The Time the Toronto Maple Leafs Borrowed a Player in the Cup Finals

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 18: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Chicago Blackhawks during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on March 18, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Blackhawks defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 18: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Chicago Blackhawks during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on March 18, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Blackhawks defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs franchise has one of the richest histories in the National Hockey League.

Over the course of 100-plus years, hockey in Toronto has cultivated many fascinating stories to look back on. From the original Arenas to the St. Patricks and of course your Toronto Maple Leafs, a history this big usually means some stories fall through the cracks.

One unbelievable story that has largely been forgotten comes from the 1922 Stanley Cup finals between the Toronto St. Pats of the NHL and the Vancouver Millionaires of the PCHA. In fact, this story didn’t even make it into the Leafs official centennial publication.

To tell this story, I’ve used the great resources from Hockey Reference, archived newspapers from the Vancouver Sun during the series, the aforementioned Toronto Maple Leafs centennial publication, and the NHL’s own records page and game logs.

Let’s begin with some background information.

In 1922, three leagues existed: the NHL, the PCHA, and the WCHL. The Stanley Cup Finals would be played between the winners of the NHL and the winner of a series between the PCHA and WCHL champions. As eastern and western hockey had different rules, the Cup Finals would switch between the different rules each game of the series.

The primary difference was how many skaters could be on the ice. The NHL used the style we know today of five skaters and a goaltender. The western leagues still used the seven-man game, featuring three forwards, two defencemen, a goaltender, and a rover.

Roster construction was also very different. Rather than the massive 23 man rosters with complete line changes that we see today, back in the 1920s teams would only have two or three spares.

With that general background, let’s dive into the time the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise borrowed a player for the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Time Toronto Borrowed a Player in the Stanley Cup Finals

Toronto, known as the St. Patricks at the time, did not have an easy path to the 1922 Cup Finals. Facing off against the number one seed Ottawa Senators, the St. Pats had their work cut out for them.

This Senators team was stacked. Nearly their entire roster ended up in the Hall of Fame. Of the 11 players that suited up for Ottawa in 1921-22, eight of them find themselves enshrined in the Hall.

While not nearly as good on paper as the Senators, Toronto had quite the core as well, with three of their own future Hall of Famers. Babe Dye was the best goal scorer in the hockey and was supplemented by Reg Noble and Corb Denneny up front. Harry Cameron was one of the premier defenders in the game as well.

The St. Pats were able to knock off the mighty Senators in the best of three series, moving on to face the Vancouver Millionaires in the best of five Stanley Cup Final, all of which to be played in Toronto’s Mutual Street Arena.

The first three games of the series were nasty. According to the Leafs centennial publication, referee Cooper Smeaton read the riot act to the teams following the first period of Game Two. The Vancouver Sun would later describe Game Three as a “massacre”. This style did not favour the St. Pats, coming out of the opening three games down 2-1 in the series.

But it wasn’t the series deficit that was the main problem for Toronto coming out of Game Three.

Both star defenceman Harry Cameron and forward Ken Randall went down with injuries in that Game Three. Reports vary as to what injury Cameron suffered, with the Vancouver Sun at the time reporting a laceration while the Leafs publication says it was a shoulder injury. Randall had suffered a broken thumb.

What this meant was the St. Pats were in a dire situation. Without Cameron and Randall, Toronto would be all but done for heading into a Game Four featuring PCHA rules and an extra man on the ice. Extras that had rarely played on the St. Pats all year were going to be thrust into the deciding game of the year.

Due to the small roster sizes of the time, teams were permitted to bring in replacement players due to injuries as long as the opposing side consented. Toronto’s coach George O’Donohue swung for the fences, approaching Vancouver prior to Game Four. Surprisingly, Vancouver’s Lester Patrick accepted on the condition that the incoming player could not play if either Cameron or Randall were able to play.

Enter Eddie Gerard.

Back in the semi-finals against Ottawa, the St. Pats had gone up against eight future Hall of Famers. One of those was defenceman Eddie Gerard.

Gerard, 31 at the time, was coming off of one of his best seasons with Ottawa. The captain of the Senators was renowned across Eastern Canada and would be a massive boost to the St. Pats’ chances of coming back to tie the series.

The fans knew it too as when he took the ice for Game Four, “Gerard brought an uproar from the crowd”, according to the Vancouver Sun.

Just as Game Three had been described as a massacre for the physicality, Game Four was a massacre for the pummeling Toronto gave Vancouver. The St. Pats were victorious 6-0 in the first elimination game, extending the series to a deciding fifth game.

Gerard proved incredibly effective. Starting alongside Billy Stuart, Gerard brought the Millionaires’ offence to a halt while also rushing up the ice and assisting Toronto’s forwards. Babe Dye scored twice, but it was midseason signing Shrimp Andrews stealing the show with his first two goals of the year in the victory.

And that was the only game Hall of Famer Eddie Gerard would play for the St. Pats.

Despite the reports of the severity of Cameron’s injury, he returned to the lineup for Toronto for Game Five. Randall, however, remained sidelined. This meant Gerard was ineligible to play, given Patrick’s stipulations as to when Gerard could play for Toronto.

Even without Gerard, the St. Pats completed the comeback in style. The game was over by the second period, with Toronto jumping out to a 3-0 lead and never looking back. Babe Dye was the hero for the St. Pats, putting four goals past Vancouver’s Hughie Lehman.

That 1922 Stanley Cup would be the only one the Toronto St. Patricks would win, as five years later the team would be sold and renamed the Toronto Maple Leafs shortly thereafter.

Next. Matthews Robbed of Chance to Win Richard. dark

So there’s the tale of the time Toronto borrowed a future Hall of Fame defenceman for an elimination game in the Stanley Cup Finals. If you enjoyed this look back at Toronto Maple Leafs history, I highly recommend checking out each of the sources I provided at the beginning of this article, especially the Leafs centennial publication.