Over the years, there have a been a few sweater numbers synonomous with certain players. Lets see, I'll give the number, you come up with the player....#4....#9.....#93.....#66.....#99. Easy right? Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe or Bobby Hull, Dougie Gilmour (for us Leafers), Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky.
Now try this one.......#1. Back in the day, you could have answered any one of Jacques Plante, Eddie Johnson, Roger Crozier, Glen Hall, Ed Giacomin, Turk Broda.....the list goes on. Some "back-in-the-day" goalies (mostly back-up goaltenders) would wear the number 30 or others. (Terry Sawchuk's first number with the Leafs was the unlikely #24.)Lately the number 1 hasn't held the significance that it once did, with today's goaltenders opting to take "non-traditional" numbers. Some goalies do still favour the number 1 (Luongo), but others take 29, 33, 34, 35 and so on. Today's posts, however, isn't to recognize the non-traditionalist that have tended goal for the Leafs (Palmateer and Potvin #29, Wayne Thomas and Doug Favell #33, James Reimer #34, Jonas Gustavson #50), but rather focusses on the history of the number 1.
My rule in discussing history of the Leafs is to focus only on the Leafs that I've seen play. That still takes us a very long way back, sadly.
The history of the Toronto Maple Leafs #1
In the dawn a future king was born. His name was Sir John Bower. Otherwise known as the China Wall. Despite many others using his sweater in times that he was incapacitated, others with the monickers of Gerry (future Lord of the Land) McNamara, Cesare Maniago (soon dispatched to the land of Minnesota), Sir Gerry of Cheevers (he, the founder of the painted mask from the land of Bruin). In the year of our Lord 1970, Sir John begat Bruce Gamble, who later begat Jacques Plante, who, in turn, begat Ed Johnson, who begat Dunc Wilson, who begat Gord Mcrae. Soon to follow in their footsteps were names both new and old to the Leaf nation villagers....Vincent Trembaly, Bunny Larocque, Jim Rutherford (he of the Carolina tribe), Rick St, Croix, Darren Puppa, Damian Rhodes.
One could see the vaunted number 1 losing its lustre and being tarnished....tarnished so greatly that the over-seer of the Land of Leaf decided to take it out of commission and polish it back to its former standard. The Over-seer held it out of use for over 10 years, when it was decided that, finally, a new standard-bearer had been found to carry the number 1 back to its treasured spot. Yes, verily, I bring to you....ANDREW RAYCROFT!......Okay, so the Over-seer was not very accurate in his forecast. Again, the number 1 has been placed into semi-retirement, awaiting the day that another goaltender can rip it from the Over-seer's grasp and lead the nation back to the glory days.
Here then, a quick thumbnail description of some of the more interesting number 1's.
JOHNNY BOWER Nicknamed "The China Wall" because nothing was allowed past him.....gained noteriety for two reasons his age, rumoured to be between 40 and 50 when he eventually retired and his toughness....would dive head-first into the skates and sticks of on-rushing skaters to poke-check the puck away....all done, of course, without a mask.....still an icon in Leaf Nation, is routinely called upon at the ACC to star in pre-game ceremonies (rapelling from the rafters with Canadian Soldiers was the greatest one I ever saw) and routinely given standing ovations from the Leafers old enough to remember....gained fame as well for his recording of that famous Christmas Classic, "Honky, the Christmas Goose", recorded with his son John Jr. and under the name of "Johnny Bower and the Rinky Dinks."
Jake the Snake, played only a few seasons with the Leafs after having been bought from the St. Louis Blues...in his first year with the Leafs, Plante led the league in GAA with a stellar 1.86 average....during the 72-73 season, with his GAA growing to a 3.04 average, the Leafs unloaded Plante ontlo the Bruins for goaltender Ed Johnson and a draft pick that turned out to be Ian Turnbull
McRae is remembered, primarily, as Mike Palmateer's back-up....most games he played in while a Leaf was 20 during the 75-76 season....recorded one shut-out during his 5 season career....best known for his nickname "Bird".
Known as Bunny....played 3 fairly uneventful seasons with the Leafs...traded from the hated Habs to the Leafs for defenceman Robert Picard....later traded from the Leafs to Philadelphia for goaltender Rick St. Croix...best known for his wonderful mask
who is Bruce Dowie, I hear you say.....only played 2 games with the Leafs back in 83-84 season...back up to Mike Palmateer....the two of them had a connection....both were goaltenders for the Toronto Marlboroughs of the Ontario Hockey Association...
tied the record for franchise wins by a goaltender with Ed Balfour with 37 wins during 2006/2007 season....acquired from Boston for goaltender Tuuka Rask....put on waivers in 08 and signed as a free agent with Colorado.