Reminiscing with Leafs fans who remember the team's last Stanley Cup win — 56 years ago
Anne Thompson can't remember if she's been to more than one Toronto Maple Leafs game, but it would be impossible for her to have picked a better match up than the one she does recall.
On May 2, 1967 she and a friend packed into Maple Leaf Gardens to witness something many modern fans might be tired of hearing about, the last time the team won the Stanley Cup.
"It was an exciting time for us. I don't remember much more except for us shouting the way we did," said Thompson, who's now 89 years old.
Fifty-six years later, there are a lot of Leafs fans who weren't alive to witness that great game. But Thompson and others at the Rouge Valley Retirement Residence in Markham remember what it was like when the team hoisted the Cup — and they're still watching, cheering and hoping that this year will bring that glory back to Toronto.
WATCH | The Leafs celebrate with the city in 1967:
Thompson ended up at that game in 1967 because her father-in-law worked at Maple Leaf Gardens, the legendary church of hockey where the team played from 1931 to 1999 — a stretch that included 11 of the franchise's 13 Stanley Cup wins.
Her husband couldn't make the game because he had a board meeting to attend and she went with a friend originally from South Carolina, who had never seen a hockey game. The luck Thompson had to be at that game isn't lost on her, or her spouse.
"That's what was so upsetting to my husband, that I was at the game and he wasn't," she said.
Still shouting 56 years later
Fast forward to 2023 and Thompson's passion for the game hasn't gone anywhere.
On Saturday night, when the Leafs won a playoff round for the first time in 19 years, she said it was fortunate her closest neighbour in the retirement residence was a bedroom away.
"I was screaming," she said. "I was saying, 'Go Leafs.'"
Watching that win in '67, Thompson said "you would never think" it would be the last championship for more than half a decade.
Robert Quinlan, who's turning 90 this month, remembers watching the game with his wife and kids on their small, black and white television in Sarnia, Ont.
"Hockey was different then," he said. "There were only six teams I believe, and it was great excitement, seemed more competitive."
The '67 championship was the last of the original six era, before the size of the National Hockey League was doubled with the addition of the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, California Seals (later the Oakland Seals, then the California Golden Seals), Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and St. Louis Blues.
Thompson also preferred the league before it started to grow.
"I think it was a lot better," she said. "Competition was good and you knew all the players on all teams."
The Toronto Maple Leafs begin their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, and Leafs fans at the retirement home will once again be cheering on the team as the puck drops.
But Shirley Shipley won't be one of them.
"I tape the whole game and then I watch it the next morning because I don't want to jinx them," she said.
The Leafs will host Game 1 and Thursday's Game 2 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto before the series shifts to Florida.