Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup finals between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings is noted by many as the most riveting performance by any NHL team in recent memory. With the Detroit Red Wings ahead in the best-of-seven series by 3 games to 2, the Toronto Maple Leafs were well on their way to being on the losing end of this NHL final. The Red Wings had something to prove to their fans and to their opponents; the 1964 Stanley Cup finals was the second straight year they would face off against the aging but talented Toronto Maple Leafs for the NHL championship. The Wings didn’t disappoint, keeping the fans on both sides on the edge of their seats with last minute scoring and highly physical play throughout the series.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had won the cup in the two preceding years (1962, 1963) and were facing a cup hungry team who had suffered Stanley Cup final losses in 1961 and 1963. However, the Leafs top performers did not disappoint. The 1964 Toronto Maple Leafs Bob Pulford, many would say, was the team’s secret to success not only during this series, but throughout his many seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Many question Bob Pulford’s acceptance into the Hockey Hall of Fame, but those who played the game with him, and against him, were completely aware of his dedication and passion for the game. Bob Pulford played a pivotal role in the Toronto Maple Leafs win in game 6, setting up the classic overtime goal of the injured Bob Baun.
Johnny Bower, the Toronto Maple Leafs number 1 goalie throughout this series against the Detroit Red Wings, had the series of his life. Facing blistering slapshots from snipers Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio, Bower was solid in net and accumulated a league leading 2.12 playoff goals against average. Johnny Bower would share the Vezina Trophy with the Wings Terry Sawchuck as the leading top contending goalies in 1964 and 1965. Both goalies then went on to be accepted into the Hockey Hall of Fame; to this very day, both Bower and Sawchuck are noted to be two of the best goalies to ever play the game. Even better, these two elite goalies stood toe to toe in one of the most exciting, hard fought Stanley Cup finals ever witnessed in the history of the game.
From the moment the puck dropped in game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup finals between the Leafs and the Red Wings, Leaf stars Frank Mahovolich, Red Kelly, Dave Keon, Andy Bathgate, and Tim Horton, had all proven why they were hall of fame material. The first 3 periods against Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, and the Detroit Red Wings squad were evenly matched, trading goals up until late in the third period. The Leafs seemed to be on the ropes in the dying minutes in the third period when a blistering slap shot from hall of famer Gordie Howe caught Leafs defenceman Bob Baun just above his right ankle. Baun was down for the count and was carried off the ice on a stretcher-hope seemed to flicker away as the Leafs just lost their top defenceman for the rest of the series. Or did they?
The moment that injured Leafs defenceman Bob Baun stepped back onto the ice in the early minutes of overtime in game 6, Leafs history would be made. Baun refused to have his ankle x-rayed in fear that he would be done for the season, and instead made the decision to step back into play and finished the rest of the game. He had also played full shifts in game 7 of this series as well. Not only did Bob Baun play the rest of this series with a broken ankle, he had also scored the overtime winning goal in game 6 of this best-of-seven series against Gordie Howe and the Red Wings.
This huge overtime win by Bob Baun and the Toronto Maple Leafs sent this series to a final and deciding game 7. Game 6 proved to be all the Leafs needed to lift the team to a convincing 4-0 shutout of the Detroit Red Wings; even better, they performed the feat back home at Maple Leaf Gardens. It was only after game 7 that Baun had agreed to have his ankle x-rayed, only to find that he had been playing with a fractured leg all along. This immediately put game 6 of this 1964 playoff series in the history books as one of the most exciting, riveting NHL playoff games of all time.