It was quite a series. The fact that 1967 was Canada's 100-year anniversary, and that the only two Canadian teams in existence during that final year of the so-called 'Original Six' era were meeting for a chance to claim the Stanley Cup, made the series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens both historical and monumental.
The Canadiens had eliminated the New York Rangers in four straight games to earn their appearance in the Stanley Cup final. It took six games, but the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Chicago Black Hawks to earn their berth in the final.
Toronto was regarded as an unusually old team and although with age comes experience, pundits doubted that the Toronto veterans could keep up with Montreal's youthful squad. Toronto's goaltending tandem of Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk was 43 and 38 respectively. Defensemen Allan Stanley (41), Tim Horton (37) and Marcel Pronovost (37) were nearing the end of their Hall of Fame careers. The forward lines included 39-year-old Red Kelly, the 37-year-old captain, George Armstrong, and a diligent forward named Bob Pulford, who had just turned 31 years of age.
Game 1, played April 20 in Montreal, surprised few when the scoreboard showed a 6-2 win for the Canadiens. Toronto rebounded with a 3-0 shutout in front of Johnny Bower in Game 2, with Bob Pulford earning an assist on the opening goal.
Game 3 saw the teams move to Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. At the end of three periods, the teams were deadlocked at two goals apiece, with Pulford collecting an assist on Jim Pappin's goal in the second. The teams battled through an extra twenty minutes but still to no avail, in spite of Montreal firing 13 shots at Bower in the Leafs net, and Toronto taking 11 shots on Montreal's young netminder, Rogie Vachon. At the six minute-mark of the second overtime, Allan Stanley rocked Henri Richard with a bodycheck that knocked the 'Pocket Rocket' unconscious. Then, at 8:26, Bob Pulford scored a goal, assisted by linemates Pappin and Peter Stemkowski, that woke the entire building. The goal, Pulford's first of the playoffs, gave the Leafs the win, an edge in the series and momentum that carried over through the rest of the Stanley Cup final.
Although Montreal won Game 4, the Maple Leafs picked up wins in Game 5 (4-1) and took Game 6 and the Stanley Cup with a 3-1 win on May 2, 1967. The Battle of Canada had been won by the aged Toronto Maple Leafs. And grizzled forward Bob Pulford not only led the playoffs in assists with 10 and finished the post-season with 11 points, but had won his fourth Stanley Cup championship in six years the pinnacle of his NHL playing career.
Kevin Shea is Editor, Publications and On-line Features, at the Hockey Hall of Fame.