I’ve been up to my eyeballs this week and am still no further on the project that has been written in my head for about a month. I haven’t done a Tall Boys card in ages, though, so that’s worth doing today.
If ever a Hab deserved a Christmas card from Leafs fans everywhere, it’s Terry Harper.
Terry was actually a very good player. A stay-at-home defenseman who contributed toughness and leadership, he broke in with Montreal in 1963-64 (so he has two rookie cards in ’63-64 Parkhurst, which is annoying) and spent parts of 17 seasons in the bigs, retiring in ’80-81. He won a bunch of Cups with Montreal, helped an average LA team become a very good LA team and was once considered significant enough to be packaged for Marcel Dionne.
This was all done with him contributing relatively little offense. It was nothing unusual for him to have a plus rating well beyond the total number of points he put on the board. A lot of that is a team stat, but it’s still interesting.
Terry also happened, for one brief instant, to be in precisely the wrong place at the wrong time.
That instant came during Game 6 of the 1967 Stanley Cup Final. The Leafs were leading 1-0 late in the second period as Jim Pappin and Pete Stemkowski led a rush into the Montreal zone. Stemkowski dished to Pappin, who carried the puck down the left wing boards towards the corner, mostly out of harm’s way. Stemkowski, a big forward having a wonderful playoff, stormed towards the front of the net. Harper did precisely what he was supposed to do and took Stemkowski, tying him up and generally keeping him out of harm’s way. Pappin lobbed a pass toward the front of the net and it hit Harper in the skate, deflecting past a surprised Gump Worsley. 2-0 Toronto.
The goal was significant because in the third, ex-Leaf Dick Duff would dart past Tim Horton and wrist one past Terry Sawchuk. Instead of tying the game, this goal only got the Habs within one, and that’s all they would get on Terry that day. Armstrong scored in the empty net to clinch. The goal scored off Terry Harper’s foot won the Stanley Cup.
Without the Pappin goal, the game is tied in the third and there’s no telling how it would have played out. Leaf coach Punch Imlach was none to keen to play a Game 7 in Montreal.
Without Terry’s skate, instead of hearing about 1967 all these years, it could well have been 1964.
That’s worth recognizing, I think.