BACKSTAGE

WITH HOCKEY

When will the floundering Maple Leafs lower the boom?

April 13 1957
BACKSTAGE

WITH HOCKEY

When will the floundering Maple Leafs lower the boom?

April 13 1957

WITH HOCKEY

BACKSTAGE

When will the floundering Maple Leafs lower the boom?

YOU can expect acres of speculation in the next few weeks about the future of the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey dynasty.

But there probably won’t be any firm news until later this month. Then the most successful sports empire in Canadian history — the loved and fabled Leafs whom Foster Hewitt’s broadcasts and Conn Smythe’s broadsides have made a national institution—will face the moment of truth.

Last March, every newspaper and radio station had its own notion of how Smythe, the builder and still the president of the Maple Leafs, would go about stopping the slow degenera-

Who’ll feel his vengeance?

tion that caused the team this spring to finish outside the national - hockey -league playoffs for the second time in five years.

Some thought Smythe, whose capacity for anger has hardly been matched since the days of the old testament prophets, would liquidate everybody; himself; his chief lieutenant, Hap Day; his coach Howie Meeker; his scouts and aides-at-large; King Clancy: Bob Davidson and even his own son, the equally irascible Stafford Smythe. The younger Smythe presides over a satellite state of farm teams with the help of the former Leaf goal tender, Turk Broda, and a quiet executive type named Harold Ballard. With so many people theoretically up for firing and hiring, the bedraggled Leafs finished a sorry season in an air of indescribable confusion.

Conn Smythe says he blames himself for the team’s recent failures. But those who know him are willing to bet heavily that he won't get rid of himself and that any change in his son Stafford’s status will be for the better. Perhaps Stafford will end up as operating boss, with Day being kicked upstairs to an administrative post.

Placing his son second-in-command would be no act of nepotism. The younger Smythe has done an outstanding job as manager of the Maple Leafs’ junior affiliate. Toronto Marlboros.

Day is not expected to complain if the hockey burden is shifted. He has borne an increasing responsibility as the senior Smythe has spent half the hockey season in Florida while keeping a tight grasp on the situation at home by telephone.

Unhappily for him, although he has tried to adopt Smythe’s Spartan, often sarcastic personality, he doesn’t possess Connie’s charm, suaveness and style. Day has not relished his predicament and long since might have left the Leaf organization. But his sole outside business interest happens to be a sand-and-gravel company owned by Smythe, who wants Day in the front office at the Gardens.

The solution for everybody could be Stafford Smythe.

Is Stafford Smythe the savior?