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Throwback Thursdays – A Horse and a King’s Ransom

After the last few weeks of early NHL history, including the formation of the NHL, the Toronto Arenas history, and Conn Smythe’s purchase of the St. Pats franchise (saving them from a move to Philadelphia) to form the Maple Leafs – I have come to the concluding story that inspired all of these Leafs-themed articles.

The story of Rare Jewel and the horse race that won Smythe the world’s best defenceman, King Clancy.

The Toronto Maple Leafs honoured Clancy on St. Patrick’s Day, 1934. Lester Patrick of the opposing Rangers objected to Clancy’s wearing of a green sweater (pictured above), so King changed back to his traditional blue and white after the first period. None of this would have happened if Conn Smythe’s long shot best had not paid off in 1930. Photo: Hockey Hall of Fame


After his purchase of the St. Pats and the rebranding to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club would go on to miss the playoffs for two of the next three seasons. Smythe didn’t just feel comfortable in completing his civic duty by buying the team, he wanted them to be successful. He sought to accomplish this asking his fan base who they wanted to see play for the team. King Clancy, a defenceman of the Ottawa Senators was the overwhelming favourite. Clancy himself later recalled:

I talked to Mr. Smythe, who told me he polled some of the fans and newspapermen in Toronto to find out who they would like to see on his hockey team. Some of those he consulted had brought up my name.:

Smythe went about his business, trying his hand at acquiring one of the best, if not the best, player in the game at the time. Notably, he played defence, something Toronto is still struggling to comprehend all of these years later.

“Defence? What is that? “- Every Leafs GM for the past 50 years.

Luckily the Senators were in some financial difficulties at the time and need the cash. The only problem was that they sought to alleviate their financial situation to the tune of $35,000, a massive sum at the time (Smythe’s downpayment for the Leaf’s franchise was only $10,000).

This is where the legend of Smythe and his horse racing addiction comes in.

Smythe was known to love two things: hockey and horse. He was constantly investing in horses and betting on races. So when the proper stakes presented itself in 1930, Smythe bet the stability and the future of the franchise on a horse race.

He had recently purchased Rare Jewel, something HorseJournals.com thought was an impulse buy that worked out:

“On a hunch – or maybe a vision – be bought a filly named Rare Jewel for $250. She had never won a race and, by all accounts, no one thought she ever would.”

Smythe had bright visions in front of him, at the time “the trainer of Rare Jewel, which had never won a race, convinced him that the filly was on the verge of big things. Mr. Smythe entered her in the Coronation Futurity, then placed bets, at the track, in the stands and with a bookie based at the King Edward Hotel.”

It turned out the bets were well-placed. With more than 200-1 odds against him, Rare Jewel and jockey Normal (Dude) Foden (later inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame) would go on to win the Coronation Futurity, paying out $214.40 for every two dollars wagered.

With all of his money on Rare Jewel, Smythe managed to win over $15,000. With money put in from his other partners, he was able to secure the deal for Clancy. The “King” himself couldn’t believe the incredible amount paid for his services after the deal became official:

To this day, I’m surprised at the amount of money involved in the deal that brought me to the Leafs,” Clancy admitted in 1968. “I heard how much money Mr. Smythe had handed over to Ottawa and I must confess, I thought he was a foolish man.

From that point forward Clancy always thought of himself as a Maple Leaf, nothing else:

I must stress that when Mr. Smythe bought my contract and brought me to Toronto, I never looked back on any aspect of my career. A few years after I left Ottawa, the Senators folded. By then, I was a member in good standing with the Toronto Maple Leaf organization.

The Leafs and the Sens would go on to have a colourful playoff rivalry some 80 years later. Essentially Toronto stole Clancy, shut their franchise down for almost a century, and destroyed their playoff dreams when they returned.

With Clancy in the fold, the Leafs would go on build back up their fans, build the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens, and win the Stanley Cup in the Gardens in their first season in the building (1931-32).

This helped pave the way for the Leafs as we know them, both the franchise with the longest Stanley Cup drought, but also the franchise with the second most Cups in NHL history.

So, for Leafs fans of recent years, keep in mind that even though Boston has bested you in the last three series, they still have to win eight more Cups to catch up with Toronto.

Get ready for more of this in the next decade, Massachusets . Photo: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Steve Auld

Steve Auld

My name is Steve and I am from the very noble Auld clan of Niagara, where we respect our elders and follow the golden rules: elbows up, and keep your stick on the ice. When not tearing up beer league or ball hockey, I enjoy the occasional downtime I have with my fiancée and son. Love me some music too, all kinds. If you feel I did a good job or you want to argue, feel free to leave a comment!
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