Toronto Maple Leaf legend, Ajax resident Bobby Baun dead at 86

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Published August 15, 2023 at 12:18 pm

Photo by David Cooper

Legendary hard-rock defenceman Bobby ‘Boomer’ Baun, who will always be remembered for scoring an overtime winner in the 1964 Stanley Cup finals for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has died at the age of 86.

The Ajax resident played 17 seasons in the NHL and earned a reputation as a hard-nosed, body-crunching defenceman, despite his 5’9” 175 stature.

He won four Stanley Cups as a Leaf but his most memorable game was game five of the ’64 final with Toronto trailing Gordie Howe and the Detroit Red Wings 3-2.

Baun was stretchered off the ice in the third period after blocking a shot from Howe. Doctors froze the leg and Baun came back out and eventually scored the game winner on a shot he later described as a “triple-flutter-blast with a follow-up blooper” that deflected off a Detroit stick and past Hall of Fame goalie (and future Leaf teammate) Terry Sawchuk.

Baun retired after injuring his neck in 1972 and briefly tried farming – he owned an 800-hectare cattle ranch in north Pickering before he tried his hand at selling houses, cars and insurance before running a Tim Horton’s franchise at White’s Road and Hwy 2 in Pickering and another location in Ajax.

Baun lent Horton some cash to get the now iconic franchise running in the 60s and claimed he sold Horton on the drive-through idea) and achieved quite a bit of success with the Pickering location, which did the most business in 1987 of 400 outlets in the fast-food chain.

Baun with his staff at his Tim Horton’s restaurant in Pickering

He always had a head for business. During a stint in Detroit he discovered he was making twice as much as Howe – then the greatest player in the game – and counselled the star to re-negotiate his contract.

That game in 1964 and that overtime winner – the stuff of legend in Maple Leafs lore – was the highlight of his career, however, with Baun saying in his 2000 book, Lowering the Boom: The Bobby Baun Story (with Anne Logan), that he “will always be grateful.”

“In honest reflection, what has affected my life the most was that goal I scored on April 23, 1964.”

Bobby Baun. 1936-2023

Never much of a goal scorer, Baun collected 37 goals and 187 assists (and nearly 1,500 minutes in penalties) in 964 regular-season games. He won Stanley Cups with the Leafs in 1962, ’63, ’64 and ’67.

He spent his first 11 NHL seasons with Toronto before being taken by the Oakland Seals in the 1967 expansion draft. He spent one season with Oakland before going to Detroit the next year.

Baun returned to Toronto in 1970 for the final stretch of his playing career.

Baun also pushed hard for players’ rights in a time when union activity was frowned upon (and earned the wrath of Leafs General Manager Punch Imlach and an eventual ticket out of Toronto for his efforts) and continued the fight after his playing days were over as the co-president of the first NHL Player’s Association.

The NHL Alumni Association announced his death on Tuesday, but the cause of death was not released.

Bobby Baun (21) with his Torotno Maple Leafs teammates after winning the Stanley Cup in 1964. CP photo

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