Walter “Turk” Broda. The Toronto Maple Leafs best goaltender of all time, and as such, the best Leaf to wear No. 1.
Now, Broda performed his magic for the Leafs long before a lot of us were even born. He also played in an NHL with only six teams. But that does not diminish his performance in a Leaf uniform.
Walter Broda was born to Ukrainian parents in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada on May 15, 1914. After a successful junior career which involved a 1932 Memorial Cup, Broda was invited to tryout for the Detroit Red Wings in 1933. However, there were no spots available in Detroit’s net.
That led to Conn Smythe puchasing Broda’s rights for $7500 to bring him to Toronto. It didn’t take long for him to become the Leafs’ starting goaltender. He won his first Vezina Trophy in 1941, leading the league in wins with 28.
In the 1941-42 season, Broda led the Leafs to a historic Stanley Cup. In an event that had never happened before and has never happened since, the Leafs came back from being down 3-1 in a Stanley Cup Final to come back and win.
However, one season after that Stanley Cup win, Broda would leave the Leafs to fight in World War II.
Broda returned to the Leafs in time for the 1945-46 season. Again, it didn’t take long to make the Leafs a success under him again. Starting with the 1946-47 season, the Leafs would win three straight Stanley Cups. In the middle season of that run, Broda would win his second and final Vezina Trophy.
Broda would bring the Leafs one more Cup in 1950-51 before retiring after the next season. Broda would end his career having played 629 games for the Leafs with a record of 302-224-101, having only two losing seasons in a career. He had a career goals-against-average of 2.53, was named First Team All-Star twice and Second Team All-Star once.
Broda’s career was highlighted by the infamous “Battle of the Bulge”. In 1949, Broda was ordered to lose weight by Smythe or else he would lose his job. Smythe even went as far to bring two other goaltenders to put pressure on Broda. Fortunately, Broda would lose enough weight to stay with the Leafs.
Turk Broda would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967. Unfortunately, Broda would pass away at the age of 58 because of a heart attack.