Welcome back to another edition of Throwback Thursday!
This week in 1958 (June 3), the Toronto Maple Leafs selected future hall of fame goalie Johnny Bower in an inter-league draft.
Bower got his start in the hockey world playing for the Prince Albert Black Hawks after returning from serving in world war two in 1944-45 and turned pro playing for the Cleveland Barons.
He proved himself to be a star in the American Hockey League winning numerous awards and three Calder Cup championships. His NHL debut came in 1953-54 when at the age of 29, Bower played all 70 games for the New York Rangers.
But the next year, he found himself back in the minor leagues. When the 1958 inter-league draft came, Toronto selected Bower but it wasn’t immediately a homerun selected.
Punch Imlach, who had recently been hired by the Leafs, visited Bower and convinced him to give the NHL one last shot. Bower’s preference had been to remain with the Barons, but gave the Leafs a chance.
It turned out to be worth it, as Bower ended up becoming one of the best goalies to ever play in the NHL. A late start didn’t hamper Bower, who ended up playing 11 full years with the Leafs posting incredible numbers for the time.
He was a key cog in the Toronto Maple Leafs trio of cup wins between 1962 and 1964, as well as their 1967 win.
Bower retired in 1970 and remained with the Leafs in a variety of capacities.
His numbers over his NHL career were nothing short of incredible. In 552 NHL games, Bower won 250 games, posted 37 shutouts and had a .922 save percentage, the second best of all-time and decades ahead of his time.
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