100 Years of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the National Hockey League

Canada -Scott #2676 (2013)
Canada -Scott #2676 (2013)

The Maple Leafs were founded in 1917, operating simply as Toronto and known then as the Toronto Arenas. On November 26, 1917, representatives of the Ottawa, Quebec, and Montreal National Hockey Association (NHA) clubs met at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal. The decision to start a new league, called the National Hockey League, was finalized and announced. The Quebec franchise was suspended and a franchise for Toronto was granted to the Arena Gardens of Toronto, Limited. The Toronto franchise was intended to be ‘temporary’ for only for the inaugural season.

The beginnings of the Maple Leafs NHL franchise arose out of a long-running dispute between Eddie Livingstone, owner of the NHA’s Toronto Blueshirts, and his fellow NHA owners, particularly Sam Lichtenhein of the Montreal Wanderers. Tempers boiled over when the NHA added a second Toronto team in 1916–17, representing the 228th Battalion of the Canadian army. The 228th was forced to withdraw its team in mid-season when the unit was called overseas. That left the NHA with an odd number of teams, and the team owners — at a meeting that did not include Livingstone — decided to even-up the number of teams by suspending operations of the Torontos for the rest of the season. All players were given to other NHA teams for the rest of the season. At the time, the plan was to return the players to the Toronto franchise, but the rest of the league wanted Livingstone out. At the end of the season Toronto was reinstated, with the condition that the club was to be sold within 60 days. However, Livingstone turned down several offers and obtained a court order to prevent the sale..

By the fall of 1917, the owners of the NHA’s other four clubs — the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, and Quebec Bulldogs — were eager to disassociate themselves from Livingstone. On October 19, a meeting of the NHA board of directors was held. Livingstone did not attend, sending lawyer Eddie Barclay. Barclay was informed by the directors that Toronto would not be permitted to play in the 1917–18 season due to the difficulty of operating a five-team league, both in scheduling and availability of players during wartime. However, the NHA’s constitution didn’t allow the other teams to simply vote Livingstone out. Livingstone responded by publicly announcing that he would set up an international circuit and raid the NHA players..

On November 9, 1917, it was reported that the Toronto NHA franchise had been sold to Charles Querrie of the Toronto Arena corporation. At this point, NHA president Robertson and secretary Frank Calder denied that the NHA would change, dissolve or adopt other subterfuge. This sale never completed..

At the November 10, 1917 annual meeting of the NHA Livingstone was represented by J. F. Boland, who stated that if the league operated that the Toronto franchise intended to be a full member. The NHA voted to suspend operations for the 1917–18 season but not wind up the organization, and meet in one year’s time..

Efforts began immediately by the NHA clubs to form a new four-team replacement league. However, Livingstone was not invited to join them. While the Ottawa and two Montreal clubs were committed to playing, Quebec’s status was unclear. If Quebec, which had run into financial trouble, could not play then a new temporary Toronto franchise would be granted to balance the schedule with a fourth team..

On November 26, 1917, representatives of the Ottawa, Quebec, and Montreal NHA clubs met at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal. The decision to start a new league, called the National Hockey League, was finalized and announced. The Quebec franchise was suspended and a franchise for Toronto was granted to the Arena Gardens of Toronto, Limited, an ownership group fronted by Henry Pellatt that owned and managed the Arena Gardens where the Blueshirts had played.The Toronto franchise was intended to be ‘temporary’ for only for the inaugural season, with the NHL instructing the company to resolve the dispute with Livingstone, which included litigation between Livingstone and the NHL, or transfer ownership of the Toronto franchise back to the League at the end of the season. The team was loaned the Blueshirts’ players for the season..

This effectively left Livingstone in a one-team league. On paper, the NHL clubs also remained members of the NHA and were able to vote down Livingstone’s attempts to keep that league operating. Frank Calder gave the Arena Company a year to resolve the dispute or lose the temporary franchise. The Arena Company did agree to compensate Livingstone for the use of the players for the season, although no suitable figure was ever reached, and the league itself disputed any claims that Livingstone had on the players..

Unlike the other two NHL franchises with NHA roots, the Canadiens and the Senators, the Maple Leafs do not claim the Blue Shirts’ history as their own, as the NHL was formed to remove Livingstone from the NHA and that franchise was folded. As such, pre-NHL Toronto could not be part of Maple Leafs history. They do, however, claim the history of the “temporary” Toronto franchise of 1917–18..

The Toronto NHA franchise did not have an official name during the NHL’s inaugural season in 1 917–18, but was still unofficially called “the Blueshirts” and “the Torontos” by the newspapers of the day, as well as by some fans. Although the roster was composed mainly of former Blueshirts, the Maple Leafs do not claim the Blueshirts’ history as their own. Under manager Charles Querrie and coach Dick Carroll, the Toronto team won the Stanley Cup that season. The dispute with Livingston included a disagreement regarding the distribution of revenues from the Toronto Stanley Cup games in 1917, resulting in the Toronto club not engraving their name on the Cup to memorialize their series victory at the time. In 1948, the NHL engraved “1918 Toronto Arenas” on the Cup, using the official nickname of the closely related 1918–19 Toronto franchise..

Since the Torontos had won the Cup, even more revenue was at stake. The team was estimated now to be worth $20,000, and Livingstone demanded that as compensation. The Arena offered $7,000. This led to Livingstone filing another lawsuit, this against the Arena Company and Querrie for the $20,000. A league meeting of the old NHA proved futile, as heated arguments broke out between Livingstone and the other owners. The old NHA was disbanded, in spite of objections from Livingstone, and the other owners made plans to operate the NHL for a second season. However, George Kennedy gave some ground, saying that if Livingstone dropped his lawsuits, he might be allowed in the league. In the meantime, instead of returning the players to Livingstone or paying Livingstone, the Arena Company requested on October 19, 1918 that it be granted a permanent franchise, with Querrie and Arena Gardens treasurer Hubert Vearncombe as its owners. The new club, the Toronto Arena Hockey Club, popularly known as the Toronto Arenas, was an independent from the Arena Company’s corporate structure, and thus was separated from the Livingstone lawsuits, though the franchise still used Livingstone’s players without permission. At the same time, the Arena Company board decided that only NHL teams would be allowed to play at the Arena Gardens, effectively foreclosing Livingstone’s efforts to resurrect the NHA. Livingstone and Percy Quinn, who owned the suspended Quebec Bulldogs of the NHA/NHL, unsuccessfully attempted to launch a competing Canadian Hockey Association (CHA), with Quinn planning to relocate the Quebec club to Toronto as the “Shamrocks”..

Mounting legal bills from the dispute forced the Arenas to sell most of their stars, resulting in a horrendous five-win season in 1918–19. With the club losing money and no hope of catching Ottawa and Montreal in the standings in a three-team league, they requested permission to suspend operations for the season in late February 1919. League president Frank Calder persuaded the team to play its 18th game on February 20, after which the league ended the regular season prematurely (shortening the 20 game schedule) and immediately proceeded to the playoffs. The Arenas’ .278 winning percentage that season is still the worst in franchise history. However, since the 1919 Stanley Cup Finals ended without a winner, the Arenas proclaimed themselves world champions by default..

Livingstone’s suit dragged through the courts for nearly a decade. In October 1923, a ruling was made that Arena Gardens had abused its position as a trustee of the assets of the Toronto Hockey Club — its player contracts — and finding damages of $100,000 in favor of Livingstone. That still was not the end, as the damages were later reduced to $10,000 and that decision was also appealed—all the way to the privy council, which dismissed the appeal in July 1926..

Under new ownersh5ip, the club was named the Toronto St. Patricks in 1919. In 1927 the club was purchased by Conn Smythe and renamed the Maple Leafs. A member of the “Original Six,” the club was one of six NHL teams to have endured through the period of League retrenchment during the Great Depression. The club has won thirteen Stanley Cup championships, second only to the 24 championships of the Montreal Canadiens. The club’s history includes two recognized dynasties, from 1947 to 1951; and from 1962 to 1967. Winning their last championship in 1967, the club’s 50-season drought between championships is the longest current streak in the NHL..

The Maple Leafs have rivalries with three NHL franchises, the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Ottawa Senators. The club is affiliated with two minor league teams, the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, and the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL..

At its inception, the NHL had four teams — all in Canada, thus the adjective “National” in the league’s name. The league expanded to the United States in 1924, when the Boston Bruins joined, and has since consisted of American and Canadian teams. From 1942 to 1967, the league had only six teams, collectively (if not contemporaneously) nicknamed the “Original Six”. The NHL added six new teams to double its size at the 1967 NHL expansion. The league then increased to 18 teams in 1974 and 21 teams in 1979. In the 1990s, the NHL further expanded to 30 teams, and added its 31st team in 2017..

After a labor-management dispute that led to the cancellation of the entire 2004–05 season, the league resumed play in 2005–06 under a new collective agreement that included a salary cap. In 2009, the NHL enjoyed record highs in terms of sponsorships, attendance, and television audiences..

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) considers the Stanley Cup to be one of the “most important championships available to the sport”. The NHL draws many highly skilled players from all over the world and currently has players from approximately 20 countries. Canadians have historically constituted the majority of the players in the league, with an increasing percentage of American and European players in recent seasons..

Scott #2676 was released on September 3, 2013, part of a set of seven 63-cent stamps issued by Canada Post portraying team jerseys (Scott #2670-2676). The self-adhesive stamps were printed by The Lowe-Martin Group and have serrated die cut perforations of 13.3 by 13.5.

Flag of Canada, adopted February 21, 1965

Coat of Arms of Canada, 1994

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