921-22, 1931-32, 1941-42, 1944-45, 1946-47, 1947-48, 1948-49, 1950-51, 1961-62, 1962-63, 1963-64, 1966-67
Notable Players: Dave Andreychuk, Syl Apps, George Armstrong, Ace Bailey, Andy Bathgate, Bill Barilko, Ed Belfour, Johnny Bower, Turk Broda, King Clancy, Wendel Clark, Charlie Conacher, Tie Domi, Ron Ellis, Doug Gilmour, Tim Horton, Busher Jackson, Curtis Joseph, Red Kelly, Ted Kennedy, Dave Keon, Harry Lumley, Frank Mahovlich, Bryan McCabe, Lanny McDonald, Larry Murphy, Felix Potvin, Gary Roberts, Borje Salming, Terry Sawchuck, Darryl Sittler, Mats Sundin, Rick Vaive, Dave Williams