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Reactions
CNNSI.com asked if Leafs fans had any opinions on the subject. And guess what ... they did.

Click here to read a sampling of what CNNSI.com users had to say. 

 
Sports fans love to reminisce over the days where it all went wrong: the wasted draft pick, the tragic trade or the defecting hero. These may not be, by definition, the worst roster moves ever made, but they were the ones that affected us on a personal level. These are the events that caused -- and still cause -- us to sit on our bar stools and lament the cruel twists of life.

No other fans weave themselves into the tapestry of their team like Maple Leafs fans , who regard these players as sons, nephews, brothers. They wrote in about the ugly Harold Ballard days, which saw the trades of fan favorites like Dave Keon, Lanny McDonald, Darryl Sittler, and Russ Courtnall; not to mention non-Ballard dispatching of Frank Mahovlich in 1968 and Wendel Clark in 1994.


 
Summer
1975 
C Dave Keon signs with Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association
 
Starting with the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year in 1961, Dave Keon went on to win two Lady Byngs and four Stanley Cups, including a Conn Smythe performance in Toronto's last title in 1967. He also captained the team from 1969 until his bitter departure in 1975.

 
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    Of course, bitter departures are par for the course for Leafs captains. Not only did Ballard offer Keon an insulting contract, but he also blocked Keon from joining another NHL team. With nowhere else to go, Keon went to the rogue WHA ... but his feud with Ballard persisted.

    In 1980, the New York Islanders sought to sign Keon as the final piece of their soon-to-be dynasty. But Toronto still owned Keon's NHL rights and Ballard again killed the deal. The Islanders acquired Butch Goring instead, won four Cups in a row, and Keon finished his career in relative obscurity in the WHA and for three seasons with the Hartford Whalers after the merger.

      Allan Hovi, Belmont, Ontario
    In 1975 Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard permitted one of the finest players in franchise history, Dave Keon, to leave the team by refusing to pay him a fair wage.

    Keon's contribution to the team and game over the previous 15 years was substantial. Keon had earned much respect and should have been rewarded by the Leafs. Keon moved on to the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA, and he played many more years of productive hockey which culminated in his election into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    Whenever the Leafs go into the tank (which has been known to happen from time to time), I like to pretend that the reason for the slump is the hex I put on the team in 1975. I'm prepared to lift the hex when Ballard apologizes to me and the thousands of other loyal Leaf fans he hurt by permitting Keon to move on.

    As for me today,I'm over the pain. I now have two favourite teams: I cheer for the St. Louis Blues and whoever's playing the Leafs. 

      No Axe to Grind, Keon Says
    Toronto Sun -- February 25, 2000
    By Ken Fidlin

    In the minds of many, Keon is the best player ever to wear the Maple Leaf. An entire generation of Leafs fans is aching to tell him that in some sort of ceremonial way. It would have been perfect at the closing of Maple Leaf Gardens last year. Or the opening of the Air Canada Centre. Or as part of the NHL all-star game festivities on Feb. 6.

    A quarter century has gone by since Keon's messy breakup with the Leafs and their cantankerous owner, Harold Ballard. If ever a player deserved to wear a Maple Leaf on his chest from start to finish of his career, it was Keon, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner when Toronto won the Stanley Cup in 1967.

    But when the World Hockey Association came calling, Ballard would not respond to the challenge and his final link to the glory days of the 1960s left town.

    "I had a business deal with the Leafs that didn't work out so I had to go and work someplace else," Keon said. "Which I did. I had to move on with my life."

    Ballard is long gone. Most of Keon's old teammates, shunned during that distasteful era in Leafs history, have made their peace with the organization. But not Keon.  


     
    December 29,
    1979 
    Maple Leafs trade RW Lanny McDonald and
    D Joel Quenneville to Colorado Rockies for
    LW Pat Hickey and RW Wilf Paiement
     

    For what it's worth, Lanny McDonald got the last laugh, finally winning his Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1989 after 1,111 games in the NHL. Then he hung it up. The Leafs still haven't won a Cup since '67 ... and contrary to popular opinion, they haven't hung it up yet.

      Hank Nyman, Winnipeg, Manitoba
    The deal that broke my heart was the first of a chain that destroyed the Toronto Maple Leafs of the late 70's. GM Punch Imlach was acting out of spite.

      Lanny McDonald In the last game of his career, Lanny McDonald won a Cup with the Flames. Allsport
    Now, as a straight stat deal, this wasn't awful: Paiement & Hickey were capable of filling the net -- but this was Lanny McDonald, who (along with my idol, Darryl Sittler) were the on- and off-ice leaders of the Leafs. Imlach was only interested in meeting his own agenda of hurting Sittler, whose stand-up-to-management style irritated Imlach to no end.

    Since Sittler had a no-trade clause in his contract -- Imlach took the route open and dumped McDonald instead. Fans protested the deal outside Maple Leaf Gardens but it was of course too late. McDonald was gone and the Leafs quickly slid down the NHL totem pole from a team close to the Cup in '78 to a 16th-place club in '81. 


     
    January 20,
    1982 
    Maple Leafs trade C Darryl Sittler to Philadelphia for C Rich Costello, a 2nd-round pick (C Peter Ihnacak) and future considerations (LW Ken Strong)
     
    Darryl Sittler, as strong a clubhouse presence as there was in the league, was embroiled in a feud with Leafs' GM Punch Imlach for most of his last two seasons in Toronto. After his friend Lanny McDonald was traded, Sittler relinquished his five-year captaincy in 1981 and waived his no-trade clause shortly after.

      Darryl Sittler Nobody has to tell Leafs fans that Sittler is a Hero of Hockey. Ken Levine/Allsport
    After scoring 916 points in 844 games over 12 seasons with the Leafs, Sittler still is the franchise's all-time leading scorer. And he's likely to hold that title for a while, with
    Mats Sundin his closest pursuer at just over 500 points and nearing the end of his days there.

    When Cliff Fletcher became the Leafs' president and GM in 1991, one of the first things he did was patch things up with Sittler, who returned as a special consultant.

    You haven't seen Leafs fans well up until you've seen highlights of Sittler's 10-point night played on the scoreboard.

      Mike Thompson, Raleigh, N.C.
    The day the Leafs traded Darryl Sittler will live in infamy. No reason for it at all -- just bitter vindictiveness on behalf of Ol' Man Ballard. The Leafs spent the next fifteen years in the gutter. 

     
    November 7,
    1988 
    Maple Leafs trade RW Russ Courtnall to Montreal for RW John Kordic and a 6th-round choice (Michael Doers)
     
      Eric Sherkin, Toronto
    Growing up in Toronto as a huge Maple Leafs fan wasn't easy considering that I was born in 1980, in the midst of the Harold Ballard disaster years for the Blue and White. Once I started playing at age 7, I became a big fan of winger Russ Courtnall, No. 9, the fastest player on the team and a rising star. He always seemed to play with emotion, intensity and desire, and I remember watching Hockey Night in Canada with my father on Saturday nights as he skated up and down the ice. My first ever hockey jersey was a birthday present -- a white Leafs jersey, No. 9 proudly sewn on the back.

      Russ Courtnall Even after six stops in the NHL, Russ Courtnall still is an honorary Leaf. Kellie Landis/Allsport
    Then, in 1988, my 8-year-old heart was shattered as disaster struck.

    Not only was Courtnall traded, but he was traded to the evil Montreal Canadiens.

    Not only was Courtnall traded to the evil Montreal Canadiens, but he was traded for John Kordic and a 6th-round draft pick.

    Kordic, for those who don't remember, was the gooniest of goons. John Brophy, the Leafs coach, was something of a goon himself as a player, and was actually the inspiration for Ogie Ogelthorpe in the movie Slap Shot. Brophy traded one of the most skilled young players the Leafs had for your run-of-the-mill brawler with no skill. By the time Courtnall was becoming an NHL All-Star with the Stars, Kordic had died of cardiac arrest, a steroid user and cocaine abuser.

    But I still have the jersey. 


     
    March 3,
    1968 
    Maple Leafs trade LW Frank Mahovlich, C Pete Stemkowski, C Garry Unger and the rights to D Carl Brewer to Detroit for C Norm Ullman, RW Paul Henderson, RW Floyd Smith and D Doug Barrie
     
      Bruce Meyer, Toronto
    The move that broke my heart and that put the Toronto Maple Leafs in the bottom of the league for more than a decade was the Mahovolich-Unger-Stemkowski for Ullman-Henderson-Smith trade. Granted, the Leafs got Paul Henderson, but other than his famous goal in Moscow, he was almost invisible on those '70s teams that couldn't score until McDonald, Sittler and Thompson showed up.

    Mahovolich had been a major part of the Leaf teams that won four Stanley Cups in the '60s. He went on to have 40-goal seasons for Detroit and Montreal. Unger was sent by Detroit to St. Louis where he became one of the league's top snipers. Stemkowski, always good in the playoffs, petered out and eventually finished his career in New York.

    And what did the Leafs get? Ullman was a bona fide scorer who always ranked no worse than fifth in league scoring, but he wasn't the same in Toronto where he didn't have Alex Delvecchio on his line. He eventually bolted for the Edmonton Oilers of the WHA, and the Leafs got nothing for him. Floyd Smith? He proved to be a better coach than a player, coaching in Buffalo and later Toronto. 


     
    June 28,
    1994 
    Maple Leafs trade LW Wendel Clark, D Sylvaine Lefebvre, RW Landon Wilson and a 1st-round pick (Jeffrey Kealty) to Quebec for C Mats Sundin,
    D Garth Butcher, LW Todd Warriner and a
    1st-round choice (traded to Washington)
     
     
      Wendel Clark After three stints in Toronto, Clark called it a career. Ken Levine/Allsport
    Sarah DeGrace, Toronto
    Even though we eventually got Wendel back (twice!) it was a stab in the heart to all Leaf fans. We cried, Wendel cried, there was even a Goodbye Wendel Celebration at Mel Lastman Square that drew thousands of fans. Wendel was the heart and soul of the Leafs, our beloved captain, and then he was gone.

    Looking back, it doesn't seem so bad because Mats Sundin has done well for us. But I can remember sitting at the dinner table after they announced the trade crying like a baby because Wendel was gone. I never ate dinner that night. 

     
    Kamyar Mohager, Golden, Colo.
    That was a bittersweet year for many Maple Leafs fans when word got out that Wendel Clark, our beloved captain, was traded away to Quebec for Mats Sundin. The Maple Leafs were the favorites to take the Western Conference the next year, but they seemed like they lacked something.

    They were missing Clark's leadership and courage, and although Doug Gilmour took over the captaincy, it seemed as if Clark's departure affected Gilmour's game, along with the rest of the team. The Leafs were knocked out of the first round, and they didn't make it back to the playoffs until 1998. Of course, Clark eventually came back to Toronto, but after injuries he endured while with Detroit, Tampa Bay, and the Islanders, he never was the same player. 


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