The timing of Larry Hellman’s life as a maple leaf could not have been better.
From June 1960—when waivers were claimed from Boston—until June 68 when he left for Minnesota in the same fashion—the solid defender had his name in four Stanley Cups, and played a major role in the club’s 1967 championship final.
Family and friends posted that Kirkland Lake, Ont., had died late Friday at the age of 85, although no cause of death was found. His years in Toronto were preceded by a cup with Detroit in 1955 and another with Montreal in 1969.
He once took credit for “Hillman Hex” on the Leafs after a salary dispute with general manager/coach Punch Imlach, which took on a life of its own as the drought in Toronto reached half a century ago. But Hellman insisted in recent years that he raised it in the hope that his former team would win again.
Like many of the foliage that were the backbone of the 1960s breed, Hellman came from a rugged upbringing in northern Ontario. He went by the locker room denier “Morley” – one of his middle names.
“A very humble man, a strong defender, very loyal, the ultimate professional,” Hillman’s 67 teammate Brian Konacher said on Saturday. “Hockey has been his life. He’s been taken by the Leafs (to the farm) a few times and played for so many teams (eight in the NHL in 19 years), you might get the idea that he couldn’t keep his job. But he was definitely a standout player in our cup year.”
Leafs forward Ron Ellis has described Hellman as a “brilliant home defense man” whose work has often been overlooked.
“The only thing that stood out for me was in qualifying 67, he and (defense partner) Marcel Pronovost were not on the ice to score an equally powerful goal against him,” Ellis said on Saturday. “It was a good match – he allowed Marcel to do all the rushing.”
With Imlach using four key players in defence, this season was considered Hellmann’s best performance on the Leaf paper as he played 12 playoffs against Chicago and Montreal without taking a penalty.
“This was a special time for everyone to be a paperback, to win the original Six Cup at Centennial Canada,” Ellis said.
Hellman moved on to play with Minnesota, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Buffalo. He finished his career with three years in the World Hockey League with Cleveland and Winnipeg, then coached the Jets at the 1978 Afco Cup.
Upgrading his rookie game with Windsor and Hamilton, the six-foot-tall Hellman broke into the Red Wings and became the youngest player to ever earn his name in the cup at the age of 18 years, two months and nine days, which is unsurpassable. Current rules require a player to be at least 18 years old to start the season. Hellman went to Boston, but was demoted in 1959-60, won the Eddie Shore Award as the best defender in the AHL, and led the Leafs’ new chief Emlish to get his rights.
Relying more on physique than dexterity, as most pranksters of his day did, Hellman was able to hit the disc and move it quickly. But the Leafs were still a tough team with strong back guards like Tim Horton, Karl Brewer, Bob Bowen and Alan Stanley. In 1967, he played 55 regular season games in the Toronto squad with several players over the age of 30. He was ranked 88th best player in franchise history in the 2002 book “Maple Leafs Top 100” by a media panel.
But in the summer of 1967, Hellmann requested an increase of $5,000 from Emlach to the tune of $20,000 annually. The tight-lipped Emlach refused to go over $19,500 and Hellman was fined $100 a day while he was holding on. Although the North Stars claimed it the following year, losing $2,400 to staying away for three weeks vexed Hillman for years, and he famously vowed that Leaf won’t win another trophy until it was paid off — with interest.
“Imlash was not an easy guy to play with,” Konacher said. “You don’t respect him as much as you fear him.”
Only Hellmann, Frank Mahofflish and Mike Walton have won another Cup after 67.
“It could have been a lot cheaper to pay for all these multi-million dollar players,” Hellman joked in 2016.
But on the Leafs’ 2017 centenary, club president Brendan Shanahan went to the board of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and issued a $2,400 check — with compound interest — to present to him, a gesture that Hillman greatly appreciates.
Hellman told the Sun of the Cup Drought in 2008: “I was hoping 40 was enough. Now it’s hard to win thirty teams in the league instead of six. You gamble all the time when you often don’t have cards to start with.
“It was too bad that they broke us up after the last cup, because a group of us, like Jonny Power and Dave Keon, have been there for a long time.”
As a coach, Hillman had a highly talented Jets squad that included Bobby Hull, Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nelson, Kent Nelson and Willie Lindstrom, which won 50 regular season games and a league title in 1978, although he was abandoned before the Jets joined the team. . NHL next year.
Hellmann, who is included in a very small list of players who have won cups with three original teams from six different countries, ran several outdoor businesses in the northern country after his retirement.
Larry’s younger brother Wayne, also a defender who played in the NHL, WHA and on teams with Larry, died of cancer in 1990.