The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t had many victories on the ice this season. On Saturday, they celebrated perhaps their biggest victory in years, only off the ice.
Dave Keon, arguably the greatest Maple Leaf of all time, has been estranged from the organization since 1975, when he had a bitter falling out with the team’s owner, Harold Ballard. Keon, a Maple Leaf from 1960–75, won four Stanley Cups with Toronto and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1967, but was looking to leave Toronto by the mid 70s due to constant clashes with the team’s unpopular owner.
The disharmony between Keon and Ballard, exacerbated when Ballard repeatedly nixed a would-be trade that would’ve sent Keon to the New York Islanders, led Keon to force his way out of the organization by joining the rival World Hockey Association in 1975. Keon played four seasons in the WHA, before returning to play three final seasons in the NHL for the Hartford Whalers after the WHA disbanded in 1979.
Although Keon’s career ended in 1982 and Ballard died 26 years ago, Keon’s kept himself at arms’ length from the organization for 40 years, refusing a handful of the Leafs’ attempts to honor his legacy, though he has participated in a few team-oriented ceremonies.
Keon emerged from estrangement on Saturday, joining the daughters of former Leafs players Tim Horton and Walter “Turk” Broda, as all three men were honored in a stirring ceremony at Air Canada Centre before Toronto’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, which Montreal went on to win 3–2.
Keon, Horton and Broda were honored as part of their induction into the Maple Leafs’ Legends Row, which will result in statues in the likeness of all three men being erected outside Air Canada Centre. They will join Mats Sundin, Darryl Sittler, Ted Kennedy, Syl Apps, George Armstrong, Borje Salming and Johnny Bower as part of Legends Row.