Conn Double

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which hockey franchise has the most interesting history and for what reason?

BQ1* which hockey player has the most inspiring story?
BQ2* have you been happy so far with your team's off-season decisions (draft, trades, re-signings, etc)?
BQ3* do you expect any big moves from your team?
BQ4* what's the thing you rant the most about?

Any of the Original Six teams can really claim this title, but I guess I'll go with a homer vote and pick the Leafs.

To get to the root of Toronto's NHL history, you have to start at the beginning: 1917.

The NHA's operations had just been suspended after a series of disputes with Toronto Blueshirts owner Eddie Livingston. The rest of the league had left and created their own league, however the Quebec Bulldogs were unable to compete for the first season. To make an even number of teams and to put a team in one of Canada's largest cities, an expansion franchise was granted to Toronto. The team would use all the former Blueshirts players and quickly take upon the moniker of the 'Arenas', after a corporate sponsor, the Toronto Arena Company. Eddie Livingston would try to sue the newly formed league for the rest of his life, but failed every time.

The Toronto franchise played it's first game and the first NHL game in history on December 19th 1917. The result was a 10-9 loss to the host Wanderers. The team would bounce back however, winning the Stanley Cup in its first season.

In 1919, the team would get some new ownership. The team was renamed the Toronto St. Patricks, with the colours changed to Green and brown, in an effort to reach out to the city's large Irish immigrant community. The team had some initial success (winning the Cup in 1922), but success faded and the team missed the playoffs for three consecutive playoffs. A new arena was needed and the team was starting to lose money. Ownership looked to sell, and a Philadelphia group was offering the largest amount of cash to relocate the team to Philadelphia.

Enter Conn Smythe.

Conn Smythe was probably one of the most lucky people in hockey during the 1910s and 1920s. At the start of World War I, he was studying engineering at the University of Toronto and playing hockey with the university's Varsity Blues. He enlisted in 1915 and shipped off as an officer to the trenches in France. Out of all the members of his hockey team who enlisted, Smythe was the only one to leave alive. In 1917, he had disagreements with his superior officers over a failed attack and transferred to the Royal Air Force. His job was to scout enemy artillery positions and front lines from the air. He would be shot down over No-Man's Land though and spend the rest of the war as a prisoner of war.

In 1919, Smythe returned to Canada and opened a gravel company. He was still involved with hockey on the side, often taking up coaching positions at local rinks. He even coached Canada to a Gold Medal at the Olympics.

In 1926, the New York Rangers hired Smythe as their first ever GM, but quickly fired him in favour of Lester Patrick. Conn took his buyout money and put it all on an McGill-Toronto football game while in Montreal. He won, doubling his money. Upon returning to Toronto, he then bet all the money he had won on the Rangers in a game against the hometown St. Pats. The Rangers won and Conn doubled his money again.

With nearly $10,000 in his pocket, Smythe gathered some investors and purchased the Toronto St. Patricks, renaming them to the Maple Leafs in 1927. He then set out to do the impossible: Build a new arena.

In the midst of the Great Depression, 1931, Conn Smythe did just that. Maple Leaf Gardens was built in a mere 6 months and lasted for 68 years as the home of Toronto Maple Leaf hockey.

That is just the early history of the team. As I am going to run out of space, I won't go on any further, but it actually gets more interesting as characters such as Harold Ballard enter the scene in the 1960s and the in-fighting within the organization in the 1990s and 2000s. Quite the gongshow.

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