For hockey fans in Canada, the decade of the 1960's was the equivalent of hockey heaven, as the country's two teams were perenial Stanley Cup favorites. The Canadiens started off the decade as five time champions, but with Maurice Rocket Richard's retirement, the team was in transition and took some steps back.
In Toronto meanwhile, the Maple Leafs were busy building a claim of their own. After losing out to Chicago in 1961, the Leafs strung three Cup titles together as the Habs subtly retuned and rebuilt.
From 1961 to 1964, the Canadiens were ousted in the first round, never to meet the Leafs in the final until 1967 - likely the last time it would ever happen. The playoff format was different then - first place met third, second met fourth.
The Canadiens were still a strength, finishing 1st overall in 1961 and 1962, only to lose to Chicago both times. The following season, the Habs were a mere three points back of first place Toronto, but finished third and were ousted by the Leafs. In 1964, the teams switched places in the final standings, with the result being the same.
Montreal would meet the Leafs in the first rounds of 1965 and 1966, defeating them both years on their way to winning the Cup. As Montreal would handle Toronto four straight the second year, the 1967 Cup final was set up as a mismatched battle of 1960's titans. It would be the perenial contenders adrift from Montreal versus an aging but wily club from Toronto.
It was Canada's centennial year, and Expo 67 was being held in Montreal. With the Canadiens overly assured at making it three in a row, the Maple Leafs used the Habs overconfidence as motivation. An upset ensued, and a classic one at that, as the Leafs oldtimers shut down the Habs offense in four of six games, winning their 13th Stanley Cup. While Montreal was stunned, they were also stung. The following season, the NHL doubled in size, and the Canadiens were once more back at the podium.
Unfortunately for hockey fans in Canada, that 1967 series would become a landmark of where the two teams started to go in different directions. While Montreal continued to produce winning teams, the Leafs lost sight of the formula that made them winners. The Canadiens reign would last, on and off, with 8 Cups in the next 12 seasons. Toronto spiralled beyond comprehension for twenty five years, not becoming worthy contenders again in 1993.
During the competitive 1960's, only 11 players suited up for both the Habs and Leafs, neither team daring the repercussions of a major trade between the two. The players who donned both jerseys were a collection one time prospects who didn't fit in with strong teams, journeymen who made for roster extra's, and players seemingly having seen better days.
Al McNeil TOR 1955-60/MON 1960-61
TOR: 71-4-8-12 / MON: 41-1-7-8 / 5-0-0-0
Defenseman Al MacNeil played over 500 NHL games in the 50s and 60s. He was capable of taking the body in his own end and was fairly effective at passing the puck ahead to his forwards.
Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, MacNeil was a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect and played three years with the junior Marlboros. During his first four pro seasons he was mostly used as a injury replacement while seeing full time duty with the Rochester Americans of the AHL. The one exception was his 53 game tenure on the Toronto blueline in 1953-54.
In June, 1960, MacNeil was traded to the Montreal Canadiens who assigned him to the EPHL's Hull-Ottawa Canadiens for the entire 1960-61 schedule. The next season he played 61 games and provided grit and steady play in his own end for the Habs. With youngsters like Jacques Laperriere waiting in the wings, Montreal opted to send MacNeil to the Chicago Black Hawks in May, 1962. He went on to enjoy the finest stretch of his career as a regular for the next four years on one of the top clubs in the league.
After retiring as a player, MacNeil succeeded Claude Ruel as coach of the Montreal Canadiens 23 games into the 1970-71. He led them to a strong finish and an upset of the Boston Bruins in the quarterfinals on the way to the Stanley Cup. Unrest in the dressing room cost MacNeil a chance to return in 1971-72.
Eddie Litzenberger - MON 1952 - 55/TOR 1961 - 64***
MON: 34-8-2-12 /
TOR: 114-17-23-40 / 20-1-4-5
In the seven seasons between stops in Montreal and Toronto, Litzenberger was a much better Blackhawk than he ever was a Hab or Leaf, offensively speaking. He was lost among many good Habs prospects in the mid fifties, and was traded to Chicago for Paul Masnick on December 10, 1954. He a key componant of the Hawks 1961 Cup run but was dealt to Detroit in the offseason. Midway through the 1961-62 season, the Leafs scooped Litzenberger off waivers, and he became a part of Toronto's three Cup dynasty of the early sixties. It's hard to say if he would have ever fit in with the Canadiens, who certainly didn't miss him from 1955 to 1960.
Bronco Horvath - MON 1956 - 57/TOR 1962 - 63
MON: 1-0-0-0 /
TOR: 10-0-4-4 /
Horvath's tale is similar to that of Litzenberger in that there was no room for him in Montreal in the late 1950's. The Canadiens aquired Horvath in a cash deal with Rangers and he appeared in only one game in 1957. Claimed in the inter-league draft the hapless Bruins, Horvath became a player in Beantown, leading the NHL in goals with 39 in 1960. He would pass through Chicago and New York a second time before the Leafs would pick him off waivers in January of 1963. Horvath would go on to tear up the AHL with the Rochester Americans where he'd win 3 Calder Cups.
Cesare Maniago TOR 1960 - 61/MON 1962 - 63
TOR: 7-4-2-1 / 2-1-1
Cesare Maniago would become best known as the franchise goalie for the expansion Minnesota North Stars in 1967. Maniago was a highly thought of hot prospect, due to his large frame and size, who toiled in the Leafs system for a few years in the early 1960's.
The Habs Maniago claimed him off waivers from Toronto and after a dazzling season with the Hull Ottawa Canadiens, Maniago made it to Montreal as Jacques Plante's backup in 1962-63. Two years later, with Gump Worsley and Charlie Hodge ahead of him on the depth chart, the Habs swung a six player deal with the Rangers that brought Noel Price, Earl Ingarfield, Dave McComb, and Gord Labossierre into the Canadiens organization.
Marc Reaume TOR 1954 - 60/MON 1963 - 64
TOR: 266-8-39-47 / 19-0-2-2
Reaume was a very sound defenseman with the Leafs in the latter half of the 1950's. Groomed as a solid stay at home type with the St. Mike Majors, Reaume would fetch the Leafs a jewel upon his trade to Detroit - one on one for Red Kelly during the 1960 season. The Habs paid double price for Reaume in 1963, sending two decent minor leaguers, Ralph Keller and Chuck Hamilton, to Hershey (AHL) for what amounted to a three game stint with Montreal. After the 1964 season, he was reclaimed by the Leafs organization where he remained a solid minor league defenseman in their system for a half dozen seasons.
Dick Duff - TOR 1954 - 64**/MON 1964 - 70****
TOR: 582-174-168-342 / 54-14-23-37
MON: 305-87-85-172 / 60-16-26-42
For a decade, Hall Of Famer Dick Duff was a constant 20 goal threat for the Maple Leafs, and was a key player in their early 1960's Cup wins. Duff's production was tailing off some during the regular season in 1963-64 and he was traded to the Rangers in a mega deal with Bob Nevin, Arnie Brown, Bill Collins and Rod Seilling for Andy Bathgate and Don McKenny.
The Canadiens aquired Duff within a year after he disappointed in New York, and he refound his 20 goal scoring touch with the Habs. He would go on to win four Stanley Cups with Montreal from 1965 to 1969. The following season, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Dennis Hextall.
Dickie Moore - MON 1951 - 63******/TOR 1964 - 65
Moore's worth to the Habs cannot be summed up in a mere paragragh. He is the Canadiens all time best left winger, who prospered during the team's most glorious reign. Winner of two Art Ross Trophies, he once held the NHL record for points in a season.
Having left the game in 1963 while still productive, he was tempted out of retirement by Toronto after they had claimed him in the June inter-league draft. His season in a Leafs jersey left much to be desired and Moore called it quits again. Three years later, at age 37, he was back at it once more, this time with the St. Louis Blues. A fair regular season ensued and Moore found his old touch in 1968 playoffs, with 7 goals and 7 assists in 18 games.
Dick Gamble - MON 1950 - 56/TOR 1965 - 67
MON: 178-38-41-79 / 14-1-2-3
TOR: 3-1-0-1 /
The Maple Leafs initially held Gamble's NHL rights, but felt he was too small to be of use. Instead, Punch Imlach brought Gamble to the Quebec Aces where in 1950-51 he notched 94 points in 77 games.
Canadiens coach Dick Irvin Sr. took notice, bringing the young ace to Montreal in 1951. During his first full season, Gamble potted 42 points and a chance to skate with Rocket Richard and Elmer Lach. But injuries and illness took their toll, taking the steam out of his scoring touch. By 1953, after an All-Star game appearance, Gamble was traded to the Blackhawks, returned to the Canadiens and then sent back to Imlach and his Aces.
By 1957, Gamble joined the AHL, where thirteen seasons with the Buffalo Bisons and the Rochester Americans established him as one of the most prolific and durable scorers in league history. He nailed down eleven 30-goal plus seasons and is ranked fifth among all-time point scorers and fourth in all-time goals. In 1965, the Leafs apparently had a change of heart somewhat and made a trade with the Bisons. Gamble would only suit up for three games with Toronto.
Noel Price - TOR 1958 - 59/MON 1965 - 67
TOR: 29-0-0-0 / 5-0-0-0
MON: 39-0-9-9 / 3-0-1-1
Noel Price was a journeyman fringe defenseman, a solid stay at homer, perhaps too good for the AHL, but yet not quite rounded enough to be a full time NHL'er. After short stints in Toronto, Detroit, New York, and Montreal, the 1967 expansion altered his worth. Despite his shortcomings, Price was an astute observer of the position, and was twice later reaquired by Montreal to tutor young prospects on the Nova Scotia Voyageurs roster - namely Larry Robinson. Both Montreal and Toronto gained little upon trading for or aquiring Price, as he always seemed to be packaged in multi-player deals.
Bill Sutherland - MON 1962 - 63/TOR 1968 - 69
MON: 0-0-0-0 / 2-0-0-0
TOR: 44-7-5-12 /
Sutherland toiled in the Habs farm system for a decade by the time he saw action for the Canadiens in the 1963 playoffs. The 1967 expansion was his savior and he became a Philadelphia Flyer for a year. Toronto claimed him in the inter-league draft of 1968, and dealt him back to Philly in a package that gained the Leafs future Calder Cup winner Brit Selby.
Larry Hillman - TOR 1960 - 68/MON 1968 - 69
TOR: 260-13-75-88 / 32-2-3-5
MON:25-0-5-5 / 1-0-0-0
Larry Hillman was one of the most traveled professional hockey players to ever sit aboard a train, a bus and eventually, an airplane. During his 22-year pro career, he played for 15 different teams. All the while, no one confused him with Bobby Orr. His most settled times were the eight seasons he shuffled back and forth between Toronto and its AHL counterparts, the Rochester Americans. Rarely traded, but often waivered, Hillman landed in Montreal for the 1969 playoff stretch run, punching the clock for 25 games.
Larry Mickey - TOR 1968 - 69/MON 1969 - 70
TOR: 55-8-9-17 / 3-0-0-0
MON: 21-4-4-8 / 0-0-0-0
In June of 1969 the Toronto Maple Leafs chose Larry Mickey in the intra-league draft and he went on to score 27 points, playing on an effective line with Forbes Kennedy and Brit Selby. He then toiled briefly with the Montreal Canadiens, Los Angeles Kings, and Philadelphia Flyers before finishing off his NHL tenure by spending parts of four seasons with the Buffalo Sabres.
The Sum Of The Parts:
Six one-time Leafs became Habs, and five former Leafs suited up for the Canadiens. The Leafs won 3 Cups with Lizenberger, and Montreal won 4 with Duff. Of the remaining players, it could be said that both Toronto and Montreal likely never envisioned Maniago as a goalie of prominance, but neither suffered greatly for losing him. The Leafs turned Marc Reaume over for great returns. While the Habs might have been premature in letting both Litzenberger and Horvath depart, it can be argued that neither had a future in Montreal - at least none that would have altered a Stanley Cup landscape.
I'd give a slight edge to Toronto in turning over assets for short lived successes in the decade, though Montreal equalled that edge by getting more out of Duff that the Leafs did out of Moore. Still, without any deals between the teams, the decade is an absolute draw as far as which former players of either team gave whichever team an advantage.
Jacques Plante - MON 1947 - 63******/TOR 1970 - 73
MON: 556-314-133-107 / 90-59-28
TOR: 106-48-38-15 / 6-0-4
One of the most legendary figures in the history of goaltending, Jacques Plante not only dominated the position, he helped reinvented it. Plante was the backbone of the Canadiens 1950's dynasty before his personal antics and sideshow behavior earned him a ticket to the Rangers.
After a successful run with the Blues, including a pair of Stanley Cup final appearances, Plante became a Maple Leaf and refound his form. Both the Habs and Leafs did well in exchanges when Plante departed them. The Habs gained Gump Worsley - who helped them to four more Stanley Cups - and a handfull of role players. Toronro shipped him along with a minor leaguer to Boston for a first round pick that became Ian Turnbull.
Garry Monahan - MON 1967 - 69/TOR 1970 - 75
MON: 14-0-0-0 /
TOR: 313-51-73-124 / 15-2-1-3
The first player ever drafted in an amateur draft in 1963, Monahan barely slugged it out in Montreal's system for six seasons. His game had some attraction, and when Detroit offered Peter Mahovlich for him, Sam Pollock could not refuse. In the early 1970's, Monahan found himself a Leaf, becoming a reliable forward who did not miss a game for four seasons. Toronto shipped him to Los Angeles for some fringe returns, reaquiring 4 years later for cash.
Frank Mahovlich - TOR 1956 - 68****/MON 1970 - 74**
TOR: 720-296-301-597/ 76-24-36-60
MON: 263-129-181-310 / 49-27-31-58
Frank Mahovlich is simply one of the greatest left wingers to play the game. Some hockey experts have even suggested that had he ended up elsewhere than Toronto, his numbers would have been even greater. With the Leafs, Mahovlich was a superstar, but a depressed and seemingly underachieving one.
Regardless of the 4 Cup wins in Toronto, Mahovlich was often miserable, for his treatment from the Leafs staff left much to be desired. After Toronto refused a million dollar offer for him from Chicago, things really staled, and his relationship with coach Punch Imlach caused Mahovlich to take medical leaves more than once.
The Leafs pulled off one of the biggest trades ever, sending Mahovlich in a package to Detroit that made Norm Ullman and Paul Henderson Maple Leafs. Mahovlich refound his enthusiam in Motown, notching a 49 goal campaign in his first full season there. Joy, in Detroit was brief however, as Wings management seemed directionless during the Big M's time there.
Needing a boost, the Canadiens sent three players, including future 50 goal man Mickey Redmond to the Wings in hopes of stimulating the Habs playoff hopes. It worked to extremes, and Mahovlich was peerless in leading all playoff scorers while Montreal confounded hockey experts on the way to an unlikely 1971 Stanley Cup. Mahovlich remained a Hab for three further excellent seasons, some of his most productive and consistant ones. Another Cup followed in 1973. The Big M jumped to the WHA in 1974, when Montreal's contract offer fell way short of his demands.
Wayne Thomas - MON 1972 - 74/TOR 1975 - 77
In Montreal, Wayne Thomas may best be remembered as a goalie who stepped in when Ken Dryden stepped out in 1974. Originally a Maple Leafs prospect, the Habs aquired Thomas from the L.A. Kings four years earlier.
As Dryden returned, Thomas sat out the entire 1974-75 season before being bargained off to Toronto for their first round pick in the 1976 draft (Peter Lee). Upon arriving in Toronto, Thomas was stellar, and earned an invite to the mid-season All Star game. Halfway through the next year, Thomas lost his role to the up and coming Mike Palmateer, and was placed on waivers. He finished his career as a New York Rangers to little success.
The Sum Of The Parts:
It's quite cut and dried here. In the 1970's, Montreal added one former cast off Leaf, who played a major role in two Cup wins. The Leafs picked up three former Habs who offered them temporary success at best, but hardly represented building blocks.
The Final Tally:
If so few players from each organization changed hands as the 1960's became the 1970's, it is completely explained by the different directions the teams were headed in. Montreal added players who would put them over the top, or at least help maintain their status there. Toronto sought to remain competitive by bringing in players who would make them better at the time, regardless of the long term or the big picture. Montreal's building from within philosophy made adding such players sensible. Toronto's view of maintaining respectability blinded them to the values of building from within. Some suggest that continues to this day.