For decades, Dave Keon wanted no part of the Toronto Maple Leafs. On Friday, he was honored as the greatest player in the team’s 100-year history.
Syl Apps was second on the list , followed by Ted Kennedy, Darryl Sittler, Mats Sundin, Tim Horton, Johnny Bower, Borje Salming amd Frank Maholvlich and Turk Broda.
Keon won four Stanley Cups with Toronto and remains the only player in team history to capture the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP.
“Obviously, winning Stanley Cups certainly helps your popularity,” Keon said following a ceremony announcing the results. “I’m sure that had something to do with it.”
Keon’s rift with the Leafs stemmed from years of perceived mistreatment, including the club’s unwillingness to retire his No. 14 sweater.
Leafs President Brendan Shanahan said it took only a phone call for Keon to accept an invitation to the event. He also felt Keon appreciated a gesture from coach Mike Babcock, who brought the team’s former captain into the dressing room at one point last season.
“I think he wanted to come back,” Shanahan said about the 76-year-old Keon. “I think he wanted to be a part of this. I think he likes the direction that we’re going.”
The list was compiled by a 31-member voting committee as well as fans, 300,000 according to Shanahan.
Shanahan, a Toronto area native, said his favorite Leaf growing up was Sittler, who ranks second behind Sundin on the career scoring list. He thought Keon, the third-leading scorer in franchise history, was an appropriate choice though and a good indication of the appreciation he still enjoyed from fans.
Keon won the club’s first and only Conn Smythe trophy in 1967 (the award didn’t exist until 1965) and a Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie in 1961. He had 365 goals and 858 points in 1062 games for Toronto, third behind Sundin and Sittler in both categories.
Keon jumped to Minnesota in the World Hockey Association in 1975 and ended up back in the NHL with Hartford in 1979-80. He played his last season in 1981-82 at age 41, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.
He returned to the Toronto organization in public outings only in the past decade when past Cup-winning teams were honored.
A member of the last Toronto club to win the Stanley Cup, Keon said he hoped today’s group would “embrace the challenge” of getting back there one day.
“It’s going to take a little while,” Keon said, “but it seems they’re getting the right players.”