Chasing The Hockey Holy Grail

Lou Lamoriello stunned the Devils and most of the hockey world with the announcement that he is leaving New Jersey for the role of GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Devils’ fans will be furious because Lou was their GM until he stepped down from that role a few months ago, but this move makes sense. Building a cup winner in Toronto would be the perfect cap to his career.

Of all the tortured fan bases in sports, the Maple Leafs’ are probably the saddest. That’s because they have been sold a bill of goods that says they were once a great, great franchise, and now they are a joke. Both parts are somewhat true, but there are two vital factors to remember about the NHL where Toronto won 13 cups.

1- There were almost always only six teams in the league when they won.

2- Territorial rights were in existence for a lot of the time they dominated.

Let’s start with the six teams. Yes, Toronto is part of the “Original Six” but that term should really be re-coined “Remaining Six”. The NHL as we know it got started at the end of WW1 with four teams, two in Montreal, one in Toronto (not the Leafs), and one in Ottawa. The Leafs showed up a few years later, the Bruins in 1924, and the Rangers, Blackhawks, and Red Wings in 1926. They were joined at various times by teams in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Hamilton, St. Louis, and a second team in New York. By 1942, only the “Original Six” remained and that is where the term came from.

But the Canadian teams had a second advantage besides a small number of opponents- territorial rights. Each team had an exclusive right to players within a 50-mile radius of their home. So, Montreal scooped up lots of talent in Quebec, Toronto got a lot of talent in Ontario, and the Rangers got to go looking in Trenton for their next great player. (Is it any wonder they didn’t win a lot? Seriously, draw a 50-mile line around any other Original Six city and you can come up with some hockey hotbeds. Around New York the only ice you found back then was in the drinks.)

And since 1967, when territorial rights disappeared and expansion came to the NHL, Toronto hasn’t won a Cup. Maybe that’s bad luck, you could argue that, but maybe it is also simply a reflection of a franchise that got way too caught up with a history that wasn’t as glorious as they would like to pretend it was.

But don’t try telling that to the people in Toronto. As far as they are concerned, they are waiting for the restoration of their dynasty. Lou is probably the perfect person to undertake that challenge. I hope he succeeds, after I see the Rangers hoist another Stanley Cup.

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  • blmeanie  On July 23, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    good history lesson, didn’t know much of that about the original 6. I would also be ok with Toronto winning a cup, after the Bruins next one that is.

    • nysportsfanatic  On July 23, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      I think the Bruins are the team that put the latest dagger into Toronto’s heart. (2013)

  • blmeanie  On July 24, 2015 at 6:27 am

    sports are funny, when the Bruins won it gave Boston another championship, crazy numbers since 2000, now turmoil surrounds all four teams. At least the Patriots are in position to compete, the other three teams have become hot messes.

    • nysportsfanatic  On July 24, 2015 at 7:13 am

      I remember living in Boston in the late-90’s and the city was so starved for a title that they held a parade to honor Ray Bourque winning a Cup with Colorado.

  • blmeanie  On July 24, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Don’t bash honoring Ray. That, while pathetic, was cool. Honorable to trade him to give him a chance to win.

    • nysportsfanatic  On July 24, 2015 at 11:24 pm

      Those things are mutually-exclusive in my mind. Yes, the Bruins did the right thing trading him, but remember that Ray requested that trade. Even if he hadn’t the parade wasn’t justified.

      Yes, Bourque was a great hockey player, but where does he rank in Bruin, let alone Boston, sports history? You would have to say that Eddie Shore and Bobby Orr are clearly ahead of him in Bruins history, and I haven’t even mentioned Espo or Neely yet.

      As for Boston history, I would suspect the “Mount Rushmore” is Ted, Russell, Orr, and Red (or Bird if you needed the fourth guy to be a player) Plenty of other guys come closer to reaching that level than Bourque. (Rice, Cousey, McHale, Parrish, and the guys I mentioned previously.) And, I am not including Brady or Ortiz in this argument because they happened after that parade.

      I will now go back to focusing on NY sports!

  • blmeanie  On July 25, 2015 at 6:45 am

    took a spin through Orr’s stats, hadn’t done that in a while, wow. Thanks for bringing him into the conversation. Growing up in Boston burbs, playing street hockey, you imagined you were Orr.

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