Is it controversial to name someone other than the person the number was retired for? I don’t think so. Not when that player was asked to wear it.
Ron Ellis (1968-80)
Stats: 760GP - 240G - 226A - 466Pts - 147PM
For his first five seasons with the Maple Leafs, which include years where there were few games in the NHL, Ellis wore #8 and #11. He won the Stanley Cup in #8 in 1967, and the following season changed to #6, a number he would wear for 11 more seasons.
The right winger would play until the end of the 74-75 season, scoring between 46-61 points each year, with his final year before his retirement being a career high 61 points. Ellis retired after that season, saying he didn’t have a desire to play anymore, though rumours were that he was unhappy being passed over for captain in favour of Darryl Sittler.
Ellis returned to the Maple Leafs two years later, in the 77-78 season and scored 50 points after taking two years out of the NHL, and only playing 10 games for Team Canada in 1976. His point totals fell to 28 and 23 points the next two seasons, and midway through the 80-81 season GM Punch Imlach told Ellis to either retire or be sent to the minors, and Ellis chose to retire 27 games into the season. Ron Ellis sits 5th on the games played list for the Maple Leafs (1,034), 4th on the goals list (332), and 6th on points (640).
Ellis is currently working for the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Program Director.
Ace Bailey (1926-33)
Stats: 313GP - 111G - 82A - 193Pts - 472PM
Stanley Cup: 1932
Ace Bailey joined the Maple Leafs in 1926, the year they switched to the name Maple Leafs from St. Pat’s. He played right wing for eight seasons, leading the NHL in goals and points in the 1928-29 season. A powerful winger, he would be the Leafs top scorer for many seasons, helping them to win the Stanley Cup in 1932.
In December 1933, Bailey would be hit from behind by Eddie Shore of the Bruins, and hit his head on the ice fracturing his skull. He would survive, but would be forced to retire from playing hockey. The Maple Leafs would hold the first All-Star Game as a benefit for Bailey, which raised $20,909.40 ($380,144.51 in 2017) for him and his family. The Maple Leafs would also be the first team to retire a number, keeping #6 in honour of Bailey, though he would ask Ron Ellis himself to wear #6.
Bailey would coach the men’s team at the University of Toronto from 1935 to 1949, and be the official timekeeper at Maple Leaf Gardens for 46 years (1938-1984).
Who was the best #6 for the Maple Leafs?
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