A number of years back (three is a number, you could look it up), the Leafs had their celebration of the 1967 Cup team. They brought as many of the old players back as they could (Eddie Shack was golfing in the middle east - somehow that fits) and feted them at centre ice. Each player, as he was introduced, got a little speech that talked about who he was and what he did and a moment to enjoy the spotlight. Larry Hillman was finally recognized for the great playoff run he had, and Keon even showed up. It was a great night.
When it was first announced, a number of people I knew who were fans of other teams were simply incredulous. They couldn't get their heads around the idea that a team would not only acknowledge not winning a championship in 40 years, they'd make an event out of it. My response now is the same as it was then - you should never put off celebrating people who matter, because you never know when it's going to be too late. Ace Bailey, for example, was to be present at his own banner raising, but there was a delay (the week-long strike in '92, IIRC) and we lost him before it could happen.
This is why - even though it seems kind of overdone at times - I like the little pre-game ceremonies the Leafs had for random ex-players. They had a nice one for Wally Stanowski, who has to be about 90. I'd bet that 90% of the fans had no idea who he was when they came to the game, but they all knew him by the end. This matters.
The only thing that was too bad about the '67 reunion is that that Cup wasn't a one-off - it was the fourth in six seasons. There was a broader dynasty than just that one win and personally, I'd have tended to broaden the event and bring some of the players back who were big parts of the first three, even if they missed out on that last one. Guys like Bob Nevin, Dick Duff, Ron Stewart, Don Simmons, Al Arbour, Andy Bathgate and Don McKenny all were contributors, some were real fan favourites and it was a bit of an opportunity lost.
Eddie Litzenberger fits that profile, too.
Ed was a big beanpole forward with good hands who won three Cups with the Leafs. Hockeyreference lists him at 6-1 and 175, while his cards list him at 6-3 and 195. Either way, he was long with good reach.
Eddie's big break in hockey came in 1954-55. He was a guy who'd come up in the Montreal system but was buried behind all the great forwards they had at that time. In a move that was either an act of kindness to him or an act of kindness to the Chicago Black Hawks, he was shipped to the Windy City in a cash deal in December, 1954. Instantly becoming one of Chicago's best forwards (being sent to the Hawks was generally more of a punishment than an opportunity in the later 50s, usually for union activity), Ed responded with 40 points in 44 games and won the Calder for his efforts.
From 1956-57 through 1958-59, Ed averaged 32 goals and 68 points. While that doesn't sound like a ton today, in that era that translated to two third-place and one fourth-place finish in goal scoring, two fifth-place and one sixth-place finish in points. He was 26, the team captain and leader of a team that was starting to come around. By '58-59, young players like Bobby Hull and Ken Wharram were arriving, Glenn Hall was in net and Stan Mikita was in the wings.
Tragedy struck, though. In January, 1960, he was in a serious car accident. His wife, who was driving, was killed and Ed spent several days in a coma. He came back and finished that season, but never really was able to play the same way again. His role changed, as well. Chiacgo's pipeline was producing even more players, enough so that they won the Cup in 1961. Ed, still captain, was playing more of a support role. He'd be moved to Detroit in the summer.
His play in Detroit doesn't look terribly bad, so I'm not exactly sure why he was available on waivers in December of 1961. The Leafs grabbed him, though, as veteran depth and insurance. He played well for them, contributing 10 goals in half a season and bringing the experience of a winner to a young team that didn't have a lot of it.
The Leafs of that era were pretty deep at forward, as well, but over the next two seasons Ed played spot duty as the sort of responsible veteran Punch Imlach always liked to have around. The Leafs won the Stanley Cup all three seasons Litzenberger was with the team, though his role in '64 was pretty limited. Ed was part of four straight championships overall, then won two more at the AHL level in '65 and '66.
I never saw Ed play, obviously. He was one of the players that my grandfather used to talk about (and was actually slated to be one of My Grandfather's Leafs one of these days) and remembered fondly.
Ed passed away last Monday at age 78. There were a number of good eulogies out there. I liked this one.
Visit the Ed Litzenberger Gallery at the HHOF.
|1954-55||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||44||16||24||40||28|
|1955-56||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||70||10||29||39||36|
|1956-57||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||70||32||32||64||48|
|1957-58||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||70||32||30||62||63|
|1958-59||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||70||33||44||77||37||6||3||5||8||8|
|1959-60||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||52||12||18||30||15||4||0||1||1||4|
|1960-61||Chicago Black Hawks||NHL||62||10||22||32||14||10||1||3||4||2|
|1961-62||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||32||8||12||20||4|
|1961-62||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||37||10||10||20||14||10||0||2||2||4|
|1962-63||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||58||5||13||18||10||9||1||2||3||6|
|1963-64||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||19||2||0||2||0||1||0||0||0||10|
|1965-66||Victoria Maple Leafs||WHL||23||7||17||24||26|
William Northey Trophy (QMHL - Top Rookie) (1953)
QMHL Second Team All-Star (1953)
QHL Second All-Star Team (1954)
Calder Memorial Trophy (1955)
NHL Second All-Star Team (1957)
Played in NHL All-Star Game (1955, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1962, 1963)
- Traded to Chicago by Montreal for cash, December 10, 1954.
- Traded to Detroit by Chicago for Gerry Melnyk and Brian Smith, June 12, 1961.
- Claimed on waivers by Toronto from Detroit, December 29, 1961.
What the HHOF has to say about Ed:
Centre/right-winger Ed Litzenberger played over 600 NHL games for four different clubs in the 50s and 60s. He was a fine goal scorer who once hit the 30-goal mark three consecutive seasons.
Born in Neudorf, Sasktachewan, Litzenberger was a scoring star in junior with the Regina Pats. In 1950-51, he led the league with 44 goals in 40 games and was the leading point producer in the playoffs. In 1952-53, he played a pair of games for the parent Montreal Canadiens but spent most of his first two years as a pro with the Montreal Royals of the Quebec League. In 1953, he was presented the William Northey trophy as the league's top rookie after a 26-goal performance and was placed on the second all-star team in 1954.
The talented forward began the 1954-55 season in Montreal but the club had too many good players. In December, he was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks for cash. Litzenbeger blossomed with the increased ice time and scored 40 points in the last 40 games of the season. Chicago missed the playoffs, but their new addition was named the Calder trophy winner.
By the late 1950s Litzenberger was one of the league's most reliable scorers. He notched three straight 30-goal seasons and was named to the NHL second all-star team in 1957. He often formed a solid line with Bobby Hull and Lorne Ferguson. Between 1958 and 1961, the steady veteran served as the Hawks' team captain. In 1961, he helped the team win its first Stanley Cup since 1938.
During his last three years in the league, Litzenberger was a solid role player on the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. Before retiring, he helped Toronto win three consecutive Stanley Cups between 1962 and 1964. Litzenberger retired in 1966 after splitting the year between the WHL's Victoria Maple Leafs and the Rochester Americans of the AHL.