Maple LeafsRed Wings rivalry
Toronto Maple Leafs Detroit Red Wings
First meeting January 4, 1927

(Border Cities Arena)

Latest meeting April 2, 2016

(Air Canada Centre)

Next meeting January 1, 2017

(BMO Field)

Meetings total 774
All-time series 342-334-93-5 (DET)
Regular season series 283-276-93-5 (DET)
Postseason results 59-58 (DET)
Current win streak W1 (DET)
Post-season history
1929 Quarterfinals: Maple Leafs 2–0

1934 Semifinals: Red Wings 3–2

1936 Stanley Cup Finals: Red Wings 3–1

1939 Semifinals: Maple Leafs 2–1

1940 Semifinals: Maple Leafs 2–0

1942 Stanley Cup Finals: Maple Leafs, 4–3

1943 Semifinals: Red Wings 4–2

1945 Stanley Cup Finals: Maple Leafs 4–3

1947 Semifinals: Maple Leafs 4–1

1948 Stanley Cup Finals: Maple Leafs 4–0

1949 Stanley Cup Finals: Maple Leafs 4–0

1950 Semifinals: Red Wings 4–3

1952 Semifinals: Red Wings 4–0

1954 Semifinals: Red Wings 4–1

1955 Semifinals: Red Wings 4–0

1956 Semifinals: Red Wings 4–1

1960 Semifinals: Maple Leafs 4–2

1961 Semifinals: Red Wings 4–1

1963 Stanley Cup Finals: Maple Leafs 4–1

1964 Stanley Cup Finals: Maple Leafs 4–3

1987 Norris Division Finals: Red Wings 4–3

1988 Norris Division Semifinals: Red Wings 4–2

1993 Norris Division Semifinals: Maple Leafs 4–3

The Maple Leafs-Red Wings rivalry is a National Hockey League (NHL) rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings. The rivalry is largely bolstered because of the proximity between the two teams, with Toronto and Detroit approximately 330 kilometres (210 mi) apart, connected by Ontario Highway 401, and a number of shared fans in between the two cities (particularly in markets such as Windsor, Ontario). The teams both compete in the Atlantic Division and with current NHL scheduling, they meet four to five times per season.

Both teams are Original Six teams, with their first game played in Detroit's inaugural season in 1927. From 1929-1993, the two teams met each other in the 16 playoff series, and faced each other in seven Stanley Cup Finals. Meeting each other a combined 23 times in the postseason, the two teams has played each other in more postseason series than any other two teams in NHL history with the exception of the Bruins and Canadiens which have played a total 34 postseason series.

Original Six era: 1942–67 Edit

The rivalry between Maple Leafs and Red Wings was at its height during the Original Six-era (1942–67), with the majority of Maple Leafs and Red Wings postseason meetings occurring in this period. The Maple Leafs and Red Wings met in the postseason seven times during the 1940s, with Maple Leafs winning six out of the seven series played. Maple Leafs and Red Wings also met in five Stanley Cup semifinals during the 1950s; Red Wings beat Maple Leafs in all 5 meetings. Within those 25 years, Maple Leafs and Red Wings played a total of 15 postseason series including six Cup Finals; Maple Leafs beat the Red Wings in all 6 Cup Finals.

1942 Stanley Cup Finals Edit

Maple Leafs score on Red Wings during the 1942 Stanley Cup Finals.

The series intensified in 1942 Stanley Cup Finals. After losing the first 3 games, Maple Leafs won the next four to win the series 4–3, winning their fourth Stanley Cup. It was the first Cup Final in history to go 7 games, and the only time in North American sports that a team won a best-of-seven championship series, after losing the first 3 games. There were several tense moments throughout the series.

Game 7 of the series was the first time a crowd of over 16,000 attended a hockey game in Canada. 16,218 fans squeezed into Maple Leaf Gardens and remained an hour after the game waiting for Maple Leafs to reappear from the dressing room. Coach Hap Day, who played for the Leafs in their last Stanley Cup win in 1932, deadpanned "We won it the hard way." He was asked if he had any doubts during the series, and replied "I had my doubts right up until that final bell rang."[10] Rookie Gaye Stewart, who joined the club for the fifth game of the final, became the youngest player to win the Stanley Cup as he was still 18 years of age.

1950s and 1960s Edit

By 1950, the two teams met one another 11 times in the post-season. The rivalry heightened to a fever pitch due to an incident in the 1950 playoffs when the Red Wings' young star, Gordie Howe, mistimed a check on Maple Leafs' Ted Kennedy and fell head-first into the boards, suffering severe injuries and needing emergency surgery to save his life. While Kennedy was exonerated by the NHL, Red Wings' management and fans accused him of deliberately injuring Howe. The result was a violent playoff series won by the Red Wings and increased animosity between the teams.

The rivalry grew so fierce that when the New York Rangers reached the 1950 Stanley Cup Finals to face the Red Wings, but could not play in their home rink, Madison Square Garden, because the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus were using the arena, New York arranged to play home games in Toronto, whose fans held a deep enmity against Red Wings.

In the 1956 semifinals series between the Maple Leafs and the Red Wings, an anonymous caller to a Toronto newspaper claimed he would shoot Red Wings' stars Howe and Kennedy when they took the ice at Maple Leaf Gardens for game three. Howe and Lindsay combined for three goals in Detroit's 5–4 win, with Lindsay turning his stick like a rifle, pointing it at the Toronto crowd, circling the rink while making machine gun noises.[12] The Red Wings would win the semifinals series 4–1.

The rivalry further intensified in the 1950s when relations between Red Wings star Red Kelly and Red Wings General Manager Jack Adams had deteriorated. Angered over a magazine article where Kelly had suggested the Red Wings forced him to play with a broken ankle in the 1958–59 NHL season, Adams traded the all-star to the Maple Leafs. When the Maple Leafs eliminated the Red Wings in the 1960 playoffs, Kelly couldn't resist another jab at Adams, telling the Ottawa Journal "it's nice to be with a winner."[13]

The teams met in two Cup Finals in 1963 and 1964. The 1964 Cup Finals became well known because of the heroics of Leafs defenceman Bobby Baun. In game six, he was taken off the ice with an injury that later would be diagnosed as a broken leg. Baun eventually returned to the game and scored the OT winner to even the series at 3–3. The Leafs went on to win game seven and win the Cup, part in thanks to Baun’s unlikely heroics earlier in the series.

Expansion and stagnation: 1968–2012 Edit

On March 27, 1973, Mickey Redmond scored two goals on Maple Leafs goalie Ron Low in a span of 18 seconds to become the Red Wings' first ever 50-goal scorer in an 8–1 victory.[12] On November 5, 1975, in one of the scariest incidents to ever take place at Maple Leaf Gardens, Red Wings forward, Dan Maloney, repeatedly beat Maple Leafs defenceman Brian Glennie's head off the ice until he went limp. Maloney was charged with assault causing bodily harm, part of a crackdown on hockey violence by Ontario attorney general Roy McMurtry. A plea bargain left Maloney performing community service work while being banned from playing in Toronto for two years. Ironically, Maloney subsequently played for Maple Leafs from 1977–82, then served as their head coach from 1984–86.

Since the end of the Original Six-era, the Maple Leafs and Red Wings have met other only three times in the post-season. In those three series, the Red Wings beat the Maple Leafs twice, in the 1987 Norris Division Finals and 1988 Norris Division Semifinals. The Maple Leafs beat the Red Wings in the last series they played one another, the 1993 Norris Division Semifinals. In the seventh game of the 1993 Norris Division Semifinals, Maple Leafs' Nikolai Borschevsky's shot the game-winner in overtime past Red Wings goaltender Tim Cheveldae hushing the fans inside Joe Louis Arena. The goal gave the underdog Maple Leafs a shocking first-round series victory over Steve Yzerman’s heavily favored Red Wings. Gilmour's Game 7 overtime goal gave Toronto the series and made them the sixth club to eliminate a team with a better regular season record in the first round of the playoffs. This was also Maple Leafs' first playoff series win against Red Wings since the 1964 Cup Finals.

The rivalry stagnated during the mid-1990s and 2000s, when the Maple Leafs moved from the Western Conference (formerly the Clarence Campbell Conference), to the Eastern Conference (formerly the Prince of Wales Conference) to begin the 1998–99 NHL season, leaving the Maple Leafs and Red Wings in separate conferences for 15 years. Because of NHL scheduling for inter-conference play, the Maple Leafs and Red Wings played one another as little as once a year. The two teams were returned to the same division prior to the 2013–14 NHL season with Red Wings moving to the Eastern Conference and being placed in the new Atlantic Division of which the Maple Leafs were located.

Modern era: 2013–present Edit

Playing in the same division for the first time since 1993, Red Wings hosted Maple Leafs for the 2014 NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The game set an NHL attendance record of 105,491, surpassing the previous record set during the 2008 NHL Winter Classic. Maple Leafs won the game against Red Wings 2-1 in shootout.

The rivalry may have heightened in 2015 with the signing of former Red Wings coach, Mike Babcock, as the new coach of the Leafs. After failing to come to terms on a contract extension with the Red Wings, Babcock requested and received permission to seek employment elsewhere. The Buffalo Sabres were considered the most serious contenders for Babcock's services, with the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks also in the mix. However, on May 20, 2015, it was announced that Babcock would become the new head coach of Maple Leafs.

The Maple Leafs are expected to play the Red Wings in the upcoming NHL Centennial Classic, another regular season outdoor NHL game planned on January 1, 2017. Taking place at BMO Field, the game will serve as a celebration of the centennial seasons of both the Maple Leafs and the NHL as a whole.