Time for another journey back in time via our Who Were They? series. There's more hockey history on the docket (click the links for our Original Six and Class of '67 pieces), though this time we'll be looking at the history of an individual team, the Toronto St. Pats.
Think of hockey in Toronto and one thing comes to mind: the Maple Leafs and their famous blue and white. The Leafs are one of the National Hockey League's Original Six teams, the core group that battled between 1946 and 1967. The franchise has been around since the dawn of the league in 1917 and is still beloved despite having not won a Stanley Cup since 1967.
Their look – blue shirt, white leaf, and white stripes – is so iconic, and has remained largely untouched for so long, that many tend to think it's been that way forever. In actual fact, the Leafs were not always the Leafs. The franchise had two previous identities; first they were the "Arenas," from 1917-1919, and then they became the "St. Patricks," or "St. Pats." It was in 1927 that the now-famous "Maple Leafs" moniker came to be when Conn Smyth took over and wanted something more uniquely Canadian.
The St. Patricks name was decided upon for promotional reasons; there was a visible Irish population settling in Toronto, and branding the team in such a way was meant to get players on the ice and fans in the stands. Their ownership group ran amateur hockey clubs under that name in the city since the beginning of the 1900s, and when the Arenas went up for sale before the 1919-20 season those at the St. Patricks figured it was their time to make the step up to the big leagues. They bought the team for $5,000 on December 13, 1919.
As you can imagine, the St. Pats wore green and white, providing an eight-year colour deviation for the franchise. And during this period they managed one Stanley Cup win, in 1921-22. They beat the Vancouver Millionaires three games to two in a best of five series. But, in the seasons following this big win, the St. Pats struggled to make the playoffs and would suffer financially. In stepped Smyth, and the rest is history.
Though the St. Pats years were relatively uneventful – under the Maple Leafs moniker the club would win 11 cups – this previous identity remains popular. The Leafs have made a tradition of wearing throwback St. Pats uniforms around St. Patrick's Day in March, something we very much approve of!