On This Date February 17, 1927: Turning a new Leaf

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

It is a midseason name change for the NHL’s team in Toronto. Known as the Toronto St. Patricks since 1919, the team becomes known as the Toronto Maple Leafs. The name change comes with new ownership, as Conn Smythe led a group to buy the team and prevent a move to Philadelphia. Smythe changes the name to give the team a patriotic name, viewing the Maple Leaf as a badge of courage. 

The roots of the Toronto Maple Leafs date back to the National Hockey Association. A team named the Toronto Blueshirts began play in 1912. They were successful winning the Stanley Cup in 1914. However, owner Eddie Livingstone fought with the other NHA owners. In 1917, the league's other teams to freeze out Livingstone left the NHA and founded the NHL. A new Toronto team with Livingstone’s players was among the NHL’s first teams. The team had no formal nickname but was referred to as the Toronto Arenas as they won the 1918 Stanley Cup. 

After two seasons and the end of Eddie Livingstone’s legal challenges, the Toronto club took the name Toronto St. Patricks. Charlie Querrie went into a partnership with the St. Patricks Hockey Club. Called St. Pats for short and wearing green uniforms, Toronto won the Stanley Cup again in 1922. However, the team would run into financial troubles over the next five years. 

The 1926/27 season was a significant year for growth in the NHL, as the collapse of the Western Hockey League opened the door for expansion, with three new American-based teams joining the league. The new teams were the Detroit Cougars, Chicago Black Hawks, and New York Rangers. The growth in hockey in the United States, with the Boston Bruins joining the NHL in 1924, New York Americans, and Pittsburgh Pirates joining in 1925, had more cities looking to land an NHL franchise. Philadelphia pushed hard to buy the Toronto St. Pats. C.C. Pyle offered $200,000 to Querrie. Fearing that Toronto would lose their team Conn Smythe who coached the University of Toronto hockey team, convinced Charlie Querrie to take his offer of $160,000 in the name of civic pride. 

Conn Smythe was a proud Canadian who served in the Army during World War I. Smythe spent 14 months as Prisoner of War and viewed the Maple Leaf on his uniform as a badge of courage. After taking control of the team, Smythe changed the team from the St. Pats to the Maple Leafs. The green and white uniforms remained, with a maple leaf now adorning the front. The Maple Leafs beat the New York Americans 4-1 in their first game with a new name. They would finish last in the Canadian Division at 15-24-5. 

The Maple Leafs changed their colors to blue and white the following season, and plans for a new arena were made. The Maple Leaf Gardens would open in 1931, that 1931/32 inaugural season would bring another Stanley Cup to Toronto.