Vintage Toronto Ads: The Original Blue Jays Advertisers

Originally published as a gallery post on Torontoist on March 25, 2015.

“One of the most pleasant tasks for me as we are entering the 1977 baseball season,” wrote commissioner Bowie Kuhn in his introductory letter to Blue Jays fans, “ is to welcome all of you to the Major League Baseball family. Major League Baseball is exceedingly proud to include Toronto, one of the great cities of the world, within its ranks.”

Great way to stroke the egos of Torontonians aching to be seen as residents of a world-class city, eh?

Accompanying Kuhn’s letter in the inaugural Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazinewas one from American League President Lee MacPhail:

Now the youthful Blue Jays are off and flying on their own and it will be an exciting experience watching the development of this team. Your outstanding ownership and management will be working constantly toward building the contending baseball team that all Blue Jay fans will be proud of. Enjoy this first season of Major League Baseball at CNE Stadium. It will be fun. And the years ahead will be increasingly enjoyable.

20150325cblt_small

CBC sent 26 people to cover the Blue Jays’ inaugural spring training in Dunedin, Florida. The network’s plans included an hour-long special to introduce the team, along with feature segments on The National and 90 Minutes Live. To mark its 25th anniversary that fall CBLT rebranded itself as “CBC Toronto,” a move which the Globe and Mail declared was “an admission of defeat in a campaign that’s gone on for years, to give CBLT an identity as a Toronto local station, not just a network outlet.”

20150325cfrb

Around 100 members of the Toronto media attended spring training, including CFRB’s trio of sports reporters. Blue Jays manager Roy Hartsfield didn’t mind the distraction. “I’d much rather have it this way,” he told the Globe and Mail, “then the other way with no reporters at all.”

20150325ckfh

CKFH, whose primary format in 1977 was country music, served as the Blue Jays’ original flagship radio station. Sixteen other stations, including one in Buffalo, signed on to carry games. Calling the games was a Hall of Fame duo: Tom Cheek on play-by-play and Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn on colour. Before joining the Jays, Cheek spent three seasons as an alternate radio announcer for the Montreal Expos. Wynn lasted through 1980, and was replaced the following year by Jerry Howarth. Apart from a few years in the late 1990s and early 2000s when CHUM held the rights, CFKH and its successor CJCL (Fan 590) has remained the team’s radio home.

20150325pizzapizza_small

Pizza Pizza’s signature phone number still wasn’t in place a decade after its original location at Parliament and Wellesley opened in 1967. Before becoming ubiquitous, Pizza Pizza earned praise for its pies. In a taste test of eight pizzerias conducted by the Star in June 1971, Pizza Pizza came in second: “Pizza Pizza raises its standing with style. The pie arrives in a box that’s zippered into an insulated black bag. The deliveryman uncased it with words like ‘Here is your delicious Pizza Pizza. Enjoy it in good health.’ Their motto, ‘When you think of pizza, think of pizza twice,’ is also catchy. It is expensive with “the works”—a dollar more than any of the others. It was also the largest by several inches and easily the best-looking entrant.”

20150325georges_small

George’s Spaghetti House was a fixture of the Toronto jazz scene for decades. Founded by Doug Cole in 1956, its booker was multi-instrumentalist Moe Koffman. Bourbon Street was a sister club which operated during the 1970s and 1980s. Playing at George’s this week in 1977 was trumpeter Sam Noto. Worn out from playing assembly line style gigs in Las Vegas during the first half of the 1970s, Noto relocated his family to Toronto. “Not only does he rank it as the jazz centre of North America,” Frank Rasky wrote in the Star, “but it’s the city that has enabled him to double his income, so that he now earns $44,000 a year. So it’s little wonder that his jazz creations sound so jubilant.”

20150525blockhouse

With its proximity to Exhibition Stadium, Ontario Place may have seemed like an excellent spot for families to prepare for the game ahead or unwind after the final out.

20150325foster

Foster Pontiac Buick was among the local car dealers who advertised in the debut scorebook. One of the earliest dealerships to establish itself in postwar Scarborough, Foster switched its affiliation from General Motors to Kia around 2009. After over 60 years at Sheppard and Warden, the dealership moved to Markham Road in 2015.

We’d also like to note the recent passing of outfielder Gary Woods, who was part of the Blue Jays’ opening day lineup on April 7, 1977. Woods talked to the Star about the first season several years later:

I remember the snow on the field and I remember Doug Ault [who hit the franchise’s first home run just before Woods stepped up to the plate] and I remember the excitement in the city. I was a young ballplayer very excited to be part of a building experience. It was a really neat feeling. But of course we played like an expansion team and I played like a guy who wasn’t quite ready for the major leagues.

All images taken from Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine Volume 1, Number 17 (1977). Additional material from the March 21, 1977 and September 15, 1977 editions of the Globe and Mail, and the June 5, 1971, April 2, 1977, and October 8, 1985 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

tbjsm1977_ontarioplace

A full ad for Ontario Place, which notes there were 10 restaurants to choose from. No mention of little Grozki.

tbjsm1977_fishermanswharf

The “internationally famous” seafood platter from Fishermans Wharf was a staple of Toronto tourism magazines for decades. What visitor couldn’t resist a massive plate of overpriced crustaceans and other delights from the deep garnished with a lemon wedge?

gm 1972-12-23 mary walpole on fishermans wharf

Globe and Mail, December 23, 1972.

When Fishermans Wharf opened in late 1972, it was featured in Mary Walpole’s advertorial dining column in the Globe and Mail. I’m curious to find out (whenever time’s available) to see if Walpole’s claim is true that the restaurant hired the city’s first female maitre d’.

gm 1973-02-24 mary walpole on fisherman's wharf

Globe and Mail, February 24, 1973.

Walpole regularly featured Fishermans Wharf in her column during its early years. Over the course of its early months, she updated readers on the construction of the restaurant’s oyster bar and touted its luxury liner qualities.

gm 1977-12-17 fisherman wharf holiday ad

Globe and Mail, December 17, 1977.

The only newspaper ad I found for Fishermans Wharf from 1977, spotlighting its New Years celebration. There’s that platter again!

gm 1978-01-07 mary walpole on fisherman's wharf

Globe and Mail, January 7, 1978.

At this time, Walpole continued to tout its ship-like qualities, but fails to mention the maitre d’ or chef Niki – perhaps both had set sail by this point.

A callout on social media didn’t produce any recollections from anyone who might have eaten there. The restaurant survived into the 21st century, ending its days on the south end of Church Street.

star 1971-06-05-pizza-pizza-review

Star Week, June 5, 1971.

The Star‘s random pizza test that placed Pizza Pizza in second place. Its current incarnation is one of the last things that I would enjoy in good health. Besides Pizza Pizza, Vesusvio’s is still turning out pies in The Junction.

gm 1977-03-21 cblt spring training coverage

Globe and Mail, March 21, 1977.

A note on CBLT’s coverage of the Jays’ first training camp.

The Water Nymph Club (Part Three)

During the summer of 1923, the Telegram published a syndicated series of swimming tips for women. Click here for the full series.

tely 1923-07-30 water nymph club

The Telegram, July 30, 1923.

Four years before this series was published, the Telegram printed an article where swimming expert George Hebden Corsan explained why women were so well-adapted to the water.

tely 1919-07-24 women excel in swimming

The Telegram, July 24, 1919.

Corsan believed men required more intensive instruction in learning how to swim due to their heavier muscle mass.

globe 1926-10-07 corsan proper instruction for men

The Globe, October 7, 1926.

There’s a lot more to say about Corsan, a pioneering swim instructor who dabbled in farming and vegetarianism, in upcoming posts.

tely 1923-07-31 water nymph club

The Telegram, July 31, 1923.

tely 1919-07-18 bathing fashions spread

The Telegram, July 18, 1919.

A sampling of post-First World War bathing suits, which the copywriter regards as “utilitarian.”

tely 1923-08-01 water nymph club

The Telegram, August 1, 1923.

tely 1919-07-18 bathing fashions spread miss chicago

The Telegram, July 18, 1919.

Apparently Chicago’s beachwear was considered far more chic that Toronto’s.

tely 1923-08-02 water nymph club

The Telegram, August 2, 1923.

A few words on the early evolution of swimwear during the late 19th and early 20th centuries from Lisa Bier’s book Fighting the Current: The Rise of American Women’s Swimming, 1870-1926 (Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2011):

Women’s bathing costumes ranged from the rented plain suits to very fancy silk ones, but what they had in common was coverage. These suits provided more skin coverage than today’s dresses, with skirts that reached at least the knee, corsets, sleeves, bloomers, stockings, and bathing shoes. They were dark in colour for modesty’s sake, and often quite heavy when wet. Pressures from society concerning modesty conflicted with issues of safety and function. For women interested in venturing away from the ropes and actually swimming, not just wading, the suits were a hinderance and a danger.

tely 1923-08-03 water nymph club

The Telegram, August 3, 1923.

tely 1923-08-04 water nymph club

The Telegram, August 4, 1923.

Next time: The Telegram makes a big announcement for aspiring water nymphs.

The Water Nymph Club (Part Two)

During the summer of 1923, the Evening Telegram published a syndicated series of swimming lessons for women. Due to time constraints, and wanting to post the rest of these tips while its swimming season, here is week two of the series sans commentary. More context in future posts!

tely 1923-07-23 water nymph club small

The Telegram, July 23, 1923.

tely 1923-07-24 water nymph club small

The Telegram, July 24, 1923.

tely 1923-07-25 water nymph club small

The Telegram, July 25, 1923.

tely 1923-07-26 water nymph club small

The Telegram, July 26, 1923.

tely 1923-07-27 water nymph club small

The Telegram, July 27, 1923.

tely 1923-07-28 water nymph club small

The Telegram, July 28, 1923.

The Water Nymph Club (Part One)

 

tely 1923-07-14 water nymph ad

Preview ad, The Telegram, July 14, 1923.

While it’s hard to say if swimming develops grace and charm, it’s true that Torontonians love to hit their local beaches and pools. The arrival of the high swim season provides an excuse to explore a syndicated series of tips directed towards women that were published (mostly) on the Telegram‘s comics page during the summer of 1923.

tely 1923-07-16 water nymph club

The Telegram, July 16, 1923.

Are your scissors handy? Good. Let’s begin with a guide to proper gear (this was still the era of Mack Sennett’s Bathing Beauties), and some background on the author of this series.

tely 1923-07-17 water nymph ad small

The Telegram, July 17, 1923.

The Water Nymph Club’s roots appear to be Midwestern. Merze Marvin Seeberger (1887-1973) entered journalism in her late teens, assisting her father at the Sentinel-Post in Shenandoah, Iowa. In 1911 she published a book, The McCauslands of Donaghanie and allied families, which is available on the Internet Archive. According to several genealogical sites, she spent a year-and-a-half working as a stenographer for the state auditor in Des Moines, and graduated from the University of Missouri.

By 1918, she worked in the advertising department of the Des Moines Register-Tribune and belonged to Theta Sigma Phi, a society for female journalists which later evolved into the Association for Women in Communications. At TSP’s first convention, held at the University of Kansas that year, she spoke about the need for female journalism instructors.

One-third of the students enrolled in schools and departments of journalism today are women. The percentage is steadily increasing, just as the number of women employed on our newspapers is increasing…The schools boast of their progress, their up-to-datedness…Are they now to fall behind, to fail to keep up with the newspapers in giving women their opportunity? I think not. Before another Theta Sigma Phi convention the woman instructor in journalsim will have come into her own.

tely 1923-07-18 water nymph club small

The Telegram, July 18, 1923.

Based on a filing with the Library of Congress, the Water Nymph Club series first appeared in the Des Moines Evening Tribune on July 2, 1923, running for 32 installments through August 8. Scanning the web shows it appeared in various newspapers across the midwest that summer.

tely 1923-07-19 water nymph club small

The Telegram, July 19, 1923.

The series may have circulated for several years, as it  (or a similar column) appears to have been published in the Washington Evening Star two years later.

 

tely 1923-07-20 water nymph club small

The Telegram, July 20, 1923.

The introductory ad for the series appeared on “The Girls Own Tely” page, which was billed as “Sports, Interests, and Activities of Girls, By Girls and For Girls.” Besides this page, the Saturday Telegram carried similar spreads for boys and young children. The features on July 14, 1923 included:

  • “Boys Best at Mathematics? Popular View May Be Wrong”: A piece attempting to debunk the belief of many Toronto high school teachers that males were better at math. The uncredited writer points to statements given by E.F. Phipps, headmistress of a girls school in Swansea, England, in reaction to recent exams at Oxford University where male math scores were higher. Phipps pointed out four reasons for this seeming inequality: lower school attendance by females; less time devoted to mathematics compared to domestic sciences; exam questions using examples more familiar to males than females, such as “cricket and racing;” and males had better qualified teachers. “I think you will find,” Phipps concluded, “that where the above-named disabilities have not been present girls have done as well as boys in arithmetic.”
  • Highlights of Inter-Church Baseball League play (Toronto was the “City of Churches”…)
  • A picture of the staff of the Harbord Collegiate Review, which had published its first edition in over a decade.
  • A story about the misadventures of several girls from The Beaches attempting to return home from a day on the Toronto Islands, foiled by rain, a slow freight train, and the TTC (see below).

tely 1923-07-14 girl picnickers

  • “In the World of Books,” where the uncredited writer reminisced about childhood favourites like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Beatrix Potter, and Tanglewood Tales. Their present taste in literature included classics by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Oscar Wilde.

tely 1923-07-21 water nymph club small

The Telegram, July 21, 1923.

In the next installment, another week’s worth of lessons, and stories of swimming in 1920s Toronto.

Additional material from Women’s Press Organizations, 1881-1999, Elizabeth V. Burt, editor (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000) and DC Sports: The Nation’s Capital at Play,
Chris Elzey and David K. Wiggins, editors (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2015).

Gordie Howe and Dave Keon’s Halloween Return to Maple Leaf Gardens

Originally published on Torontoist on June 10, 2016.

20160610howekeoncards

1979-80 O-Pee-Chee hockey cards of Gordie Howe and Dave Keon.

While costumed ghouls and goblins wandered the streets of Toronto Halloween night 1979, hockey fans enjoyed tricks and treats of their own at Maple Leaf Gardens. Two hockey legends returned to the building for the first time in years, making the Leafs’ 4-2 loss to the Hartford Whalers palatable. For 51-year-old Gordie Howe, who passed away this morning, it was an early stop in his year-long farewell tour around the NHL. For 39-year-old Dave Keon, it was a return to venue he’d left under bitter circumstances.

20160610howeeatonsad

Globe and Mail, July 6, 1970.

While “Mr. Hockey” never played for the Leafs during his 32-year career, Howe served as a sporting goods adviser for Eaton’s, prompting plenty of personal appearances at the department store’s local outlets during the 1960s and 1970s. This apparently bothered Detroit Red Wings management after Howe ended a brief retirement to join his sons Mark and Marty on the World Hockey Association’s Houston Aeros in 1973. When Howe cited one of his reasons for returning to the ice as boredom with his desk job with the Red Wings—he felt like a mushroom patch, kept in a dark room until it was time to throw more manure on him—Detroit exec Jimmy Skinner complained that Howe spent too much time working for Eaton’s.

When the Whalers were added to the NHL in 1979, Howe maintained a hectic pace as the public and media fixated on the ageless wonder during his final season. “Overall, all the attention I’m getting isn’t getting to me,” he told the Globe and Mail. “It’s easier to stickhandle your way through an interview than a young, eager hockey player…I’m playing this season because it’s enjoyable going through the circuit again.”

Howe was particularly pleased about stopping in Toronto because the return of Keon to the Gardens allowed him to share the spotlight. Keon was less excited, having left Toronto unceremoniously four years earlier after a 15-year run with the Leafs. During the 1974-75 season, owner Harold Ballard consistently dumped on his team captain, accusing him of being uncooperative with the media and failing to provide leadership to younger players. When that season ended, Keon became a free agent. Ballard showed little interest in bringing him back. “Keon is free to make a deal for himself anywhere,” Ballard told the Globe and Mail’s Dick Beddoes. “You hate to see players like Keon go, but I don’t need to be hit on the head with a sledgehammer to understand reality. We need big young legs. It’s nuts to fall in love with a racehorse because sometime he has to die.”

20160610globeheadshots

Globe and Mail, October 31, 1979.

Because rules at the time required other NHL teams to provide compensation to the Leafs for signing Keon, and suspicions Ballard was asking for too much, Keon had few options but to jump over to the WHA. After stints with the Minnesota Fighting Saints and the Indianapolis Racers, Keon joined the Whalers midway through the 1976-77 season. Keon’s bitterness over his departure from Toronto was apparent whenever the subject arose in interviews—soon after joining the Whalers, he vowed never to set foot in Maple Leaf Gardens ever again.

But his bitterness wasn’t enough to prevent Keon from playing on Halloween 1979. “I have no bad feelings towards the players,” he noted. “I’m looking forward to it, but playing against the Leafs will be different.”

The game was sweet for both veterans. “Sure somebody, somewhere, scripted the hockey game at Maple Leaf Gardens last night to embarrass Harold Ballard,” the Star’s Jim Kernaghan noted the next day. Besides Ballard’s treatment of Keon, the obnoxious owner refused to acknowledge Howe’s 1,000th professional goal on the Gardens’ message board in 1977 because he utterly loathed the WHA. Keon received three standing ovations from Toronto fans, while several fan banners welcomed him back. He responded by providing a goal and an assist in the Whalers 4-2 victory over the Leafs. “The response from fans was great,” he noted after the game, “This ranks up there with some of the biggest thrills of my life. It’s the kind of thing you hope for, but doesn’t always happen.”

tspa_0055824f_small

“Howe blast. Mark Howe (5) of Hartford Whalers watches puck just shot by his father, Gordie (behind Mark) on its way into the Toronto net in National Hockey League action at Maple Leaf Gardens last night. Goal came in third period and was the 789th regular-season NHL marker for Gordie and his third for Whalers this season. Maple Leafs’ defenceman Borje Salming lies on ice after making futile attempt to stop the whistling drive. Whalers shocked Leafs by winning: 4-2.” Photo by Doug Griffin, originally published in the November 1, 1979 edition of the Toronto Star. Toronto Public Library, Toronto Star Photo Archive, tspa_0055784f.

Howe, assisted by his son Mark, sent a 30-foot wrist shot past goalie Mike Palmateer to give the Whalers their final goal of the evening. Howe claimed getting back at Ballard had nothing to do with his goal. ‘It’s just great to score one and it was particularly nice that it was Mark who tipped the puck to me,” he told the Star. “Hell, Harold’s good for the game. He yelps a lot and pays good salaries.”

Both teams moved on to the Whalers’ temporary home in Springfield, Massachusetts two nights later, where two goals from Howe helped the Whalers deliver the Leafs their fifth defeat in a row. The Star’s punny headline screamed “Those Howe-itzers again blast Leafs.”

Howe’s final game at the Gardens occurred on February 16, 1980, which the Leafs won 5-3. Howe failed to score on four shots, including one barely stopped by Toronto defenceman Borje Salming. When goalie Jiri Crha learned that in his debut game he had temporarily stopped Howe’s pursuit of his 800th NHL goal, the Leafs netminder said “this win means even more now.” In Howe’s final game against the Leafs in Hartford on April Fools’ Day 1980, he showed his eternal toughness by earning a 10-minute misconduct penalty with 37 seconds left to go in the match after knocking over a linesman while pursuing the puck.

20160610keonshot

Toronto Star, February 16, 1980.

Keon continued playing until 1982. His bitterness towards the Leafs remained in retirement, as he refused official overtures from the team for decades. “It was clear Keon had great pride in his Leafs career,” broadcasting and former Fighting Saints coach Harry Neale told writer Dave Bidini several years ago. Neale summarized, after a pause, Keon’s feelings as “heartbroken.” But Keon has appeared at Leafs events in recent years, and will be honoured alongside other team greats with a statue to be unveiled in Legends Row this October.

Additional material from Keon and Me by Dave Bidini (Toronto: Penguin, 2013); the February 7, 1974, July 10, 1975, December 3, 1977, October 31, 1979, November 1, 1979, and April 2, 1980 editions of the Globe and Mail; and the July 15, 1975, November 1, 1979, November 3, 1979, and February 17, 1980 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

tspa_0055785f_SMALL

Photo by Doug Griffin, 1975. Toronto Public Library, Toronto Star Photo Archive, tspa_0055785f.

While browsing the Toronto Public Library’s archive of Toronto Star photos, found this gem from Howe’s WHA days. The caption’s prediction of Howe’s retirement was premature: “Hero worship: Mayor David Crombie (centre) and Metro Chairman Paul Godfrey appear properly awe-inspired at pre-game ceremony honoring Gordie Howe at Maple Leaf Gardens last night. Howe played what was probably his last regular season game in Toronto and was in top form as his Houston Aeros beat Toros: 5-2. The two civic dignitaries received autographed sticks and Toros’ sweaters.”

Vintage Toronto Ads: The Toronto Bicycle Club Races, 1895

Originally published on Torontoist on June 3, 2015.

20150203hyslop1895

The Globe, June 3, 1895.

In a two-page feature spotlighting the Toronto Bicycle Club in October 1892, the Globe expressed pleasure in the growth of cycling as a leisurely pursuit:

As a form of healthy and manly recreation no sport can surpass that of wheeling. If the rider desires to be alone that he may commune with his own thoughts he may be so, but the social side of cycling had strong attractions, a fact which is demonstrated by the existence of organizations of bicyclists whose bond of union is the wheel, and around which they cluster for the promotion of good fellowship and the cultivation of the social amenities. It is a form of recreation that does not preclude the enjoyment of ladies’ society, and sensible young women, who possess sufficient spirit to throw off the enthralling claims of conventionality, are beginning to appreciate the aid to health and pleasure that the bicycle affords. In increasing numbers they are betaking themselves to a mode of recreation that their mothers were ignorant of.

20150203tbcmeet1892

“Half mile handicap at T.B.C. meet.” The Globe, October 22, 1892.

The paper also praised cycling’s health and competitive benefits:

With the development of the bicycle and its adaptability to speedy locomotion there has been a corresponding development of athleticism among the numberless votaries of the sport, and many young men with a distaste for too violent a form of exercise have adopted the wheel as a means of recreation and of physical training. It is an exercise that contributes to a healthy body and mind, and in this way cannot fail to have a beneficial effect upon society. One of the most popular pastimes of the day is bicycle racing, and, with the improvement of the machines, and the careful and systematic training of the wheelsmen, records hitherto considered impregnable have been ruthlessly smashed to pieces.

By the time this article appeared, the Toronto Bicycle Club (TBC) was among the most prominent of the half-dozen organizations in the city dedicated to bicycle rides and racing. Formed by 10 cyclists in April 1881, the TBC held its first major meet later that year on the Exhibition grounds, beginning an annual tradition of drawing top cyclists from across the continent to participate in races of varying lengths. Regular events included evening rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a longer ride on Saturdays, during a season which lasted from May through October. The TBC moved into a spacious club house at 346 Jarvis Street in the spring of 1891, around the same time that its ladies’ section held their first major race.

20150203dunlopcomet

Mail and Empire, June 3, 1895.

The TBC’s major meet in 1895 marked a shift for the club. Instead of being held over the August civic holiday weekend, it was moved to June 1. Organizers expected a good turnout to see the races, which were held on a high-quality track in Rosedale made from brick dust, cinder, and clay. Despite a strong west wind, oppressive heat reduced attendance, which was estimated between 1,200 and 2,000 spectators. “There were several punctures of tires, and one or two consequent spills,” the Mail and Empire reported, “but no accidents of a serious nature marred the splendid sport.” There was even musical accompaniment, thanks to the Queen’s Own Rifles band.

Many eyes were glued to several competitors from California. C.R. Coulter was expected to break records, but the combination of a long trip from suburban Boston and the weather did him in. After participating in preliminary heats for the mile race, he claimed he was too sick to participate in the final. His substitute was San Jose cyclist Otto Zeigler. “A mere boy in appearance,” the Globe observed, “but in regard to muscular development a miniature Titan, he was loudly cheered when he made his appearance.” Zeigler set a new Canadian competition record, finishing his mile in two minutes and four seconds.

“In many respects the Torontos had reason to pat themselves on the back,” the Globe concluded, particularly “the excellent way in which the races were conducted and the strict adherence that the officials kept to the laws laid down for their guidance as regards to the time allowed riders to prepare for their races.”

Additional material from The Ride of Modernity: The Bicycle in Canada, 1869-1900 by Glen Norcliffe (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001); the October 22, 1892 and June 3, 1895 editions of the Globe; and the June 3, 1895 edition of the Mail and Empire.

That Other Time the Leafs Let Go of Randy Carlyle

Originally published on Torontoist on January 7, 2015.

20150107carlyleburrows.jpg

1978/79 O-Pee-Chee hockey cards.

Maple Leafs management felt optimistic during the 1978 off-season. A loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the semi-finals was the longest Stanley Cup run Toronto enjoyed since hoisting the trophy in 1967. General manager Jim Gregory and coach Roger Neilson believed the team was a defenceman or two away from becoming a legitimate contender.

Of the two defence-bolstering deals the Leafs made in June 1978, one went down as one of the worst deals in franchise history. It also marked the first time Randy Carlyle, who was fired as the Leafs’ coach yesterday, departed the team.

Drafted 30th overall in the 1976 NHL entry draft, Carlyle sparked a bidding war between the Leafs and the Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association. Alternating between Toronto and its farm club in Dallas over the next two seasons, he clashed with Neilson in both cities over his rushing style. “Roger was always on his ass,” teammate Jim McKenny told the Globe and Mail in 2014. “Roger would give him hell about going with the puck.” Though not Neilson’s ideal player, Carlyle gained much knowledge from him, and would later use Neilson’s drills during his own coaching career.

Meanwhile, the financially shaky Pittsburgh Penguins shopped around star defenceman Dave Burrows. A GTA native and two-time all-star, Burrows was one of the best skaters in the league during his seven-year stint in Pittsburgh. Burrows compensated for a modest physical presence with skill, especially agility and speed, making him the sort of player a Stanley Cup contender desired. Never mind that injuries he suffered during the 1977/78 season were cited as a factor in the Penguins’ failure to reach the playoffs.

Negotiations to bring Burrows to Toronto began after the Leafs were eliminated from the Stanley Cup race. Penguins general manager Baz Bastein wanted Carlyle, who was impressive filling in for Borje Salming during the playoffs. “Carlyle is the one guy who had to be involved or there wouldn’t have been any trade,” he told the Pittsburgh Press after the deal was announced on June 13, 1978. Besides Carlyle, the Penguins received forward George Ferguson, who observers believed had never reached his scoring potential over six seasons with the Leafs.

20150107burrowsinjury

Globe and Mail, November 4, 1978.

Burrows welcomed the news. “Toronto is on the way up and I feel they have a lot of direction there,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He appreciated the Leafs’ efforts to build for the future, as opposed to Pittsburgh’s panic-driven trades. Asked about the differences between fans in both cities, Burrows was blunt: “In Pittsburgh, the people who criticized hockey didn’t know anything about hockey. But here, if you play bad, you’re not fooling anybody. You can’t hide it. I don’t think I could have come to any better team, but if playing in Toronto goes to your head, it could be the worst thing that ever happens to you.”

Carlyle learned about the deal while dining at a Chinese restaurant in the Sudbury area. Sore feelings and questioning why it happened troubled Carlyle for years. “It hurt,” he told the Star in 2013. “It’s an empty feeling that someone doesn’t want you.” He suspected that his wild lifestyle and ego might have played contributing roles.

Some Toronto sports pundits felt that the Leafs had, along with the acquisition of tough guy Dave Hutchison from the Los Angeles Kings, built a champion. “The Leafs might just have traded themselves into the Stanley Cup final,” declared the Globe and Mail’s Scott Young. Regarding the price of losing Carlyle, Young noted that “a young defence is a luxury not many Stanley Cup contenders can afford, if there’s a way to trade future potential for experience combined with excellence. That description fits Burrows.”

When both teams opened the season in Pittsburgh on October 11, 1978, Burrows received a standing ovation. He aided his new team with two assists in a 3-2 Leafs victory. It was among the few highlights for Burrows that season; he sat out 15 games after stretching his knee ligaments in a collision with Bob Dailey of the Philadelphia Flyers. He admitted near the end of the campaign that, following the injury, his confidence and timing weren’t up to par.

The following season (1979/80), Burrows played a full 80-game schedule and participated in the NHL All-Star game as a replacement for Salming. The team’s promise vanished due to a series of spiteful, misguided trades by new general manager Punch Imlach. Injuries hampered Burrows at the beginning of the 1980/81 season, while a series of acquisitions left him the odd man out on defence. “I’m happy to go somewhere I’m wanted and somewhere I like,” he told the Pittsburgh Press after being traded back to the Penguins on November 18, 1980 with Paul Gardner for two non-entities. Burrows retired following the season.

20150107carlyleburrows1980

1980/81 O-Pee-Chee hockey cards.

The players the Penguins acquired for Burrows in 1978 prospered. Ferguson scored at least 20 goals for four seasons in a row. Carlyle achieved the potential Toronto saw in him, capping the 1980/81 season by winning the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenceman. During the award ceremony, presenter Larry Robinson cracked about the success ex-Leafs enjoyed in Pittsburgh (which included Lady Byng Trophy winner Rick Kehoe). Referencing Toronto owner Harold Ballard, Robinson joked “Baz Bastien wants to meet with you after the awards luncheon, Harold. He wants to know if you’ve got anyone else you’d like to trade.”

Reflecting on the trade, Carlyle felt it ultimately benefitted his career. “It was depressing,” he told the Star in 1980, “but, in view of everything that’s gone on since, I now feel the Leafs did me a favour. I really question whether I’d be at the stage I’ve reached if I’d stayed in Toronto.” He remained active as a player until retiring as a member of the Winnipeg Jets in 1993.

Additional material from the June 15, 1978, September 8, 1978, October 12, 1978, June 10, 1981, and March 3, 2014 editions of the Globe and Mail; the June 14, 1978 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; the June 14, 1978 and November 19, 1980 editions of the Pittsburgh Press; and the April 4, 1979, December 4, 1980, and April 13, 2013 editions of the Toronto Star.