Phyllis Allen remembers it as if it were yesterday.
“The whole city was abuzz and in celebration,” she said. “I have never seen anything like it. The streets were packed.”
In 1967 the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. The victory brought the entire city to a standstill. Long-time Maple Leaf fan Phyllis Allen joined others along Yonge Street for the victory parade. Toronto has not experienced a celebration of that magnitude in the intervening 46 years.
Going into the Stanley Cup series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Maple Leafs were considered underdogs. Red Fisher, then reporting for the Montreal Star, covered the Canadiens. He recalled a conversation he had with Leafs’ General Manager Punch Imlach.
“I asked him how he thought his team would do against the Canadiens,” Fisher said. “He responded by asking me how I thought they would do. I said that the Canadians were too strong and too fast for your old guys. And Imlach’s response was that they (Canadiens) will never beat me with a Junior B goaltender.”
Imlach was right. Montreal goaltender Rogie Vachon, who had competed in Junior B hockey that year, was overmatched in the series by the Leafs’ goaltending tandem of Terry Sawchuk and Johnny Bower. The two veteran goalies powered the Leafs to a six-game series win and another Stanley Cup for Toronto.
The timing of the 1967 Cup win was significant. D`Arcy Jenish, a hockey historian and author of The Stanley Cup: One hundred years of hockey at its best, offered another reason for the win.
“It was Centennial year,” he said. “The whole country was awakened to the fact that we are a great nation. Montreal had Expo and Toronto had a Stanley Cup.”
Jenish added that the Cup signified a new era for Toronto.
“The Stanley Cup was affirmation of Toronto`s coming of age,“ he said.
Despite winning the Cup, the atmosphere in the Leafs’ locker room was more reserved. Dick Irvin Jr., the sports broadcaster who called the Stanley Cup series in Montreal, remembered that the celebratory atmosphere among the Leafs was also sombre.
“There was a feeling that another Stanley Cup victory would not happen again for a while,” Irvin said.“The next year Punch Imlach traded away most of the players, and the Leafs haven’t won a Cup since.”
Despite the long Stanley Cup drought for Toronto, Phyllis Allen has a Leafs Stanley Cup victory on her bucket list.
“I cannot think of another thing I would rather witness before I die than to see the Leafs win a Stanley Cup again,” she said. “To see the whole city abuzz and in celebration, like they were back in 1967.”