Clarence Day's perpetually cheery demeanor earned him the nickname "Happy," which was later shortened to "Hap." Day was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, and he played his minor hockey there. He routinely walked five miles - carrying his equipment - to games in the closest big town, Port McNicholl, and later in life he maintained his penchant for walking. During his teens he ended up in Hamilton, where he played senior hockey with the Tigers. He also enrolled at the University of Toronto, where he majored in pharmacy and played for the Varsity team. By this time he was considered one of the finest amateurs in the country and one of the best skaters outside the NHL.
Charlie Querrie, owner of the St. Pats - the NHL's Toronto entry - and Bert Corbeau, the team's star player, saw Day play one night and knew immediately that he could contribute at the game's highest level. But Day was reluctant to turn pro, and he agreed only after the St. Pats offered him an eye-popping $5,000 salary along with a promise that he wouldn't miss too many classes at U of T. Day would be associated with the club for more than 30 years.
On December 10, 1924, Day made his NHL debut as a left wing, and his linemates were none other than future Hall of Famers Jack Adams and Babe Dye. After his rookie year, he shifted to defense, where he spent the rest of his career.
During his playing days, Day also ran a drugstore in Maple Leaf Gardens. Eventually he gave up this business and Dick Dowling's Grill took its place.
Day sustained numerous minor injuries during his career, but the most serious was a torn Achilles heel he suffered on February 2, 1928, when another player stepped on the back of his leg. He tried to return to action, but the injury triggered an onslaught of further maladies that cost him the rest of the season. Over time the heel recovered fully and he'd miss very few games over the next decade.
Day was a born leader, and when the Leafs captaincy became available, there was no doubt as to who would lead the team. He was team captain from 1926 until 1936. Starting in 1931, he was paired on defense with King Clancy; together they formed one of the best twosomes in the league.
In the spring of 1932, the Leafs christened their new home, Maple Leaf Gardens, with the team's first Stanley Cup championship under Conn Smythe's management and Day scored a key goal. In a two-game, total-goals semi-final against the Montreal Maroons, the teams tied the first leg 1-1. In the second game, Day made a spectacular rush - something defense players rarely did then - to tie the score and send the game into overtime. Bob Gracie got the winner for the Leafs and they moved on to the finals against the New York Rangers. Day scored three goals in the first two games and the Leafs won the famous "tennis series" by scores of 6-4, 6-2 and 6-4.
Day played his final season with the New York Americans in 1937-38, then acted as a referee for two years while coaching in the Toronto area. He won the coveted Memorial Cup with the West Toronto juniors in 1936, and the next season he coached the Toronto Dominions to the OHA senior title before losing to the eventual Allan Cup winners, the Sudbury Tigers, in the provincial championships.
Fortune smiled on Day in 1940 when Leafs coach Dick Irvin packed up and moved to Montreal to coach the Canadiens. Leafs owner Conn Smythe immediately hired Day as Irvin's replacement, and over the next 10 years he was the most successful coach in the NHL. In his first year the Leafs made it to the semifinals before losing to Boston in seven games. But in 1942 he coached the team to the greatest Stanley Cup comeback of all time. The Leafs lost the first three games of the finals to Detroit but stormed back to win four in a row and claim the Stanley Cup..
Day was a taskmaster who demanded the most from his men. Much to the dismay of some on-ice officials, he knew the rule book inside out and could quote it verbatim. In all, he won five Cup championships as coach of the Leafs: in 1942 and 1945, then three in a row from 1947 to 1949 - the first time in NHL history that a Stanley Cup hat trick was accomplished.
After he gave up coaching in 1950, the Leafs immediately appointed Day assistant to general manager Conn Smythe, although Day in fact had the responsibility of running the team until 1957. He picked up another Stanley Cup with coach Joe Primeau in 1951, and was appointed general manager for 1957-58. Day was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.