Frank Mahovlich, The Big M. He’s a fascinating story. With a lot of these players that played for the blue and white a long time ago, it’s tough to really find much of a tale to tell. Mahovlich, though, is something else. Not only was he a superstar on the ice, but he went through quite a lot off of it. For despite all of his talent and productivity, he was the victim of constant abuse from both the organization and the fans – so much so that this legendary Leaf was ran out of town as the team’s last great dynasty came to a close.
Mahovlich lead the team in goalscoring every year between the 1960-1961 season and the 1965-1966 season, and lead the team in point totals 5 of those 6 seasons as well. He was ultimately ran out of town by both team GM and coach Punch Imlach as well as the fans for the perception that as good as he was, he could have been even better. He was also hospitalized two times for an illness which was later to be revealed as depression – seemingly stemming from the abuse he took from his own team as well as the fans. This lead to Imlach and the fans perceiving him as weak.
In any event, Mahovlich was clearly an under-appreciated player. Like I said, the guy lead the offense of a team that won the Stanley Cup four times in six years. Toronto has a long history of being too hard on its best players, and it looks like Mahovlich was one of the first victims of this “tough love”, if you can call it that.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT
I don’t think Mahovlich really has one defining moment as a Leaf. He managed to beat The Golden Jet, Bobby Hull, in goalscoring in his rookie season. That’s pretty cool. He was also almost assuredly the best player on the last string of championship-winning Leafs teams to date, which is pretty cool too.
While he doesn’t really have “one great moment”, Mahovlich himself apparently has a favorite Leaf moment. Given the abuse he apparently took from the Maple Leafs faithful, I thought this was a nice story (via Sportsnet):
- T-6th for the franchise lead in goals scored with 296
- 7th in franchise points all-time with 597
- 1957-1958 Calder Trophy winner as a member of the Maple Leafs
- 9x NHL All-Star as a member of the Maple Leafs
- 2x NHL First All-Star Team as a member of the Maple Leafs
- 5x NHL Second All-Star Team as a member of the Maple Leafs
- 4x Stanley Cup champion as a member of the Maple Leafs
- 1981 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee
Mahovlich’s legacy is as a player that was easily one of the most dominant players of his generation that didn’t get the respect he deserved from Maple Leafs fans until it was already too late. Like so many to come after Mahovlich, for whatever reason Leafs fans always just wanted a little bit more from The Big M.
It’s great though that, especially for the generations that never got a chance to see Mahovlich play, they can look back at the history books and simply appreciate Mahovlich for what he was – a legend of the Maple Leafs and a legend of hockey, who deserves nothing but praise for the way that he dominated the game during his era.