War Stories: Conn Smythe And The Shrapnel That Found Steel

Conn Smythe loved the military life that nearly killed him.

Five times.

That was, by Conn Smythe’s own count, the number of times the odds were against him ever returning from war.

The man who founded the Maple Leafs fought in both World Wars and saw unspeakable carnage first-hand.

In World War I he fell into command when his superior was killed by mortar shell. It fell to him to move the battery’s 12 horse-pulled guns through heavy shelling. Many of the animals dropped dead when freed from their harnesses.

He collected guns and ammunition from dead comrades. At Vimy he charged into a ...

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War Stories: Hockey’s Unknown Soldier.

Windsor native Joe Turner was projected to be a star goalie with the Detroit Red Wings.

There is in the Hockey Hall of Fame a trophy called the Turner Cup.

Windsor native Joe Turner was projected to be a star goalie with the Detroit Red Wings.

When you won the championship of the old International Hockey League, they gave you the Turner Cup. It looks a bit like the Stanley Cup with a bowl on top and bands widening from top to bottom.

There was a bid to restore a new version of the IHL a few years back but that petered out. The Turner Cup is now ...

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Marlies embrace Royal road trip.

You need to remember three things on a road trip, said Leo Komarov.

You need to remember three things on a road trip, said Leo Komarov, a veteran of three KHL seasons but an AHL rookie.

Gentlemen of the Toronto Marlies, the world is yours.

Or more precisely, Abbotsford B.C, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

The Marlies will be on the road for two weeks while the Ricoh Coliseum is turned over to the Royal Winter Fair, an agricultural institution that gives new meaning to the term “hockey barn.”

The Royal is 90 years old, 83 years older than the Marlies. You may not ...

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Gardiner sharpening his aim with the Marlies.

Jake Gardiner is using the lockout to improve his shooting ability in the AHL. It's working. He has three goals in five games.

Jake Gardiner is using the lockout to improve his shooting ability in the American Hockey League. It’s working. The 22-year-old has scored three goals in five games.

Mats Sundin will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame November 12.

Let’s play a game.

Who is the best guess for the next Leaf to be inducted?

Stop thinking about it. The answer is Jake Gardiner.

The great thing about the Hall of Fame question is that it makes you consider posterity right away. Based on all the players in the system, who is the ...

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Mike Kostka on loving the game and a little extra incentive.

Going into Friday's home game against Hamilton, defenceman Mike Kostka led the Marlies with five points.

Playing with prized defenceman Jake Gardiner, Mike Kostka had five points in the Marlies first five games.

A few months after he devastated the Marlies by accident, Mike Kostka has been handed the keys to the kingdom.

You might remember Kostka. His overtime ricochet off an uncovered stanchion at the Ricoh Coliseum put the Norfolk Admirals up three games to zero in what would soon become a sweep of the Calder Cup finals.

Unwilling to hold a grudge, the Leafs signed the free agent defencemen to a two-way deal this summer.

There will ...

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Salming among those speaking out against bullying.

A father of four, Borje Salming has added his voice to the campaign against bullying.

Friday, 250,000 Toronto students observed a moment of silence in memory of British Columbia bullying victim Amanda Todd.

In the wake of that silence comes a cacophony of denunciation for bullying and support for the bullied.

Add the voice Borje Salming, often cited as the Leafs greatest player, to the chorus.

Like celebrities Lady Gaga, Eminem, Michael Phelps and Chris Rock, Salming endured a torrent of bullying. In the 1970s, the most prominent Swedish player to break into ...

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Johnny Bower Wins Poll. Too Bad You’re All Wrong.

The numbers don't lie.  Turk Broda, shown in a 1946 game is the Leafs greatest goaltender.

The great Johnny Bower acknowledges his fans.

Leaf fans: Johnny Bower says thanks.

The China Wall was voted the Leafs best ever-goalie by an overwhelming margin in our Facebook poll.

http://www.facebook.com/torontomapleleafs .

“I’m just happy to be in the top 100,” said the Leafs Hall of Famer. “I’m so excited to hear that.”

Hard to argue with the ageless one who won the kudos a mere 42 years after his final Leafs game.

There are, however, a few dissenting opinions. Add an influential name to poll respondents William Fam, Paul Skinner, Steve Kis.

Nancy Bower.

That’s right. ...

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Mind the gap: three decades between minor league stints.

The biggest name shuttled from Air Canada Centre to Ricoh Coliseum is a well-rounded goalie who can talk a bit.

Joe Bowen is back in the minors, broadcasting home Marlies games 31 years after his apprenticeship ended – wait for it – in the Montreal Canadiens’ organization.

“Amazing,” Bowen said, “considering how I feel about them now.”

Leafs broadscaster Joe Bowen.

Bowen spent seven years as the play-by-play voice of the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League when word reached him of an opportunity with the American League’s Nova Scotia Voyageurs.

The Voyageurs ...

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New goalie coach St. Croix preaches flexible approach

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He may have been tutored by the great Jacques Plante but the Leafs new goaltending coach found his first mentor when he was eight-years-old.

“I was playing in my hometown of Kenora, Ontario” said former NHLer Rick St. Croix. “A coach came into the room and said ‘who wants to play goal?’ I threw up my hands and said ‘I do, I do.’ My brother Vic was there. He’s 10 years older than me.  He had played a little bit of goal so he gave me equipment and helped me get ...

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Kadri says he is ready for prime time.

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The stars seem aligned for Nazem Kadri.

The Maple Leafs are freeze-dried until further notice. Barring a groundbreaking deal the Leafs will eventually need a skilled centreman on the first line, especially since coach Randy Carlyle has labeled the prospect of James van Riemsdyk in the middle an offhand remark gone viral.

Ah but to have a superbly-skilled young pivot with sparkly draft credentials. Maybe a player who has put up something close to a point a game in the American League; someone who delivered at that rate in the AHL playoffs. ...

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Gardiner, Scrivens and Kadri among Marlies in supercharged AHL season.

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The last time the NHL locked out its players (2004-2005) Jason Spezza, a player with 114 NHL games already under his belt ran away with the American Hockey scoring title. At 21, Spezza was skating for the Sens affiliate in Binghamton when he carded 32 goals and 117 points in 80 games.

Manchester winger Mike Cammalleri, a player with 59 NHL games with LA already to his credit ripped home 46 goals and finished second in the scoring race.

Leafs’ prospect Kyle Wellwood, in his second full season in the AHL finished ...

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Kennedy, not Sundin or Gilmour was Leafs greatest centre.

Ted Kennedy wraps his arms around an old friend. Kennedy  won the Stanley Cup five times and was the last Maple Leaf to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP.

Ted Kennedy is the greatest-ever Maple Leafs centreman.

Not Doug Gilmour, not Mats Sundin nor even the marvelous Dave Keon.

Ted Kennedy. Teeder.

The key word here is great. Great is impossible to define. It can be quantified through statistics but greatness…greatness is an element that transcends numbers.

Ted Kennedy was great.

I was writing a book on captains of the Maple Leafs in 1995. ...

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On exclusivity, insiders and the need for agendas.

If you find this man surprising you haven’t been paying attention.

As Leaf fans await the expected announcement of the team’s new goaltending coach, here’s a thought to get you to the next news day. As an unexpected bonus I have a second thought.

First: I have no first-hand knowledge of whether Francois Allaire was a good or a bad goaltending coach, a valuable sounding board to his goalies or a tragic autocrat.

The only people who know, who really know, are players and other coaches and if you take  Burke’s word ...

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Burke Blasts Performance Of Francois Allaire

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Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke agrees there was interference with goaltending consultant Francois Allaire but said the pressure came in an attempt to spur a revamp of Allaire’s techniques.

“I regret that I have to deal with this matter publicly but I feel the need to respond. Was there interference from the staff as he said there was? Yes. But it was done reluctantly and it was done to change elements of our goaltending that was sub-par.”

Burke, who hired Allaire away from his former team in Anaheim three years ago, ...

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Leafs ready to run the rapids with Reimer.

Is this the guy?

No one can predict when the Toronto Maple Leafs will begin their season.

Everyone knows what the topic of conversation will be when they do: goaltending.

The Leafs netminding scenario is perfect talk-show fodder. You see what you want to see.

“If this is the group we start with and we think it’s going to be,” Leafs GM Brian Burke said of a tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens, “we’re comfortable with that.”

“James Reimer is a guy who started off great and then got hit from the side ...

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Here’s a switch: Holzer wants to prove bosses right.

Expect Korbinian Holzer to be wearing Leaf colors when the season resumes.

It’s true; you can’t teach big but there’s nothing stopping you from going out and getting it.

Two of the Leafs newer bigs, Korbinian Holzer and Tyler Biggs are summering in Toronto, scrimmaging and working with Leafs skating coach Barb Underhill.

A sidenote here: watching Barb Underhill rocket around the ice wearing hockey skates is to observe a master at work.  Her students – Holzer and several prospects are among those working with her -say they are gobsmacked by the power and ...

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Staios goes from chair to a seat in Leafs’ front office.

Steve Staios, the newest member of the Leafs’ management team, played 1001 NHL games.

Steve Staios remembers the chair.

“I was seven years old, living in Hamilton and a coach asked if I wanted to play hockey,” said the newest member of the Leafs management team.

Soccer was the sport in the Staios household. Staios was a first-generation Canadian born to Macedonian parents who lived above and operated a convenience store in Hamilton’s Westdale neighborhood.

“I had to have a cousin show me how the equipment went on,” he said.

While the other kids ...

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Three internal candidates eyeing number one centre role.

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Who will be the hub of the Leafs’ number one line?

While incumbent Tyler Bozak put together an 18-goal, 47-point campaign, Leafs GM Brian Burke is convinced Bozak is better suited to a lower spot in the lineup.

There are three internal candidates for the spot between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul: Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri of the Marles as well as newly-acquired James van Riemsdyk.

Joe Colborne’s fortunes are looking up now that he has finally stopped growing

Joe Colborne

Age: 22

Hometown: Calgary.

Height: Six-foot-five and a half.

Weight: 220 lbs.

Shoots: Left.

Strengths: Exceptional reach. ...

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Sundin’s place cemented with Hall of Fame selection.

Hindsight, it seems, loves Mats Sundin.

The 13-year-Leaf is a first-ballot member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

He has been accorded the highest available honor in the shortest time possible.

In a season that included the raising of his number 13 to the rafters at Air Canada Centre, any  lingering questions about Sundin’s place in the pantheon of the team’s finest players, and that of the NHL greatest, has evaporated, for now, forever.

Sundin will be inducted with Pavel Bure, Adam Oates and Joe Sakic, November 12 at the Hall, a slapshot away ...

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Newest Leaf can’t wait to get going

JVR compares being acquired by the Leafs to being traded to the New York Yankees.

The New York Yankees, Jerry.

That’s the analogy James van Riemsdyk, the newest Maple Leaf, made while discussing his new hockey address, Saturday.

The Leafs acquired the 23-year-old leftwinger in a one-for-one exchange for 22-year-old defenceman Luke Schenn.

“To go to a place like Toronto is unbelievable,” van Riemsdyk said via cell. “The tradition they have.  I grew up a big New York Yankees fan. It’s like playing for the New York Yankees of the NHL.”

“Toronto has always ...

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