The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to stumble their way through the 2019-2020 NHL season.
Team brass has changed coaches and tweaked the team’s roster in an attempt to rectify the situation and return the Toronto Maple Leafs to the ranks of the league’s elite.
Despite the additions of Keefe, Campbell and Clifford, something still seems amiss and the Leafs currently find themselves in a dogfight to qualify for post-season play.
While GM Kyle Dubas is scanning NHL rosters in search of a fix prior to the trade deadline, perhaps he could briefly focus his attention across the globe to the Great Pyramid of Giza, in Egypt, for some inspiration.
The subjects of Egyptology and professional hockey may seem to be as incongruous as two subjects could possibly be. There was a time, however, when these two wholly unrelated realms came together for a brief, but brilliant moment in a good vs. evil.
It was during a quarter-final playoff battle between the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey evil incarnate, the “Broad Street Bullies,” the Philadelphia Flyers.
The time was the spring of 1976 and the location was Toronto. The 76’ version of the Toronto Maple Leafs was a pretty solid hockey team and boasted one of the best starting six lineups in the NHL with the likes of Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald and Errol Thompson,up front, Borje Salming and Ian Turnbull on D, and Mike Palmateer between the pipes.
As good as the Leafs were at the time, there were outmatched by a couple of league heavyweights that stood between them and Stanley Cup victory.
Most notable of these were the Montreal Canadiens of the 1970s, a team that won five cups during the decade and stands today as one of the greatest teams in league history.
The 76’ habs featured superstars Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt, Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Yvon Cournoyer and Ken Dryden.
In addition to the awesome habs, the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers were another formidable bunch that combined talent and toughness like no NHL team ever had before.
The Flyers featured hardcore goons, Dave “the Hammer” Schultz, Bob “Hound Dog” Kelly, and Andre “the Moose” Dupont supported by thugs in waiting, Don Saleski, Joe Watson and the talented, but notoriously dirty, Bobby Clarke. Clarke, Bill Barber, Reggie Leach and Rick MacLeish provided the scoring and the skill.
As fate would have it, the Toronto Maple Leafs found themselves pitted against the Flyers in the quarter-finals that year. From game one in Philadelphia it became apparent that in addition to their pugilistic and scoring flair, the Flyers had an ace up their collective sleeve, during every home game in the form of veteran singer Kate Smith.
Smith’s pre-game renditions of “God Bless America” whipped the Philly faithful into a frenzy and in turn, their players,too. On their home ice, during the playoffs, the Flyers were nearly unbeatable.
Considering that the Flyers had home ice advantage in the seven game series, it was shaping up to be a David against Goliath affair, indeed.
Not surprisingly, the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped the first two games in Philadelphia by lopsided scores and returned to Toronto desperately needing to win at home.
Fortunately, Leafs coach Red Kelly had a solution…. pyramids…yes, you heard it right….pyramids.
It seems that Kelly was a devotee of pymamidology and “pyramid power.”
Kelly and others who trusted in the pseudo-science of pyramidology, believed that special powers and properties existed in the great Egyptian pyramids and even smaller objects with pyramidal shapes, small pyramids.
It had been observed that when a small pyramid was placed in close proximity to a subject of interest, that the subject derived benefits from the special properties within the pyramid.
These benefits could include improvements in strength, stamina and even motor skills such as those used in professional hockey such as shooting a hockey puck.
As one of Red Kelly’s daughters had found relief from bad headaches by placing small pyramids under her pillow as she slept, Kelly was sold on pyramidology and brought in several small pyramids to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a fighting chance during the next two games at home.
Unbeknownst to the players, Kelly placed pyramids under the players’ bench prior to games three and four at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and the buds pulled through with a pair of victories.
Back in Philadelphia for game five, the pyramidless Leafs were thrashed 7 to 1. When the Leafs returned to Toronto for game six, Kelly announced publicly that he had employed the pyramids in games three and four.
This intrigued the players to the extent that team Captain Darryl Sittler, who had earlier that season broken a Rocket Richard record by scoring 10 points in a game, tried his own pyramid experiment by storing his game sticks under a pyramid prior to game six.
Sittler, who up to that point had been held scoreless in the series, went on to score five goals in game six, tying yet another Rocket Richard record.
With the series tied 3-3, our valiant buds returned to Philadelphia for game 7 and lost the series.
The magical pyramids hadn’t brought our boys the ultimate victory, but the series was close and the Leafs fared far better than many had thought they would. The Flyers eventually advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals where they lost to the mighty habs.
The 70s and 80s
The 1970s and 80s were a much different hockey era from today. Back in those days, there were true hockey powerhouses such as the Montreal Canadiens and pathetic league door mats such as the California Golden Seals.
Parity was a relatively foreign concept in those days. The Seventies and Eighties produced the Montreal Canadiens Dynasty, the New York Islanders Dynasty and ultimately led to the Edmonton Oilers’ 1980s super dynasty.
Today, in 2020, at least a dozen teams have a legitimate shot at winning the Stanley Cup and no NHL team dominates the way these teams of yesteryear could.
The Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, and Tampa Bay Lightning-probably the three best NHL teams today are all beatable by any other team on any given night.
If there was ever a time when the power of the pyramid could be harnessed as a difference maker, it is now.
Right-shooting defensemen, players with grit, and new backup goalies are fine, but perhaps there’s another solution. A tried and true blast from the past that could save Leafs Nation from another cruel spring….pyramid power.
I, for one, believe.