Walter "Turk" Broda grew up in Manitoba and was developed as a player in the Detroit minor system, playing with the Olympics in 1935-36. He was discovered by Leafs owner Conn Smythe, who was in Detroit to check out a goalie named Earl Robertson, but when Smythe saw Broda at the other end, he immediately contacted Jack Adams of the Red Wings about acquiring Broda, which he did for just $7,500 cash. Broda joined the Leafs that fall and remained Toronto's goaltender for most of the next 15 years.
Turk's outgoing style made him hugely popular with Leafs fans and loved by his teammates. "The Leafs pay me for my work in practices," he joked, "and I throw in the games for free." His first stint with the Leafs lasted until 1943 and included the historic Stanley Cup win of 1942 when the Leafs rebounded from a 3-0 series deficit to beat Detroit in seven games.
In 1943, Broda joined the army and went off to England for two years, primarily to play hockey. When he was discharged in 1945, he went straight to the Gardens and resumed practising with the team. He was back in goal, and there he stayed for four more Stanley Cup Finals, three in a row from 1947 to 1949 and one more in 1951 in which all five games went into overtime against Montreal. "I couldn't beat him. Toe Blake couldn't. None of the Canadiens could," Maurice Richard said after that series. Broda played the entire season in goal in eight of his 11 seasons, and part of two others, leading the league in shutouts twice.
Yet, for all his fame and glory, he's also remembered for his weight problems, which Conn Smythe used as a kind of playful publicity stunt. Smythe ended Broda's run of more than 200 starts in a row when he ordered Broda out of the goal until he got his weight down to 189 pounds. For days afterward, newspaper articles showed the smiling goalie sitting on a scale eating steak or drinking juice for dinner in an effort to lose the weight. Broda joined a fitness club and took up handball to stay lean, and his wife, Betty, became famous for being the one person who could help him lose weight and save the city's team.
In practice, Broda was also famous. When the players had to skate laps around the ice, coach Day would skate directly behind Broda, who was in full equipment, hollering at him to keep up and join the race. When in goal, Broda would face wave after wave of shots, then Day would take the goalie's stick away and force him to stop another series of pucks using only his arms and legs.
He retired after playing only one game in the 1951-52 season. Broda was accorded a special night at the Gardens by Conn Smythe, one of the rarest honuors bestowed upon a Leaf. That night came on December 22, 1951, and players and executives from Toronto, the opposing Bruins and every other NHL team gathered to pay respects to one of the greatest goalies of all time.
His NHL legacy includes 302 wins, 224 losses and 101 ties in 629 regular season games, including 62 shutouts and a lifetime goals-against average of 2.53. He was a three-time NHL All-Star, was twice the recipient of the Vezina Trophy and, most tellingly, backstopped the Maple Leafs to five Stanley Cup championships through his career.
Following his playing career, Broda turned to coaching, and was behind the bench for the OHA Toronto Marlboros when they won back-to-back Memorial Cup championships in 1955 and 1956.
Turk Broda was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967. His number 1 has been retired by the Toronto Maple Leafs.