Leaf of the Day - Jan 23-25, 2009 - King Clancy

Editor's Note: For All-Star weekend, born out of the horrific injury inflicted on the Leafs' Ace Bailey, here is a look at one of the greatest Leafs ever. A man so great that he was nicknamed 'King' at a time when there actually was a King in Canada (so to speak)!

Jan 23-25, 2009 - King Clancy


75 years ago, King Clancy played in the first All-Star game - the benefit game for Ace Bailey on Feb 14, 1934.  King had been Bailey's teammate and was on the ice killing a penalty with Ace and Red Horner when Eddie Shore put Bailey out of hockey.  Three years later, he also skated in the second all-star game - the benefit for the family of Howie Morenz. 

For me, Clancy was always the person you'd see sitting with Harold Ballard in the bunker at MLG.  You knew that he'd been there more or less forever and he seemed to be the presence that softened Ballard - if King liked him, he couldn't possibly be all that bad.  His death in 1986 was a huge blow.

King was one of the early greats in the NHL.  It's a shame that these days, all we really have to judge him by are anecdotes and stats.  I've only ever seen one clip of him in action, and it was a fight, of all things.  There was no Norris Trophy then, and the concept of the year-end All-Star team didn't arise until 1930-31.  But the notion of buying a player for $35000 in the depths of the Great Depression tells us all we need to know about the regard in which he was held.  When the All-Star teams were first announced, King made the first four of them - twice on the first team, twice on the second.

Aside from brief stints as coach of the Maroons and as an NHL referee, King was basically with the Leafs for 55 years.  He did it all.  He was one of the few to survive the change in guard from Conn Smythe to the new board and eventually to Harold Ballard.  Through it all, he was the happy-go-lucky little Irishman, full of energy and bounce.

King would be called in to coach the Leafs on occasion.  The biggest of these times was probably 1966-67.  The Leafs were falling apart, having lost ten in a row.  Punch Imlach wound up in hospital with nerves.  King took over behind the bench and was a breath of fresh air.  The team went 7-1-2 with him at the helm, and with the ship righted, went on to win the Stanley Cup.

King would face anything and anyone.  When Bernie Parent's mask was pitched into a hostile Rangers crowd at MLG in 1971, it was King who went after it.

Not all his decisions were great ones - King was the one who suggested Imlach's return after Roger Neilson was fired, and Mike Nykoluk found himself saddled with assistant coaches that King met at a golf course.  Over 50+ years, there are bound to be a couple of duds.

For a team that did its utmost to sever all ties with its past, though, King was a dramatic exception - a link to the entire history of Leaf hockey.  It's a shame we don't have anything like that today.  Maybe they could convince Teeder Kennedy to move into the ACC somewhere....

This clip is from the memorial game for King immediately after his death in 1986.  The Leafs are wearing black armbands and would switch to a shoulder patch that had a gold crown on top of a four-leaf clover.

King's stats:

1916-17 Ottawa Sandy Hill OCJHL 4 3 0 3
1916-17 St. Joseph's (Ottawa) High-ON 2 3 0 3
1917-18 Ottawa Munitions OCJHL 4 2 0 2
1917-18 Ottawa Collegiate High-ON 2 3 0 3
1918-19 Ottawa St. Brigid's OCHL 8 0 1 1 3 1 0 0 0 6
1919-20 Ottawa St. Brigid's OCHL 8 1 0 1
1920-21 Ottawa St. Brigid's OCHL 11 6 0 6 6 5 1 6 12
1921-22 Ottawa Senators NHL 24 4 6 10 21 2 0 0 0 2
1922-23 Ottawa Senators NHL 24 3 2 5 20 2 0 0 0 0
1922-23 Ottawa Senators St-Cup 6 1 0 1 4
1923-24 Ottawa Senators NHL 24 8 8 16 26 2 0 0 0 6
1924-25 Ottawa Senators NHL 29 14 7 21 61
1925-26 Ottawa Senators NHL 35 8 4 12 80 2 1 0 1 4
1926-27 Ottawa Senators NHL 43 9 10 19 78 6 1 1 2 14
1927-28 Ottawa Senators NHL 39 8 7 15 73 2 0 0 0 6
1928-29 Ottawa Senators NHL 44 13 2 15 89
1929-30 Ottawa Senators NHL 44 17 23 40 83 2 0 1 1 2
1930-31 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 44 7 14 21 63   2 1 0 1 0
1931-32 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 48 10 9 19 61   7 2 1 3 14
1932-33 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 48 13 12 25 79   9 0 3 3 14
1933-34 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 46 11 17 28 62   3 0 0 0 8
1934-35 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 47 5 16 21 53   7 1 0 1 8
1935-36 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 47 5 10 15 61   9 2 2 4 10
1936-37 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 6 1 0 1 4            
1937-38 Montreal Maroons NHLMGNT
Leaf Totals   286 52 78 130 383   37 6 6 12 54
NHL Totals 592 136 147 283 914 55 8 8 16 88

First All-Star Team Defense (1931, 1934)
Second All-Star Team Defense (1932, 1933)

- Signed as a free agent by Ottawa, December 14, 1921.
- 1922-23 Stanley Cup totals includes series with Regina (WCHL) and Edmonton (PCHA).
- Traded to Toronto by Ottawa for Art Smith, Eric Pettinger and $35,000, October 11, 1930.
- Officially announced retirement, November 24, 1936.
- Came out of retirement to play in Howie Morenz Memorial Game, November 2, 1937.

the HHOF take on King:

Francis King Clancy was a tremendous competitor whose immense contributions on the ice were equalled by his extraordinarily effusive personality off ice during his lifelong association with the game. His consistent effort and rapport with the fans lasted throughout his career as a player, referee, coach, and executive.

The Ottawa native first gained local attention by excelling with St. Joseph's High School and the city's munitions junior squad. In 1918-19 he began his first of three solid years with the senior St. Brigids squad in Ottawa before signing a pro contract with the NHL Ottawa Senators. Clancy became a regular with the club after the retirement of Eddie Gerard, and he quickly established himself as one of the top players in the league.

Between 1921-22 and 1929-30, the affable Irish-Canadian starred on the Sens and was a key component in the club's Stanley Cup triumphs in 1923 and 1927. He hit double figures in goals three times and was known for utilizing every trick in the book while defending his own zone. Although he weighed only 155 pounds, the feisty defender took on all comers and even challenged a few unruly fans along the way, losing most fights but never giving an inch or backing down.

In 1930, Clancy was the centrepiece of what became known as "the best deal in hockey" when he was acquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Buds' manager Conn Smythe paid the unprecedented sum of $35,000 and two players to acquire the ingredient he felt would put his club over the top as a Stanley Cup contender, a sum he acquired by winning a bet on a racehorse named Rare Jewel. Clancy repaid Smythe's faith in him by constantly bringing the Toronto crowd to its feet with bodychecks, rushes with the puck, and boundless enthusiasm.

The rambunctious defenceman helped the franchise win its first Stanley Cup as the Maple Leafs in 1932 in the team's first year at Maple Leaf Gardens and was voted on to the NHL first and second all-star teams twice each during his career. He also participated in the Ace Bailey benefit game in 1934 and the Howie Morenz memorial match three years later.

Early in the 1936-37 season, Clancy announced his retirement as a player. He coached the Montreal Maroons for the first half of the of the 1937-38 seasons before embarking on an 11-year tenure as an NHL referee. Clancy was every bit as colourful in the white official's sweater as he was as a defenceman. In 1953, he stepped behind the Maple Leafs bench and remained there for three seasons. Toronto was in decline after the 1951 Stanley Cup win and tragic loss of Bill Barilko in a plane crash that summer.

Following a losing season in 1955-56, Clancy moved upstairs to become the Maple Leafs' assistant general manager. In 1958 he received hockey's greatest individual honour when he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Clancy remained in the front office when the team won four Stanley Cups in the 1960's and during the succeeding period when the club eventually declined under Harold Ballard's ownership.

During the difficult 1970s and '80s Clancy was one of the bombastic owner's few friends and even took over as an interim coach in 1971-72 when Johnny MacLellan was hospitalized with ulcers. The previous year Clancy was his old fiery self when he screamed at Madison Square Garden fans to return Bernie Parent's mask after it was flipped into the crowd by New York's Vic Hadfield during a heated playoff game. By the mid-'80s, Clancy was a goodwill ambassador for the club and his death in 1986 saddened millions. The King Clancy trophy is awarded annually to a player for his charitable community work.


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