Leafs finally make Hap's day

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

Seven Stanley Cups and a Hall of Fame induction later, the Toronto Maple Leafs are finally going to honour a man who should have been honoured long ago.

The Leafs will raise Clarence (Hap) Day's No. 4 to the Air Canada Centre roof, 16 years after the St. Thomas resident's death.

The Owen Sound native won seven Stanley Cups with the Leafs as player, coach and general manager.

Before the Leafs open their National Hockey League season tonight at the Air Canada Centre against the Ottawa Senators, they will run up a banner honouring Day's number when he played. On the ice for the celebration will be Hap's son, Kerry, a former Leafs' stick boy who still lives in St. Thomas.

"It's going to be a very special day for us," Day, 72, said. "He has seven Stanley Cups as coach, player and general manager. Seven Stanley Cups is a loud noise. We're very proud of what's happening here."

Day's record stands up with those of the best coaches. He began playing in 1924 and was the Leafs' first captain. He remained captain until he moved to the New York Americans in 1937.

He coached the Leafs from 1940-41 to 1949-50, winning the Stanley Cup five times. Day became assistant general manager to Conn Smythe in 1950, and he was responsible for running the team until 1957, when he retired to enter business life.

Included in that run was the 1942 Stanley Cup win, one of the most memorable wins in sports history.

The Leafs trailed the Red Wings 3-0 in the final before Day benched several of his top players. They came back to win the Cup, still the only team to rebound from 3-0 to win a final series. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.

Day began his business life, running Elgin Handles in St. Thomas, one of the oldest businesses in that city. Kerry sold the business in 1990.

Kerry grew up in his dad's hockey world. For six years, he was the stick boy for the Maple Leafs. His name is on the Stanley Cup twice. He owns a half-carat Stanley Cup victor's ring. His dad's was a one-carat job.

"My dad was spartan. He lived frugally. He was mentally tough," Day said.

"I remember going to Victoria Hospital when he had a pacemaker installed. I brought him home and said, 'You heard what the doctor said. You have to rest.' I came back in the afternoon to see how he was getting along. There he was, cutting the lawn."

Hockey was different when Hap played and coached. The owners held all the cards. There wasn't much money to be made by players or coaches. To help make ends meet, he ran Happy Day's Pharmacy next to Maple Leaf Gardens on Carlton Street.

Not a name you could get away with using today.

Today, stick boys no longer exist. If they did, they would be called stick maintenance managers. Now, every team has a specialized equipment person.

"It was different times back then. Games started at 8:30 and we'd leave for the games at about (6:40)," Kerry said.

"Before every game, we'd stop and give a ride to Harold Ballard. He was the general manager of the Toronto Marlies back then, but I'd listen to conversations they had and Harold had a lot of questions about how to run the Maple Leafs."

Kerry still has journals in which Hap used to make notes.

"Sales reps used to come to the pharmacy and leave journals," Kerry said.

"He used to sit in the stands and write in them. In 1943, he wrote about 'a new shot some players were using. It's called the slapshot. It has a lot of speed but little accuracy. I don't want my team using it.' That was many years before the slapshot became famous."

There were some eye-popping moments for the kid watching his dad work.

"I looked up to my dad with a lot of reverence," Kerry said.

"He would stand on that old wooden bench and some of the things that would come of his mouth . . . I was absolutely shocked. I stood there with my eyes wide and mouth open. He was not quite as perfect as I thought he was."

Joining Kerry at the ceremony will be his wife, Anne; son, Bryan, who's flying in from Singapore; daughter, Kelly, and her husband, Steve Carr, who live in St. Thomas; and daughter Tracy Day, who owns York Street Kitchens in Stratford, and her husband, Bryan Steele, who is head chef at the Old Prune restaurant in Stratford.

The Leafs also will raise banners for former players Borje Salming and Red Kelly.

"We've waited a long time for his," Anne said.

"It's just too bad Hap isn't alive to see it."


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