It was the type of situation Maple Leaf fans dream of in their sleep. Their heroes battling arch-rival Montreal in Stanley Cup final competition, with the clinching contest being played in Maple Leaf Gardens.
The fans jubilation wouldn't end with Lord Stanley's silverware being presented to captain George Armstrong. There would be one more bit of business to wrap-up the next day. One question remained, "Who would win the Conn Smythe Trophy?" Would a Leaf player hit the daily-double by winning both the Cup and the trophy named after former team owner Conn Smythe.
Well, on occasion, dreams do come true. For Leaf supporters, they were living the dream in 1967. On the eve of NHL expansion to 12 teams, the Original Six era was coming to an end. A generation of hockey fans would be treated to a storybook finish.
The 1967 Stanley Cup featured Toronto taking on the Montreal Canadiens. The final got underway in the Montreal Forum on April 20, 1967. The two teams would require six games to determine the victor. On May 2nd, before a home crowd, Toronto was crowned Stanley Cup champions, thanks to their 3-1 win.
Part-one of the dream was complete. It took a little less than 24-hours for part-two to materialize. When it did, the final piece of the puzzle was firmly in place.
On May 3rd at 5:30pm, National Hockey League officials confirmed the worst kept secret in hockey circles. The winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy was Leaf centre Dave Keon. In the previous 2 years, the announcement was made immediately following the Cup being won. However, in 1967, the league changed their policy. Not wanting to infringe on or tarnish the importance of the Cup presentation, fans would have to wait for any further celebrating. The actual voting by the Board of Governors was taken following Toronto's win on May 2nd.
Dave Keon's statistics in the 1967 playoffs do not tell the entire story concerning his contribution to Toronto's victory. In 12 games, Keon netted 3 goals and added 5 assists. Teammate Jim Pappin lead all playoff scorers with 15 points (7 goals & 8 assists). Besides Pappin, three other Leafs finished ahead of Keon in the scoring race - Pete Stemkowski (12 points), Bob Pulford (11 points), Frank Mahovlich (10 points) - as Keon sat in seventh-spot tied with Tim Horton and Habs forward Bobby Rousseau with 8 points.
Keon was recognized for his defensive skills in both the semi-final and final series. In the opening round, Toronto faced Chicago, who's line-up was littered with firepower on offence. During regular season play, the Hawks scored a league high 264 goals. Their nearest rival in this category was Detroit with 212. Against Chicago, Keon's defensive skills were front and centre in helping extinguish the fire. His role in the Cup final didn't change. Keon's main assignment was to neutralize his counterparts up-the-middle on Montreal's roster.
In his autobiography, Hockey Is A Battle, coach/general manager Punch Imlach wrote about Keon's importance. "He'd only got three goals, but in the two series where we took two of the most powerful teams in hockey and stifled them, his forechecking and penalty-killing had been absolutely magnificent."
Keon's main competition for the honour of winning the Smythe, was Terry Sawchuk. Similar to Keon, the Leafs goaltenders only concern was keeping his opponents arsenal of offensive weapons in-check. Sawchuk's performance was spectacular. The Stanley Cup win, combined with recording his 100th shutout in early March, capped a brilliant spring for the veteran netminder.
Sawchuk's efforts would not go unnoticed. On June 15, 1967, the Board of Directors (Maple Leaf Gardens) named Sawchuk as the recipient of an in-house award for his outstanding achievement - the J.P. Bickell Memorial Trophy.