As we embark on our annual TLN Top 20 Prospects series, it’s important to remember and recognize the special players that paved the way for tomorrow’s stars. Over the next few weeks, we will be announcing our first ever TLN All-Time Greatest Leafs Team, announcing a new player every day until we’ve filled out our 23-man roster.
It might seem a little surprising to include a defenceman who averaged just around 15 points per season on an all-time team, especially when the Leafs have had their share of offensively gifted blue liners come and go through the years. But there was no way we were leaving Bob Baun off this roster.
Baun was among a core of players who went through a Cup three-peat for Toronto in the early sixties, and of all the players on our list, had arguably the most shining single moment in Leafs’ history.
Nothing jumping off the page here, but Baun was never known as a scorer.
For those who watched him in those days, he’s viewed as one of the best hitters in Leafs history. Considering his autobiography is titled “Lowering the Boom”, I’ll take their word for it.
Most Memorable Moments
Like I mentioned above, if you’ve grown up a Leafs fan, you at least loosely know the story of Bobby Baun and the frozen leg.
In game six of the 1964 Stanley Cup final against the Wings, Baun went down with an ankle injury after taking a Gordie Howe shot to the skate. He’d leave the game on a stretcher but manage to return before the end of regulation with his leg all shot up with painkillers, then eventually score on a long knuckler in overtime to force game seven.
That goal itself is the big story we always hear about, but there was still hockey left to play. I’ll let Paul Hunter, who interviewed Baun for The Star last year, take it from here.
Baun spent the next two days lying low at a friend’s farm, icing his leg. The Leafs didn’t let it be known he was going to play until moments before the game when he skated out, creating a roar at Maple Leaf Gardens that gave more energy to the home side.
For that Game 7, team doctors again taped up Baun’s leg tightly, leaving a space so that he could be, Baun says, “shot up with Novocaine” every 10 minutes. Baun was a huge contributor to Toronto’s 4-0 victory — named one of the three stars that night — and the win clinched the team’s third consecutive Stanley Cup.
It wasn’t until after the Cup celebrations when it was confirmed that he’d been out there playing on a fractured fibula.
[As you can guess, a story like this takes a lot of different forms when being told out on the rink or over a few beers at the cabin. When I was a kid I thought it was actually Tim Horton who scored the frozen ankle goal, and that it was a game seven winner, not game six. I’m not sure who fed me such lies. I’ve also heard others get him mixed up with Bill Barilko because of that Tragically Hip song.]
- 12th in All-Time Leafs games played (739)
- 7th in All-Time Leafs penalty minutes (1155)
- 4-time Cup winner (’62, ’63, ’64, ’67)
Baun will obviously be followed by that famous goal as one of the greatest moments in Leafs history forever, but beyond that we have to keep in mind he played a tough game in an obscenely tough league for nearly two decades. As a four-time Cup winner in the Leafs’ best decade of hockey, Baun, along with a few others on this list we’re compiling, represent the pinnacle of this team for a large section of fans.
And there’s more than just his impressive run in the NHL. Off the ice, Baun is also known for his incredible story-telling abilities and his patience with any Leafs fan who wants an autograph or just wants to gab about hockey.
We probably could have left him off this list for a flashier scorer with a shorter tenure, but it just wouldn’t be right.
I played hurt many times where a lot of guys couldn’t play hurt, but that to me was a mental thing. It was mind over matter. Pain never bothered me that much so I had a very high pain tolerance; the doctors have all told me that. They all said “you’re crazy”