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The Leafs and Rangers in the spring of ’62 : What a playoff series

When the playoffs began in the late winter of 1962, the Leafs were due for something big.  They hadn’t won a championship since 1951, and really struggled in the mid-‘50s.

New GM Punch Imlach had been building the team since he took over the reins in the summer of 1958. He had added what turned out to be key pieces like Johnny Bower and Allan Stanley along with juniors Bob Nevin and Dave Keon. Importantly, he acquired future Hall-of-Famer Red Kelly in a trade with Detroit.

But until that point, in 1962, the Leafs had not quite finished the job.

They made it to the finals in 1959 and 1960, only to lose both times to the powerful Montreal Canadiens. In 1961, it looked like it might be their year, but they bowed to Detroit in the semi-finals- a step backwards.

So in the spring of ’62, they were determined, though they ran into an equally determined New York Rangers team that included former Montreal superstar Doug Harvey along with Harry Howell on defense and Gump Worsley in goal.  Up front, the Rangers had talent, too, including Andy Bathgate, Dean Prentice, Earl Ingarfield, Andy Hebenton and Camille Henry.

Toronto won the first two games of the series, but struggled in losing the next two. Worsley, I remember, was brilliant, as he stymied the Leafs time and again, especially Dave Keon. As a young Keon fan, I was frustrated because Keon had numerous chances but was robbed by Worsley on many occasions. (Above I’ve included a great old photo from that series with this post.  I think Dickie Duff is the Leaf in the background.)

Game 5 in Toronto was back and forth and went into overtime and Red Kelly scored a bit of a controversial goal. With play around the Ranger net, Worsley went down on his back, as I recall, to cover up a loose puck and thought he had the puck under him. But there was no whistle.

When Worsley lifted his head, Kelly tucked the loose puck home.

I have no idea, looking back now, whether the whistle should have been blown or not. Presumably the puck was still in sight of the referee, and he so he didn’t blow the play dead. Worsley said afterwards, I remember, that he didn’t know exactly where the puck was. Maybe if he hadn’t lifted his head, the whistle would have blown and the outcome of that game—and the series—might have been very different.

As it was, the Leafs won Game 6 going away, like 7-1 or something along those lines.

It’s funny, I read some years ago that Game 6 was also played in Toronto, because the circus or some other big event was already booked for Madison Square Garden in New York. (The Rangers didn’t make the playoffs very often in those days, so booking other events was probably normal.) Maybe some of you following this site will remember the details better than I can. I don’t have a memory of Game 6 being in Toronto, but I was only eight at the time.

In any event, between Kelly’s lucky goal and (apparently) an extra home game, the Leafs certainly caught some breaks on the way to their first Stanley Cup since 1951.
Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey blog

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