Timeless Look Never Leaves the Leafs

By: Adam Rosenbaum

It’s hard to be much more hockey than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The franchise, in its first season, won the National Hockey League’s first Stanley Cup. Only the Montreal Canadiens have won more than the Leafs’ 13 cups. The city is home to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Never mind that for that first cup, now a full century past, the Leafs were known as the Toronto Arenas. They were also, briefly, called the Toronto St. Patricks in an effort to secure the attention of Toronto’s large Irish population. You are free, too, to ignore an apparent disregard for pluralization norms — as in this case “Maple Leaf” is being used as a proper noun, hence members of the Toronto club are not “Maple Leaves.”

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(Let’s say the Tooth family moved in next door. They’d say, “Hi, we’re the Tooths.” Not, “Hi, we’re the Teeth.”)

Appropriately, for a team of such deep roots and rich heritage, Toronto is not given to the whims of fashion, the flash of a trend when it comes to its jersey. Toronto’s is the jersey you buy from the hockey store when you want to tell the world you’re a hockey traditionalist. You might say the Leafs are not rakish.

Or, if you’re no fun at all, you might not.

Regardless, the Leafs have worn one of the NHL’s most consistent looks over the decades — though even the subtle tweaks to their togs have been memorable.

Jersey Journey a Matter of Pros, Conn

In the middle of the 1926-27 season, the Toronto St. Pats were purchased by Conn Smythe, who promptly renamed the team the Maple Leafs, in honor of a famed World War I battalion. He didn’t change the white and green of the St. Pats jerseys, however, opting for a simple white sweater with an early, green iteration of the now-famous maple leaf crest, and green numbers.

Going blue: For 1927-28, Smythe chose blue and white — some think as a nod to the University of Toronto Blues, though longtime Leafs publicity director Stan Obodiac was fond of saying the blue represented the Canadian sky and the white, its winter. Also notable: double stripes at the waist, a quartet on each sleeve, and a 47-point leaf logo featuring a downward-arced “Toronto.”

Arcs and points: Only Steph Curry likely discusses arcs and points more than a conversation about the Leafs’ jersey. From 1934-37, the club had two different crests: white with the original, downward-arcing “Toronto” on the original, asymmetrical leaf; and blue with an upward-arcing “Toronto” on a veined, 35-point leaf. The lettering in the crest was changed to red briefly in the late 1940s. Otherwise, however, there were no significant changes until 1967, when Toronto mimicked the new Canadian flag by going to an 11-point leaf — again with an upward-arced “Toronto.”

Flat-lining: The Leafs won the last of their Stanley Cups following the 1966-67 season, after which the NHL expanded to 12 teams for 67-68. In the seasons since, they’ve spent nearly as many seasons outside the playoffs as in. The most major jersey revision in franchise history arrived in 1970, when “Toronto” was set horizontally to match the “Maple” and “Leafs” below, and the font was changed to something best described as era-appropriate game show. Stripes were banished in favor of a wrist-to-wrist shoulder yoke.

Back to basics: After nothing but minor tweaks to the striping for 40 years, the Leafs brought back the original 11-point logo returned on an alternate jersey in 2011. In 2016, the 35-point leaf returned. The 2017-18 jersey, from new jersey provider adidas, varies little from its immediate predecessor by Reebok. That’s probably a good thing, considering the Leafs made the playoffs in 2016-17 for just the second time in 12 seasons.

Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Specialist at Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. Lee picked up his first hockey stick at age 3 and hasn’t put it down yet.