Dec 18, 2008 - Jan 3, 2009 - Dave Keon
Every year, I pick a big name to take us through the holidays and every year the Leafs tank it. Proving that I have learned absolutely nothing from this, I present Dave Keon. Ron Wilson thinks Dave is the greatest Leaf of all time. I tend to side with Syl Apps, but not having watched either of them, that's all just speculation anyway.
Dave wasn't the first Leaf captain to be sent packing. Hap Day and Charlie Conacher both were dealt for their last couple of seasons, Jim Thomson was punished for being associated with the fledgling players association and sent to Chicago (he wasn't captain at that moment, though). So there was a little history to it.
Dave's departure from Toronto contains some echoes of today. He had no-trade clause in the contract he signed in 1972. During the 1974-75 season Ballard began blasting his captain for a perceived lack of leadership and vowed that he'd never again sign a contract with a no-trade in it. Keon wouldn't sign in 1975 without one. The Leafs wanted to go with youth and Keon was basically cut loose.
He wasn't free and clear, though. Ballard told him he could negotiate with any team he chose, but that the Leafs would demand steep compensation from whichever team that was (no such thing as a UFA back then, I guess). Keon instead opted for the WHA. There were opportunities to come back to the NHL, but they were always blocked by Ballard's demands for compensation. His return finally happened via the NHL/WHA merger. He scored a pair of goals in his return to MLG and got a huge ovation.
After Ballard's death, a number of olive branches were offered and accepted - the most notable of these would be Sittler. Keon never came back, though, finding the Leafs new ownership merely an extension of the old. He seemed happy instead in Florida, not really having contact with the hockey world. He's not really after fanfare. When he left the game, there wasn't even a press conference. Just a note that, oh, by the way, Dave's done.
He was in Mississauga last week for the retirement of his number by the relocated St. Mike's Majors. The Leafs would love to have a similar ceremony, but so long as the number remains in circulation, Keon won't be there for it.
Talking about an interview with Keon for the book 1967, Damien Cox said that he had these visions of Keon as this bitter, cranky old man. Instead, he found Keon gracious, but principled and determined - really the same attributes that defined him as a player. He wasn't the type to back down then, and he wasn't that type now, either. Apparently, he's also very nice to any fans he runs into. He just wants nothing to do with the organization.
A favourite moment for me was his appearance in 2007 to celebrate the 1967 team. Keon got a huge ovation and it was really nice to see him in blue and white once more. Odds are it was the last time.
1956-57 St. Michael's Buzzers OHA-B 36 20 23 43 14
1956-57 St. Michael's Majors OHA-Jr. 4 1 3 4 0
1957-58 St. Michael's Majors OHA-Jr. 45 23 27 50 29 9 8 5 13 10
1958-59 St. Michael's Majors OHA-Jr. 47 33 38 71 31 15 4 9 13 8
1959-60 St. Michael's Majors OHA-Jr. 46 16 29 45 8 10 8 10 18 2
1959-60 Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen OHA-Sr. 1 1 0 1 0
1959-60 Sudbury Wolves EPHL 4 2 2 4 2
1960-61 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 70 20 25 45 6 5 1 1 2 0
1961-62 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 64 26 35 61 2 12 5 3 8 0
1962-63 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 68 28 28 56 2 10 7 5 12 0
1963-64 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 70 23 37 60 6 14 7 2 9 2
1964-65 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 65 21 29 50 10 6 2 2 4 2
1965-66 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 69 24 30 54 4 4 0 2 2 0
1966-67 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 66 19 33 52 2 12 3 5 8 0
1967-68 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 67 11 37 48 4 +16
1968-69 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 75 27 34 61 12 +17 4 1 3 4 2
1969-70 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 72 32 30 62 6 -15
1970-71 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 76 38 38 76 4 +24 6 3 2 5 0
1971-72 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 72 18 30 48 4 +1 5 2 3 5 0
1972-73 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 76 37 36 73 2 +4
1973-74 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 74 25 28 53 7 +13 4 1 2 3 0
1974-75 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 78 16 43 59 4 +3 7 0 5 5 0
1975-76 Minnesota Fighting Saints WHA 57 26 38 64 4
1975-76 Indianapolis Racers WHA 12 3 7 10 2 7 2 2 4 2
1976-77 Minnesota Fighting Saints WHA 42 13 38 51 2
1976-77 New England Whalers WHA 34 14 25 39 8 5 3 1 4 0
1977-78 New England Whalers WHA 77 24 38 62 2 14 5 11 16 4
1978-79 New England Whalers WHA 79 22 43 65 2 10 3 9 12 2
1979-80 Hartford Whalers NHL 76 10 52 62 10 -13 3 0 1 1 0
1980-81 Hartford Whalers NHL 80 13 34 47 26 -31
1981-82 Hartford Whalers NHL 78 8 11 19 6 -31
Leaf Totals 1062 365 493 858 75 89 32 35 67 6
NHL Totals 1296 396 590 986 117 92 32 36 68 6
Calder Memorial Trophy (1961)
Conn Smythe Trophy (1967)
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (1962, 1963)
Second All-Star Team Centre (1962, 1971)
- Selected by Ontario-Ottawa (WHA) in 1972 WHA General Player Draft, February 12, 1972.
- WHA rights transferred to Toronto (WHA) after Ottawa (WHA) franchise relocated, May, 1973.
- WHA rights traded to Minnesota (WHA) by Toronto (WHA) for future considerations, May, 1975.
- Signed as a free agent by Indianapolis (WHA) after Minnesota (WHA) franchise folded, March 10, 1976.
- Traded to Minnesota (WHA) by Indianapolis (WHA) for Gary MacGregor and future considerations, September, 1976.
- Traded to Edmonton (WHA) by Minnesota (WHA) with Mike Antonovich, Bill Butters, Jack Carlson, Steve Carlson, Jean-Louis Levasseur and John McKenzie, January, 1977.
- Traded to New England (WHA) by Edmonton (WHA) with Jack Carlson, Steve Carlson, Dave Dryden and John McKenzie for future considerations (Dave Debol, June, 1977), Dan Arndt and cash, January, 1977.
- Rights retained by Hartford prior to Expansion Draft, June 9, 1979.
the HHOF take on Dave:
Dave Keon could be a dazzling offensive player, utilizing bursts of speed and deft moves around the net. He also had what is widely considered to be one of the best backhands in the game, a deceptive, often powerful shot that flummoxed opposing goaltenders. He used his agility to avoid opponents' hits and remained injury-free for much of his career. He also used his speed and maneuverability as a pesky penalty killer, covering a large portion of the ice and turning shorthanded situations into scoring chances for his own team. He set a league record for most goals while killing penalties with eight in the 1970-71 season, a remarkable total since the most any Toronto team had managed up to that year had been 14.
Had it not been for his mother, Toronto fans would never have had the chance to make Keon one of their all-time favorites. As a teenager in Noranda, Quebec, Keon was heavily courted by the Detroit Red Wings. His mother, however, objected to his moving so far away. He stayed in Noranda for another winter and was soon noticed by the Maple Leafs. The next year he went to St. Michael's College, as so many Leaf prospects did, and began to improve remarkably quickly. The Leafs informed him that he would be given a chance in the pro league in 1960, when he'd be 19. He was told by Bob Goldham and Father David Bauer, the St. Michael's coaches, that he could either learn how to play the defensive game - the game without the puck - in the summer or he could spend the next year in the minors working on it. He put in the extra time and effort and made the Leafs that Fall.
Keon won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie that year and was a Second Team All-Star the next. Along with Red Kelly and Bob Pulford, Keon provided the Maple Leafs with a solid stable of centers, a nucleus of talent that would play a large role in the Leafs' four Stanley Cup triumphs in the 1960s. Keon was the playoff MVP in 1967, the last year the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. Also in that span, he won the Lady Byng Trophy twice, in 1962 and 1963, as the NHL's most gentlemanly player. He had only two minutes in penalties each season, a remarkable total for such an effective forechecker and defensive player. At one time, Keon was the Maple Leafs' all-time leading scorer, overtaking Frank Mahovlich and George Armstrong, who had shared the record with 296 goals apiece.
Keon seemed to be always at odds with Toronto management when it came to contract negotiations but was able to smooth over differences before they interfered with his play. In 1972 the Ottawa Nationals of the World Hockey Association announced that they were going to do everything in their power to sign the productive center. Keon was trying out at the time for Team Canada, hoping for an opportunity to play against the Soviets in the Summit Series. He was kept off that team because of the possibility that he might leave the NHL. He was later convinced to remain with the Leafs by vice-president King Clancy and signed the richest contract the team had ever offered, but he did regret not playing in the 1972 series with teammates Paul Henderson and Ron Ellis.
Keon's leadership and productivity over his 15 years with the Leafs were all forgotten in the summer of 1975, at least by Harold Ballard, the cantankerous and headstrong owner of the team. He began to complain publicly about the lack of leadership Keon had shown to his younger teammates. Since Ballard was determined to rebuild the team with youth, Keon, the Leaf captain at the time, wasn't resigned. It was insult on top of injury and Keon, though a classy individual on the ice and off, has refused for years to have much to do with the team he was - and is - so strongly identified with.
He signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Fighting Saints and spent four years in the WHA with the Fighting Saints, Indianapolis Racers and New England Whalers. In 1979-80, he returned to the NHL with the Hartford Whalers. Very quietly, in the summer of 1982, Keon ended his 22-year professional career. There was no fanfare. Keon, at the time the NHL's oldest player at 42, informed Hartford director of hockey operations Larry Pleau of his decision and then declined to have a press conference, saying he'd like to end his career without formality.