The Toronto Maple Leafs have seen many players come and go over the century plus years that the organization has been in existence.
It turns out that buried in that history are some secret stories about the Toronto Maple Leafs that players never wanted to become public.
One such story belongs to Samuel Russell “Rusty” Crawford.
He is a hockey hall of famer, inducted in 1963, who played a pair of seasons for the Toronto Arenas. He was with the organization from 1917 to 1919.
A Scandalous Story From the Toronto Maple Leafs Past
His short time in Toronto saw him play a total of 27 games, where he recorded nine goals and three assists. This wasn’t his most significant statistic. What stands out more are the 51 penalty minutes he collected each of those years, giving him a sum of 102 penalty minutes compared to his 12 points.
It may not be surprising that Crawford had a reputation as a brute on the ice. In the season following capturing the Stanley Cup with the Arenas, Crawford was real ornery while facing the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 23, 1919. He took his frustrations out that night on his then future hall of fame opponent, Jack Darragh.
It was already a rough affair, where two Toronto players, Alf Skinner and Harry Mummery were each handed five minute major penalties. Crawford collected nine penalty minutes on his own in just the first period.
Things went from bad to worse in the second period when Crawford got too close to Darragh. He hit the Senators forward over the neck with his stick, which led the game’s referee, Harvey Pulford to hand out a severe penalty, a double major for the act.
Sergeant Barlow of the Ottawa police department had seen enough and decided that he needed to put a stop to Crawford’s violence. The sergeant met with the Arenas coach, Dick Carroll during the second intermission to inform him that Crawford’s night of terror had come to an end.
He warned Carroll that if Crawford, who had also violently slashed Frank Nighbor that game, returned to the ice for the third period, an arrest would be made. Carroll heeded the warning and sent Crawford to the showers, allowing him to avoid leaving The Arena in Ottawa in handcuffs for his attack on Darragh.
Crawford didn’t escape all punishment however. The NHL president at the time, Frank Calder, weighed in four days later after reading the referee’s report of the game. Calder fined Crawford $25 for his actions.
According to the Jan. 25, 1926 edition of The Border Cities Star, Crawford had a run in with the law while in Vancouver, BC. It happened that he was at a party where he pocketed $550. It was discovered that he had taken the money and dropped it off in the till of a nearby restaurant.
The left-winger was charged with theft for the crime, to which he stood trial and pleaded guilty. He was handed a suspended sentence.
The rationale that Crawford shared was that he did indeed take the money, but he was only holding onto it to ensure it stayed safe. He then forgot that he had the money but remembered that he had left the $550 at a restaurant, where he was confident it would remain safely in the cash register.
Crawford was considered a star in the game. He won two Stanley Cups over his career including the one in Toronto.