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A decade without mercy


MONTREAL | January 8th, 2009
A decade without mercy
On one side, Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer; on the other, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich and Johnny Bower.  From 1960 to 1969, the Canadiens and Maple Leafs split eight of a possible 10 Stanley Cups, setting the stage for one of the most intense rivalries in NHL history.

It all began in 1962. After watching the Habs lift hockey’s Holy Grail right before their eyes just two years earlier, Punch Imlach’s Leafs set off on one of the most epic journeys in franchise history. In claiming the Cup against the Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto snapped an 11-year championship drought.

Determined to wipe out the bleu-blanc-rouge domination, the boys in blue and white kept their foot on the gas.

Led by Dave Keon (56 and 60 points) and Frank Mahovlich (73 and 55 points), the Maple Leafs topped the Detroit Red Wings in both 1963 and 1964 to win the Stanley Cup.

Already chomping at the bit, they waited a few more years before they finally clinching the Stanley Cup against their longtime foes from Montreal.

In fact, it was those same Canadiens that made them wait, as the Habs emerged as Cup champs in 1965 and 1966.  With Gump Worsley and Charlie Hodge splitting the duties in goal, Montreal sent Toronto packing from the playoffs before winning it all just two weeks later.

In 1967, the Maple Leafs and their fans finally got to exact some revenge.

After a lackluster season that figured to be much of the same in the postseason, the Maple Leafs – to the surprise of many – eliminated Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita’s Blackhawks, who had risen to the top in the regular season.  The Canadiens, meanwhile, third in the overall standings, swept the Rangers to set up a final against Toronto.

Each team won a pair of games and the series was even, 2-2.  Riding sparkling performances from netminder Terry Sawchuk and forward Jim Pappin, the Leafs surprised the Canadiens at the Forum with a victory in Game 5.  Montreal had lost just nine home games over the entire regular season.

Two days later, Toronto hoisted its 13th and last Stanley Cup to this day at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Not only did it leave an indelible mark in fans’ minds, this memorable decade also added a new flavor to the Montreal-Toronto rivalry.

Even today, at the Bell Centre or Air Canada Centre, fans are well aware that it’s not just a sport; Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs, it’s serious business.