Oct 142009


Not many readers will recall a long, looping shot taken by Leaf defenseman Bobby Baun in the spring of 1964. Baun’s blooper shot in the first overtime period in game six eluded Detroit goalie Terry Sawchuk and won the game for the Leafs. Two nights later, on home ice, the Leafs captured the Stanley Cup.

That was forty-five years ago.  What made Baun’s winning goal memorable is that he scored it while playing on a broken leg–a hairline fracture of the fibula.

Let’s re-live that must-win situation for the Punch Imlach-coached Leafs.  Late in the game.  Baun blocks a Gordie Howe shot with his leg.  He feels the pain.  but plays on.  Moments later, he turns from a faceoff, hears something snap in his leg, and crumples to the ice.  Carried off on a stretcher, he insists on getting the damaged leg frozen, returns to play and early in overtime, he slaps at a rolling puck.  The puck flies at Red Wing defenseman Bill Gadsby, bounces off his stick and into the net behind Sawchuk.  The Leafs stay alive thanks to Baun’s overtime goal.  He admits the goal wasn’t a beauty but it was a game winner nevertheless—and one of the most famous goals in history.  Baun’s biographer, Anne Logan, ranks it right up there with Paul Henderson’s goal against the Soviets in ’72.  Sorry, Anne, but that’s a bit of a stretch.

Only after the Cup is won does Baun consent to x rays.  They reveal that he was indeed the victim of a broken bone in his leg.

Other little known facts about Bobby Baun:

Baun was left unprotected by the Leafs in 1967 and signed on with the California Seals–an expansion team–for $37,500.  It was said to be the best contract offered to any NHL defenseman.

In May, 1968, Baun was traded to Detroit.  Erratic team owner Bruce Norris wanted to see how tough Baun was so–at their very first meeting in a Montreal restaurant–he started a fight with Baun. it was an incredible sight with tables and food flying in all directions. Norris was a big man–6′ 5″–and often inebriated.

When a neck injury forced Baun to retire from hockey in 1972, he was able to loan Tim Horton $10,000 in order to get into the donut business. Tim Hortons became a multi-million dollar enterprise. Horton was a Buffalo Sabre when he was killed in a high speed car accident after a game at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1974.

Baun liked Billy Reay as a Leaf coach but when Howie Meeker coached the team in the fifties, he brought in a lot of new ideas that nobody listened to–especially the veterans.

Baun says Bert Olmstead was the only Leaf who would challenge coach Punch Imlach. When Imlach diagrammed a play on the chalkboard, Olmstead would get angry and say, “That’s not the bleepin’ way to do it. I’ll show you how it should be done.”  And Imlach would stand back and let him.

Baun’s friend Bob Pulford was a notorious cheapskate. He and Brian Cullen roomed together and Cullen found a quarter on the floor one day. Pulford insisted they share the quarter but Cullen refused. Later, when Cullen was asleep, Pulford took the quarter, went down to the hotel lobby and bought a newspaper. When he returned, he told Cullen, “Look, I bought us a paper with the money we found.”

Baun says Eddie Shack was a born entertainer. In 1963, the Leafs were in a New York airport when they spotted President Richard Nixon standing nearby. Baun and Red Kelly dared Shack to go over and speak to the President. Despite his shy nature, Shack went over and said, “Hi, I’m Eddie Shack and I play for the Maple Leafs.”

And Nixon said, “Yes, I know who you are and I know all about the Leafs.”

So Shack yelled over to Kelly, “Hey Red, who the hell did you say this guy is?”

  One Response to “Remembering Bobby Baun”

  1. Even though Paul’s goal was a Canadian Spectacular Brian, to reflect on Bobby’s commitment to the game and the team during that playoff far exceeds what we see from most of our new model athletes today. I would take his autograph 100 times over these steroid induced fakes … Bobby was the real thing … I remember watching my little tv in a small bedroom above a store my parents owned. When Bobby scored .. Mt. Pleasant Rd. could here the screams …. not only because we won the game .. but because Bobby did that with a broken ankle … Unbelievable dedication ..

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