Inge Hammarstrom?!! The toughest Leaf ever?!!
So votes Basher Bob Winegar, of Orangeville, tongue in cheek, I hope.
Remember weird Harold Ballard’s take on poor ol’ Inge?
“He could go into the corners with half a dozen eggs in his pocket and not break one of them.” Nice thing to say about one of your own guys.
Pal Hal was no judge of hockey flesh. But Inge was the last Leaf you’d want on your side in a fight. Unless you were Lady Byng or Mahatma Gandhi.
Especially if Darcy Tucker or John Kordic were on the other side. Now we’re talking tough.
Thursday, in honour of Brian Burke’s budding pugnacious, testosteronic, truculent and belligerent team, I asked you to pick the baddest Bud of all time. I offered my own hard-ass lineup: Forwards Teeder Kennedy, Tiger Williams and Wendel Clark, with Bob Baun and Tim Horton on defence, Terry Sawchuk in goal and Tim Hunter behind the bench.
(I should have picked coach Pat Burns and not just for his gallant battle with cancer.)
Others to get votes in your hundreds of entries include: Doug Gilmour, Gary Roberts, Dick Duff, Brian Glennie, Ace Bailey, Lanny McDonald, Brad Marsh, Lionel “Big Train” Conacher and Turk Broda.
Ron Martin, of Courtice, writes to say he watched Kordic “beat the hell out of (Minnesota North Star) Basil McRae, then beat me — to the bar next door to Maple Leaf Gardens.”
Of current pugilist Colton Orr, Chris Bociek says, “I love the mad look in his eyes when he really gets going.” Yes. I dated a girl like that.
Mel Brown voted for Horton, saying, “the toughest guy is the guy no-one wants to fight.”
Well, Mel, apparently Leafs fans want to see blood. Or they think a Tim Horton is an apple fritter.
The long-suffering Leaf fan got votes “for getting punched out and thrown to the curb every April for 43 years and counting,” as Kevin Laking puts it.
Kevin, we’d be singing a different tune if the Leafs employed this Fearsome Five in their prime. So, cue the theme from Rocky. Here are your top choices as tough Leafs:
#5. Borje Salming, at 4.9%, is the anti-Inge Hammarstrom, though both were targets of Swede-hunting goons. Borje took the high-sticking and kept on ticking. And has the scars to prove it.
Fans remember him fighting off Dave Schultz and other Flyers of the ’70s. “He never backed down,” writes Tommy Massis.
#4. If you think a tweet is the sound a bird makes, likely you remember Bob Baun. The rough-hewn defenceman gets 6% of your votes. Most cited his goal on a broken ankle in the 1964 Stanley Cup run.
“That takes cojones,” writes Bill Rogoski, of Oshawa. And novocaine, Bill.
#3. Only baldness beat this guy. Tiger Williams, with 8.1%, was a “goddamn little stubble-jumper from Saskatchewan,” spat Ballard. But fans loved him. Still do.
Norman Armstrong, a Gardens usher, writes in wonder of the “doggie bags full of knuckle sandwiches” Williams handed the Broad Street Bullies.
#2. Belinda Stronach didn’t vote, far as I can tell. Maybe she figures ex-beau Tie Domi is a pussycat. Not so, say Leafs fans. Tie punched up 13.5% of your votes.
“One of the toughest ‘short’ fighters in the league,” says Shawn Harvey. Sure, Shawn, go ahead. YOU tell him he’s short.
“That twinkle in his eye and that smirk on his face let you know that you were in for some action.”
Belinda!!?? No, that’s from Domi backer Sandy Camarata.
#1. A rout. Wendel “Captain Crunch” Clark bags a whopping 30.4% of your votes as the toughest Leaf ever.
“Would have been a great Aussie rules football player, mate,” writes Kerin Sparks, who hails from down under. “A pugilist in one period, a sniper in the next.”
“A class of his own,” declares Michael Taylor.
“Still loved and missed by Maple Leaf fans,” Sandra and Paul Tilley write from Mississauga.
“Boy, do we need someone like that,” adds Louis Tsai.
Back to you, Brian Burke.