As we continue our TLN Top 20 Prospects countdown, it’s important to remember and recognize the special players that paved the way for tomorrow’s stars. Here’s the next player to join our first ever TLN All-Time Greatest Leafs team…
With most of these player profiles, we often start off by describing the player’s junior hockey career… Things like where they learned to play hockey, what junior league they came up through, and their statistical accomplishments at the amateur level.
For Syl Apps, that kind of stuff almost doesn’t exist.
Yes, he played hockey with the varsity team at McMaster University, but Apps was probably better known as a Marauders football player. In fact, it was on the gridiron that Conn Smythe scouted the stand-out athlete and reportedly offered him an NHL contract before he even saw Apps on skates.
Funny enough, Apps turned down the offer. Also a talented pole vaulter, Apps won a gold medal at the 1934 British Empire Games as a teenager. If he signed on to become a professional athlete, he’d have been unable to represent Canada at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. When he returned to Toronto after finishing sixth in his event, Apps signed the deal.
Upon turning pro, it certainly didn’t take him very long to make an impact. In his very first season, Apps led the team with 16 goals and 45 points in 48 games. Apps would receive the first ever Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie and he’d hover around a point-per-game pace for the remainder of his 10-year career.
While it’s true that Syl Apps is ‘only’ the 17th highest scorer in Maple Leafs history, his point-per-game average tells a different story. Apps was dominant during his decade with Toronto, and his 1.02 points-per-game average ranks third only behind Doug Gilmour and Darryl Sittler (counting only those who played 300+ games with the Leafs).
Most Memorable Moment(s)
Apps won three Stanley Cups with the Maple Leafs, in 1942, 1947 and 1948. All great accomplishments, but it’s hard to say that the ’42 win over the Detroit Red Wings wouldn’t be the most memorable.
In one of the greatest comeback stories in hockey history, Toronto found themselves in a three-zip hole in their best-of-seven series, with Apps failing to register a single point in the losses. In the four games that followed though, Apps would score seven points and help catapult the Leafs to four straight wins and their first Stanley Cup win in ten years (which was a pretty significant gap back then).
- 17th in All-Time Scoring as a Maple Leaf (432 points)
- 3rd in All-Time Points-per-Game as a Maple Leaf with 300+ GP (1.02)
- 12th in All-Time Goal Scoring as a Maple Leaf (201)
- 19th in All-Time Assists as a Maple Leaf (231)
- 3rd Fewest PIMs among Maple Leafs with 300+ GP (56)
Every account of Apps life and hockey career mentions how much of a gentleman Apps was. Whether talking of his humble nature, his Lady Byng trophy, his clean shaven look or his trying to give part of his salary back to the Leafs when he was injured, everyone sees Apps as a true class act. Even after his hockey career was over, Apps tried to give back to the people as a member of the Ontario provincial parliament. It’s nice when professional athletes are good people too, isn’t it?
It’s also worth noting that Apps’ son Syl Jr. and granddaughter Gillian carried on the family name in the hockey world as well. Syl Jr. played 727 games in the NHL with the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings, while Gillian won three Olympic Gold medals with the Canadian Women’s Ice Hockey team in 2006, 2010 and 2014.