The Twelve Leafs of Christmas

Merry Christmas! We at TLN wish you and yours a wonderful holiday, and we hope you found a bunch of amazing gifts under the tree this morning! This is a guest post from friend-of-the-blog Mike Commito. Mike is a hockey historian, and writes for the Royal Half as the Preview Professor and contributes NHL history for the Canadian Encyclopedia. You can follow him on Twitter @mikecommito. – Justin Fisher

What could be better than a cold beer on a hot Christmas morning? A cold beer and some holiday hockey, that’s what. Up until 1971, the National Hockey League scheduled games on Christmas, much to the delight of fans, but probably to the chagrin of players and their families. When the practice was phased out after the 1971-72 season, the Leafs had played in thirty-three Christmas matchups dating back to 1920. 

Enjoy as we draw inspiration from a holiday classic and take a look back at some notable Christmas Leafs games.

One First Game

In their first ever Christmas game, the St. Patricks (officially branded as the Leafs in 1927) beat the Canadiens 5-4 at home.

Two Shutouts

Holiday games seemed to agree with Turk Broda. He picked up Christmas shutouts against the Bruins in 1941 and the Canadiens in 1947. Ed Chadwick helped the Leafs blank the Red Wings in 1958, accounting for the team’s third and final Christmas shutout.

Three Goals

In the Leafs final Christmas game in 1971, Bill MacMillan’s heart grew three sizes that day as he scored a holiday hat trick, which powered Toronto to a 5-3 victory over Detroit. MacMillan has the distinction of being the last player to get a hat trick on December 25th, talk about a Merry Christmas.  

Four Tie Games

Over the course of their thirty-three Christmas games, Toronto picked up four ties against the Detroit and Chicago. Interestingly, the Leafs were held to a 1-1 draw against the Red Wings in both 1937 and 1955 and drew even at 3-3 with the Black Hawks (stylized as two words until 1986) in both 1961 and 1964.

Five Home Wins

The majority of the Leafs Christmas games were played on the road. Of their ten holiday games in Toronto, the St. Patricks and the Leafs picked up five wins against teams which included the Montreal Maroons, the Detroit Red Wings, the Boston Bruins, and the Montreal Canadiens (2).

Six Goals For

In their biggest offensive Christmas matchup, the Leafs potted six goals on the road against the Canadiens in a 6-2 victory in 1934.

Seven Stanley Cups

From 1947 to 1967, Toronto won seven Stanley Cups. Any guesses as to what the Leafs were doing on the Christmases prior to each of those championships? Yes, they were playing hockey. So I think I speak for everyone when I say, bring back Christmas Leafs games! 

Eight Goal Trouncing

In their penultimate Christmas Eve game in 1969, the Leafs beat the Kings 8-1, sending them back to California with a lump of coal in their stocking. Toronto played its last Christmas Eve game in 1972 (the final season that the NHL scheduled them) on the road against Chicago. They lost 5-1 in a rare afternoon game.

Nine Road Wins

Travelling for away games is not always something that players look forward to, and you’d have to imagine that that the sentiment is amplified over the holidays. Nevertheless, the Leafs performed admirably on the road, securing Christmas 9 victories in their opposition’s arena, including three straight from 1966 to 1968.

Ten Goals Against

Christmas games have not always been kind to the Leafs. In 1930 it appeared as though the team had made Santa’s naughty list, as they were trounced 10-1 by the Detroit Falcons (precursor to the Red Wings).

Eleven Road Losses

Like I said, travelling around the holidays is not always the easiest thing to do. Out of twenty-three Christmas road games, the Leafs lost eleven times. But hey, one thing that Leafs fan can be proud? Toronto was undefeated in their four Christmas meetings against the Canadiens from 1920 to 1954, two of which came on the road. 

Twelve Matchups

The Leafs squared off against the Red Wings at Christmas time more than any other team. In twelve tilts against Detroit, Toronto went 4-6-2 with a combined goal differential of zero.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!