Thursday, July 13, 2017

{allcanada} Tod Sloan remembered by Dave Keon as key part of 1951 Maple Leafs Cup win


Bill Barilko's Stanley Cup-clinching goal on April 21, 1951, a diving shot 2:53 into overtime that found its way past Montreal Canadiens goalie Gerry McNeil, forever will be part of Toronto Maple Leafs lore.

Largely lost in the victory at Maple Leaf Gardens was the role played by Toronto center Tod Sloan, who died at age 89 on Wednesday.

Among those who do remember Sloan's part in the dramatic outcome is Toronto Maple Leafs icon Dave Keon.

"Few people remember that it was my cousin who scored in the final minute of regulation to send the game into overtime, then nearly won it when he hit the goal post with 15 seconds to play," Keon said from his Florida home Thursday, reminiscing about the son of his mother's brother.

Born Aloysius Martin Sloan on Nov. 30, 1927 in Pontiac, Quebec, Sloan played 745 NHL games between 1947-48 and 1960-61, his first 549 with the Maple Leafs. He had 482 points in all (220 goals, 262 assists) and 831 penalty minutes.

Sloan might well have finished his career in Toronto had he not been involved in the early days of a players union, something that angered Maple Leafs management enough to trade him for cash on June 6, 1958 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Three years later Sloan helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 1961. In an oddity, his name was engraved on the Cup as Martin A. Sloan in 1961. With the 1951 Maple Leafs, he's listed as Tod Sloan.

As a rookie in 1960-61, Keon recalled playing the Blackhawks late in the season and passing Sloan in a Maple Leaf Gardens corridor.

"Because of his involvement with the players association, Tod said, 'Don't let them see you talking to me because it won't be good for you,'" Keon said. "But then after our [morning] skate, the Blackhawks coming in for theirs, Tod said to me, 'How many goals do you have?' I told him 19, and he said, 'Well, if you're on the ice against me tonight, don't worry.'"

Then with a laugh, Keon said, "I wouldn't be on the ice against him."

Keon finished the season with 45 points (20 goals, 25 assists) in 70 games and won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the NHL.

Sloan developed his game at Toronto's St. Michael's College from 1944-46. The school was an assembly line for future Maple Leafs; Keon also played there 1956-60. On one scouting trip, Maple Leafs coach Hap Day is said to have remarked that Sloan had the hardest, most accurate shot he'd seen.

Sloan sparked St. Michael's to the 1945 Memorial Cup championship, and in 1945-46 led the Ontario Hockey Association in goals (43), assists (32) and points (76). He was signed by the Maple Leafs on April 30, 1946.

From 1946-50 he played 30 games with the Maple Leafs, instead gaining experience with the Pittsburgh Hornets and Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League. He joined the Maple Leafs full-time in 1950-51 and had 31 goals in 70 games centering a line with Ted Kennedy and Sid Smith.

That line scored 10 of Toronto's 13 goals in the five-game 1951 Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens, with Sloan's seven points leading the team. It's also the only Cup Final that had each game go to overtime.

Sloan's best NHL season was 1955-56, as his 37 goals were a Maple Leafs best for centers until Keon scored 38 in 1970-71.

His NHL career ended after the 1961 Cup Final. He then was reinstated as an amateur and helped Canada win the silver medal at the 1962 World Championship with 10 points (six goals, four assists) in six games.

Fans and a blue-ribbon panel voted Sloan No. 38 on the Maple Leafs' list of greatest players ever in October. Keon was voted No. 1.

The last time Keon and Sloan saw one another was during the 2011 Memorial Cup Final, the two St. Michael's alumni attending the tournament in which their old school was playing.

In some ways their blood had given them the same hard-skating, silky playmaking style at center. Separated in age by nearly 13 years, Sloan left a strong impression on his younger cousin.

"I admired him growing up," Keon said. "I remember meeting Tod when I was going to St. Mike's and having him tell me, 'Don't be discouraged.'"

It was precious advice that Keon remembered aloud in October when his statue was unveiled on Maple Leafs' Legends Row.

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