Leaf of the Day - Nov 7-9, 2008 - Hap Day (minor rant)

Editor's Note: On a day when talk has centred around which Leaf hero is the biggest traitor I figured that it would be great to put a "Happy" spin on things this afternoon. Luckily, 1967ers read my mind when he posted his latest Leaf of the Day. Hap Day is the epitome of loyalty and his love of the Leafs and hockey made the franchise successful throughout every iteration of his career. So instead of arguing about whether Mats is putting a large knife in our backs or if Dougie might have been a secret communist let's remember a fellow Leafs great. 

Nov 7-9, 2008 - Hap Day

I was wading around a sportscard forum the other day when I saw someone post a picture of this:



Now, this sort of thing bugs me for a few reasons which I will get into later, but look closely at this:  Henry 'Happy' Day.


Hap Day's name was Clarence.

Yes, his middle name was Henry, as was pointed out to me.  Similarly, Rocket Richard's given name was Joseph.  Tim Horton's given name was Myles.  You might have seen this printed on the back of a 50's Parkhurst card where they often listed the player's full name, but to spend $150-plus for a modern memorabilia card and see "Myles Horton" or "Joseph Richard"?  That would drive me nuts.  It's incredibly sloppy.

I'm not too keen on the whole "embedded memorabilia" thing anyway.  I don't like the notion of shredding a legitimate artifact in order to stuff it into a hockey card.  It's one thing to do it for a player who is still playing, but Hap Day isn't signing anything anymore.  The Rocket only has a finite number of game-used sweaters out there.  To cut one up because Upper Deck needs to outdo whatever it cut up last year is sacrilege.  Next year, they'll have to cut up something else.

The entire hobby is now geared toward "the pull" - finding some hidden gem in the midst of the normal cards that once were the entire point of collecting.  Artificial scarcity.  It's sad.

Beyond all of that, a modern card of a historic player always strikes me as artificial.

To me, a Hap Day card looks like this:



There's a real authenticity there.  Some kid pulled this with a stick of gum in 1936, played with it while Foster Hewitt called the game on the radio, looking at it to see the face of the great Hap Day while Foster described him blocking out Hooley Smith or whoever, then putting it in the shoebox with all the others when the game was over.


Hap Day was really one of the great Leafs.  He was a hall-of-famer as a player, coached the Leafs through the best decade they ever had, was assistant GM through the 50's and was part of 7 Stanley Cup champions overall.

When Conn Smythe bought the St. Pats in 1927, he got rid of the majority of the players.  Some had been around since the days of the old Blueshirts, others were holdovers from the winners of 1917 and 1922.  One that he kept was the captain, Hap Day.

The teams of the 1930's would add a lot of star power - Clancy, Primeau, Jackson, Conacher, Horner, Bailey, but there througout was the old warrior, Day. 

As coach, he took over from Dick Irvin and led the Leafs to championships in 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948 and 1949. 

As assistant GM, he was part of another winner in 1951.  In the late 50s, as Conn Smythe began to lose influence and the team was effectively taken over by Stafford and his crowd, Day ended a 30-plus year association with the team.  This was the start of the Imlach era.

1921-22    Collingwood Sailors    OHA-Jr.                                           
1922-23    Hamilton Tigers    OHA-Sr.    11    4    11    15    4        2    0    0    0    0
1923-24    Hamilton Tigers    OHA-Sr.    10    6    11    17            2    1    1    2   
1924-25    Toronto St. Pats    NHL    26    10    12    22    33        2    0    0    0    0
1925-26    Toronto St. Pats    NHL    36    14    2    16    26                       
1926-27    Toronto St. Pats/Maple Leafs    NHL    44    11    5    16    50                       
1927-28    Toronto Maple Leafs    NHL    22    9    8    17    48                       
1928-29    Toronto Maple Leafs    NHL    44    6    6    12    84        4    1    0    1    4
1929-30    Toronto Maple Leafs    NHL    43    7    14    21    77                       
1930-31    Toronto Maple Leafs    NHL    44    1    13    14    56        2    0    3    3    7
1931-32    Toronto Maple Leafs    NHL    47    7    8    15    33        7    3    3    6    6
1932-33    Toronto Maple Leafs    NHL    47    6    14    20    46        9    0    1    1    21
1933-34    Toronto Maple Leafs    NHL    48    9    10    19    35        5    0    0    0    6
1934-35    Toronto Maple Leafs    NHL    45    2    4    6    38        7    0    0    0    4
1935-36    Toronto Maple Leafs    NHL    44    1    13    14    41        9    0    0    0    8
1936-37    Toronto Maple Leafs    NHL    48    3    4    7    20        2    0    0    0    0

1937-38    New York Americans    NHL    43    0    3    3    14        6    0    0    0    0
St.Pats/Leaf Totals    538    86    113    199    587        47    4    7    11    56
NHL Totals        581    86    116    202    601        53    4    7    11    56

Stanley Cups (1932 (player), 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949 (coach), 1951 (asst GM))
Second All-Star Team Coach (1944)

- Signed as a free agent by Toronto, December 9, 1924.
- Traded to NY Americans by Toronto for cash, September 23, 1937.

the HHOF take on Hap:

Clarence Day's perpetually cheery demeanor earned him the nickname "Happy," which was later shortened to "Hap." Day was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, and he played his minor hockey there. He routinely walked five miles - carrying his equipment - to games in the closest big town, Port McNicholl, and later in life he maintained his penchant for walking. During his teens he ended up in Hamilton, where he played senior hockey with the Tigers. He also enrolled at the University of Toronto, where he majored in pharmacy and played for the Varsity team. By this time he was considered one of the finest amateurs in the country and one of the best skaters outside the NHL.

Charlie Querrie, owner of the St. Pats - the NHL's Toronto entry - and Bert Corbeau, the team's star player, saw Day play one night and knew immediately that he could contribute at the game's highest level. But Day was reluctant to turn pro, and he agreed only after the St. Pats offered him an eye-popping $5,000 salary along with a promise that he wouldn't miss too many classes at U of T. Day would be associated with the club for more than 30 years.

On December 10, 1924, Day made his NHL debut as a left wing, and his linemates were none other than future Hall of Famers Jack Adams and Babe Dye. After his rookie year, he shifted to defense, where he spent the rest of his career.

During his playing days, Day also ran a drugstore in Maple Leaf Gardens. Eventually he gave up this business and Dick Dowling's Grill took its place.

Day sustained numerous minor injuries during his career, but the most serious was a torn Achilles heel he suffered on February 2, 1928, when another player stepped on the back of his leg. He tried to return to action, but the injury triggered an onslaught of further maladies that cost him the rest of the season. Over time the heel recovered fully and he'd miss very few games over the next decade.

Day was a born leader, and when the Leafs captaincy became available, there was no doubt as to who would lead the team. He was team captain from 1926 until 1936. Starting in 1931, he was paired on defense with King Clancy; together they formed one of the best twosomes in the league.

In the spring of 1932, the Leafs christened their new home, Maple Leaf Gardens, with the team's first Stanley Cup championship under Conn Smythe's management and Day scored a key goal. In a two-game, total-goals semi-final against the Montreal Maroons, the teams tied the first leg 1-1. In the second game, Day made a spectacular rush - something defense players rarely did then - to tie the score and send the game into overtime. Bob Gracie got the winner for the Leafs and they moved on to the finals against the New York Rangers. Day scored three goals in the first two games and the Leafs won the famous "tennis series" by scores of 6-4, 6-2 and 6-4.

Day played his final season with the New York Americans in 1937-38, then acted as a referee for two years while coaching in the Toronto area. He won the coveted Memorial Cup with the West Toronto juniors in 1936, and the next season he coached the Toronto Dominions to the OHA senior title before losing to the eventual Allan Cup winners, the Sudbury Tigers, in the provincial championships.

Fortune smiled on Day in 1940 when Leafs coach Dick Irvin packed up and moved to Montreal to coach the Canadiens. Leafs owner Conn Smythe immediately hired Day as Irvin's replacement, and over the next 10 years he was the most successful coach in the NHL. In his first year the Leafs made it to the semifinals before losing to Boston in seven games. But in 1942 he coached the team to the greatest Stanley Cup comeback of all time. The Leafs lost the first three games of the finals to Detroit but stormed back to win four in a row and claim the Stanley Cup..

Day was a taskmaster who demanded the most from his men. Much to the dismay of some on-ice officials, he knew the rule book inside out and could quote it verbatim. In all, he won five Cup championships as coach of the Leafs: in 1942 and 1945, then three in a row from 1947 to 1949 - the first time in NHL history that a Stanley Cup hat trick was accomplished.

After he gave up coaching in 1950, the Leafs immediately appointed Day assistant to general manager Conn Smythe, although Day in fact had the responsibility of running the team until 1957. He picked up another Stanley Cup with coach Joe Primeau in 1951, and was appointed general manager for 1957-58. Day was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.


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