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Scott Garland: remembering a rugged Leaf

In the mid-to-later 1970s, the Toronto Maple Leafs revolved around Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming, Mike Palmateer, Ian Turnbull, Lanny McDonald and Tiger Williams. They played the Flyers, then the toughest team in hockey, three years in a row in the playoffs- 1975, 1976 and 1977, never managing to win a series.

Those last two years the Leafs were a pretty team tough team themselves. They had guys like Brian Glennie still on defense, Pat Boutette and Williams up front and they imported players like Scott Walker up front to be ready for teams like Philadelphia.

But the toughest Leaf in my mind was winger Scott Garland.

Garland was, to me, the definition of the honest hockey player. He was not a naturally smooth skater, and he had to work very hard to get from point A to point B. His skill set was modest at the NHL level, but he was a classic grinder, not afraid to work in the corners. And when the opportunity presented itself, he was not shy to fight and he could handle himself. He was also the kind of player that when he hit you, you likely remembered it because he would skate right through you when finishing a check.

Too, he was one of those rare players who wasn’t afraid to position himself in front of the goalie, where he would get hacked and whacked by goalies and defensemen. He did not play a lot of minutes but, in my mind, he was a valuable contributor to the team during the 1976-’77 season. He scored maybe 10 goals that season, and while he did not play in the playoffs that spring, in my opinion he was much underrated.

In fact, I so loved the way Garland played that I invited him to be a guest on my weekly radio show, in the spring of 1977. He drove to our remote broadcast location at the Square One Mall in Mississauga for our interview. In person, this tough as nails player was so down to earth and unpretentious. He may well have been the most genuine professional athlete I ever interacted with.

Unfortunately by the next season an injury set him back, and he played only with the Leaf farm team. He then played with the LA Kings briefly in the 1978-’79 season.

That summer, I was on my way to Montreal from Toronto when I heard a radio report that Garland had died in an automobile accident. I was truly sad to hear the terrible news. He was a solid hockey player and a genuinely nice human being.


  1. I remember meeting Scott Garland at the old Hockey Hall of Fame at the CNE grounds. I was probably 9 or 10. I was thrilled to be meeting an actual Leaf player!! His was one of the first autographs I ever received. I still remember to this day what he wrote, "To Tony, Best wishes, from your friend Scott Garland".I couldn't believe he was my friend!! I kept that autograph pinned up on my bulletin board in my room along with one of his hockey cards, for years. The autograph still might be packed away at my parents house. He was a very nice man, and made a lasting impression on me.

  2. Thank you for these thoughtful words about Scott. I met Scott in 1976 and we became friends. His death was devastating to me, and even after all these years rarely a day passes I don't think of him. He was a great guy taken much too soon.

  3. Thank you for sharing your memories of Scott, Rena. He was simply one of the nicest people I had the opportunity to speak with and spend time with during my years interviewing individuals in different sports. He died far, far too young.

  4. I met Scott when he played in the CHL in Oklahoma City. We remained friends for many years, he was one of the most caring and genuine people I had ever met. We lost touch in the late 70's, but I managed to track him down in the winter of 79 when he played for the Kings. I sent him a letter and was very surprised when he phoned me a few days later. We talked for hours and made plans to meet up in the near future. It was a couple of months later when I found out he had passed in June. I think of Scotty often, he was taken from us way too soon. Heaven has gained a beautiful angel. Cheryl

  5. Thank you for the comments about Scott, Cheryl. Though we met only on one or two occasions, I found him exactly as you described him- genuine, caring, down-to-earth. Wonderful guy, gone way too soon.