According to his Hockey Hall of Fame bio, George Armstrong gained his famous nickname all the way back in his junior hockey days.
During the 1950 Allan Cup tournament where Armstrong was playing with the OHA Toronto Marlboros, the team visited Alberta’s Stoney Indian Reserve. When the locals heard of Armstrong’s Algonquin heritage, they presented him with a ceremonial headdress and named him “Big Chief Shoot the Puck”.
Ultimately, it was only ‘Chief’ that stuck, but it was fitting nonetheless. Over his 21-year career, Armstrong played more games in a Leafs uniform, wore the ‘C’ on his chest for longer, and lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to more Stanley Cups – in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967 – than anyone else in team history. Never mind whether he should be on TLN’s All-Time team; Armstrong probably has the greatest argument for being named the captain.
Armstrong grew up in the Skead and Falconbridge communities just outside of Sudbury, Ontario, playing junior hockey with fellow Leafs All-Timer Tim Horton for the Copper Cliff Redmen. After being scouted and signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Armstrong would develop his game in the OHA with the Stratford Kroehlers and the aforementioned Marlboros before turning pro.
During the 1949-50 season, Armstrong would make his Leafs debut and suit up for a pair of games in Toronto, but spent the majority of that season and the next one with the Pittsburgh Hornets in the AHL. He’d become a full member of the Leafs in 1952 and remain with the team until 1971.
Over his career, Armstrong scored 296 goals and 713 points in 1,188, good for fifth most points in Toronto Maple Leafs history. Armstrong only led Toronto in scoring once, with 44-in-54 in 1956-57, but it was his consistency and longevity that push him into the upper echelon of Leafs history.
Most Memorable Moments
Those Stanley Cups, man. Scoring the final goal in the Original Six era to put things out of reach in the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals must have been pretty damn special too. Doing against the Montreal Canadiens is just icing.
- 1st in Games Played as a Leaf (1,188)
- 5th in Points Scored by a Leaf (713)
- 6th in Goals Scored by a Leaf (296)
- 6th in Assists by a Leaf (417)
Not to get too sentimental, but being a team captain today doesn’t seem to carry with it as much esteem as it did in years past. And when Armstrong wore the ‘C’, he was one of the best. He may very well go down as the greatest captain the Leafs ever had – there’s very few who can claim to have even come close to what Armstrong accomplished.