The Maple Leafs' improbable 1967 Stanley Cup tale will last forever, but sadly, the same can't be said of the men who lived it.
What will likely be the final full gathering of the city's most recent championship pro hockey team will take place in style on March 22 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The 40th anniversary will be "a Leaf fan's Utopia" according to dinner organizer Hersh Borenstein.
"Without trying to sound morbid, it's like the last hurrah for this team," said Borenstein who, like every member of the current Leafs outside of coach Paul Maurice, wasn't even born when that Cup parade went down Bay St.
Almost every player associated with the team -- from goaltender Johnny Bower to the near-mythical Aut Erickson -- will be there for a four-day celebration, including 30 other NHL celebrities, an autograph session and live and silent auctions.
Two of the '67 players died not long after the title, Tim Horton and Terry Sawchuk, but both will be represented by their families.
"It's quite remarkable that so many have survived," noted Brian Conacher who, at 65, is one of its junior members.
The final shift of the clinching Game 6 against the Montreal Canadiens saw many Leafs players already in their 40s on the ice. Defenceman Allan Stanley will be 81 when the dinner rolls around.
"He could still teach today's NHLers a few things," chortled 70-year-old Bob Baun.
The only two maybes for the event are Dave Keon and George Armstrong. Keon is still at odds with the organization and the latter is not a fan of such gatherings.
Centre Milan Marcetta, whose only three games with the Leafs were his playoff appearances, is suffering from emphysema and might not be able to fly in from Western Canada.
Dinner prices are $250 and $450, the latter good for supper, a team-signed lithograph, a picture of the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy and never-before-seen video of the Cup year.
Phil Esposito and Jean Beliveau will be guest speakers and the old Leafs on hand will try and duplicate the championship team picture.
"It was the end of an era," remarked winger Ron Ellis. "This will be a chance to pay tribute to a miracle team."
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LITTLE KNOWN FACTS
Five things you might not know about the 1967 Maple Leafs:
- They set the team record for futility in the second half of that season with 10 consecutive losses.
- Punch Imlach had to be hospitalized for stress for a brief time and King Clancy took over coaching duties.
- Someone in Montreal's organization mentioned how nice the Stanley Cup looked in Expo 67's Quebec Pavillion, where the 1966 champion Habs had it on display.
"When we heard that, we decided to get it for the Ontario Pavillion," defenceman Marcel Pronovost said.
- All of the '67 Leafs were Canadian-born.
- Fort Erie-born winger John Brenneman played 41 regular season games and recorded 10 points, but didn't appear in the playoffs and is thus not on the Cup. Same with defenceman Jim McKenny who played six regular season games, scoring once. Defenceman Aut Erickson, with one playoff game, is on the trophy.