At the February NHL Original Six Alumni lunch, former Toronto Maple Leaf goalie, Mike Palmateer, made his first appearance at the event. He is pictured above (left) with John Iaboni, who worked on the hockey beat for the Toronto Sun when Mike broke into the NHL.
Palmateer's first appearance as a starting goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs came early in the 1976-77 season. A loss to Minnesota on October 27, 1976, extended their winless streak to seven games. The 5-3 loss to the North Stars at Maple Leaf Gardens gave Toronto a 1-5-3 record and motivated the team to make a change in goal.
"We have to get a great effort in goal," Red Kelly (the Leafs' coach) stated when he told reporters after the Minnesota tilt that his club would summon Mike Palmateer from the minors. Kelly went on to explain, "Palmateer had a good training camp, played exceptionally well in exhibition games and has been doing the same thing in Dallas."
The next night, John Iaboni covered Mike Palmateer's first regular season contest between the pipes for the Maple Leafs. Iaboni's game story left little doubt as to the impact Palmateer made on getting the Leafs back in the win column:
The 22-year-old native of Toronto left Dallas at 6:40 a.m. and spent the afternoon catching up on some sleep. Then last night before 10,484 spectators at the Olympia, Palmateer made his National Hockey League debut memorable as the backbone of the Leafs' 3-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
Palmateer faced 25 Detroit shots and the lone goal he surrendered came off Danny Grant's stick. The goal was scored at the 8:08 mark of period one and after that, Palmateer shut the barn door.
|An action shot of Mike Palmateer in his first NHL contest. Borje Salming looks on as his goalie denies Detroit's Buster Harvey of a scoring chance.|
As Red Kelly pointed out, the entire Leaf defence rallied around the rookie netminder. "Checking, that's what everyone out there did. Everyone on defence, Borje Salming, Ian Turnbull, Jim McKenny and Brian Glennie played really well."
Up front, Iaboni wrote of another key ingredient that helped Toronto earn its second win:
He (Red Kelly) also negated much of the aggressiveness of the Dan Maloney-Walt McKechnie and Dennis Polonich line by playing Kurt Walker (against Polonich) on a line with Lanny McDonald and Sittler.
Another switch paid off when Kelly added defenceman Bob Neely to a line with George Ferguson and Scott Garland. In the middle frame with the score knotted at a goal apiece, Neely scored the game-winning-goal against Detroit goalie Jim Rutherford.
In his post-game comments, Palmateer praised his teammates and spoke about his state-of-mind going into his maiden voyage as a Leaf. "I'm glad the team played well because I didn't feel great. I was tired. I wasn't really that nervous although I thought I would be because I worried about this game all day."