28 Nov

Conn Stafford Smythe R.I.P. in beautiful Muskoka

Toronto Maple Leaf fans are hoping for the turning over of a new leaf (no pun intended) with the signing of Brian Burke as the new President and GM announced recently. With this news I thought of Conn Stafford Smythe who rests peacefully across the road from my cottage overlooking Lake Rosseau in Muskoka. Stafford was the son of the great Conn Smythe and only lived to the age of 50 while embroiled in controversy with control of the Leafs and Maple Leaf Gardens.

They have changed Stafford’s headstone in recent years as it used to read; “He was dearly loved by his wife, children, and many friends, he was persecuted to death by his enemies. Now he sleeps peacefully in the quiet north country that loved him for the person he was”

Please click on the photo for a larger image

In: historic muskoka, in and around muskoka ontario

14 Responses
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  1. I remember growing up through all that turmoil with the leafs. Being a big Leaf fan I’m glad I saw all those stanley cup wins in the 60’s. My son-in-law is still waiting to see his first leaf championship and he is 32 yrs. old

    PS: You take excellent pictures…………Rick

  2. Sandy says:

    I remembered Dorothea Smythe’s inscription on her husband’s tombstone tonight and somehow managed to come up with your site. Their son Tommy and his family were neighbours of mine in Toronto years ago. I have never forgotten her painful words and the courage and love that she must have felt for her husband to have had them written in stone. I have visited the Smythe cottage in Muskoka; my family had a cottage on Little Jo. So many years ago and still, I see by your wonderful camera and photographs that it is still a beautiful part of this country.

  3. Thomas Paradis says:

    Sadly, Stafford Smythe is not mentioned – if he is remembered at all – in what for so many years was a glorious Leaf past. For many hockey fans, the misguided belief is that ownership of the Gardens and the hockey club passed from Conn Smythe to Harold Ballard – with Stafford’s reign as president of both ignored entirely. Like his dad, Stafford was a remarkable hockey man – an incredibly astute judge of talent, and a determined advocate and willing participant of Toronto’s amateur development system. He is rarely recognized, or given even partial credit, for the Leafs’ four Stanley Cup championships during the 1960s. Certainly, he died within a dark period of MLG’s history, and was responsible, jointly with Harold Ballard, Punch Imlach and King Clancy, for the decay of the Leaf tradition and pathetic performance which came about; yet, despite his documented faults, insecurities, and ignorance, legal of otherwise, Stafford’s accomplishments and contributions, in hockey, deserve to be appreciated. Except for the rarest of cases (for example his son Tom’s book), little has been written about Stafford Smythe. He is a fascinating person. The picture of his headstone answers many questions, and brings even more reflections. Thank you for posting it.

  4. Thomas Stafford Smythe says:

    If you read my book you will understand my life of upset that my father is not in the Hockey Hall of Fame. A young owner of the Leafs between the ages of 40 to 47 he won four Stanley Cups. Four years later at 4:44 in the morning he died very unexpectedly and the Leafs have not won since. When Harold Ballard stole the Leafs from the Smythe family he put a curse on the Leafs that will not disappear until his accomplishments are recognized and he is in the hall of fame beside my grandfather where he belongs. When I returned from my father’s funeral to work Harold had put all my personal belongings from my office on the sidewalk. The Toronto Marlboro team I had produced that year changed only two players and went on to win the Memorial cup the next year. The players that were on my last team went on to win more than twelve Stanley Cups amongst them,
    It is time for the Leaf fans to stand up and correct this curse and have Harold removed and Stafford induced. I’ve had a tough life since then and I hope I live to see that day….

  5. Thomas Stafford Smythe says:

    By the way – I wrote the original headstone with my mother and a few years ago my younger sister changed the stone without consulting me. To this day I still strongly feel what I wrote then…..

  6. Mark Borkowski says:

    You should be commended for sharing this beautiful photography with the public. Conn Smythe was truly a great Canadian. His contributions to hockey will never be forgotten.

    Mark Borkowski

  7. Patrick Nolan says:

    Unfortunately for Stafford, the scandal at the end of his life marred his health and sadly, his reputation. I will say this. I guarantee that those four Stanley Cups in the sixties had nothing at all to do with Harold Ballard. Stafford was a hockey man all his life and from what I take it, was very dedicated. Without the meddling of the others around him, I am more than sure the Leafs would have returned to their former glory very quickly. Maybe a petition should be started here to rally the Leaf Nation to end the curse of Harold the disgrace. Let’s recognise Stafford for his accomplishments. His legal problems were never proven and even if they were, so what. Blame his accountant.

  8. Jean Smith says:

    I wonder if you can help me. This morning I decided to look up my Canadian relatives on the internet; my grandmother, Edith Gwendolin Harrison Williamson, was Conn Smythe’s cousin but I don’t know the exact relationship. She visited Conn & Irene several times in the 1950s (after my grandfather died), & I remember her telling me about a summer cottage near Niagara Falls, & also about a ranch where the racehorses were bred.
    Would it be possible for you to put me in touch with Thomas Stafford Smith, to see if we can work out the relationship? I met Conn & Irene once, when I was about 6/7 & they were visiting London, staying it the Connaught. I was old enough to know that it was a very posh hotel.
    Obviously this is not what your webpage is for but, having trawelled though pages of Google, this is the only proper mention I’ve seen of descendents. I would be very grateful if you could help.

  9. You never know what you will stumble across when surfing. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would happen upon a picture of my parent’s grave. It is in a lovely spot and whomever sees this and is a friend of both Muskoka and the Leafs, I salute you. I agree with the sentiment that my father was a fascinating, often misunderstood person. It is true that Tom and my mother wrote the inscription for my father. I added the last line though, as I wanted to soften the sentiment. I remember my father as a loving, funny, family man. It is true he was a great leader and put together a collection of players with real heart and it was their guts, their fire and their sense of belonging to a brotherhood that propelled them to win four Stanley Cups. They were Memorial Cup Champions before that and had been under my father’s guidance in their teens. It was my privilege to know all of them. Now, sadly, my brother has joined the ‘upstairs team’ after a twenty three year, valiant battle with cancer. As for the Leafs, they have a new chapter to write and it remains my fondest hope that the cup will rise above the blue and white jersey again.
    I will close with the poem we chose in memorial for Thomas Stafford Smythe.
    ” I will arise and go now, for always night and day
    I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
    While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
    I hear it in the deep hearts core.”

  10. Ed Boutilier says:

    We are fortunate to have received comments from Thomas Stafford Smythe on the CottageBlog. Our deepest condolences to family and friends.


    June 18, 2009

    Tom (Stafford) Smythe was the son of Stafford Smythe and grandson of Conn Smythe, two former giants with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs.

    He died last Friday at 63 of cancer.

    Although he wasn’t directly involved in the Leafs’ operations while Stafford and Conn were involved, Tom Smythe managed the junior Marlboros, an affiliate of the parent club for a number of years. He also owned and operated the successful Doug Laurie Sporting Goods store attached to Maple leaf Gardens for decades.

    Before he died in 1980, Conn Smythe elected Tom to preside over the Conn Smythe Foundation, which donates money to many charitable causes.

    Tom leaves his son Tom, daughter Christie and sisters Mary and Elizabeth. A full obituary will follow.

    from the Globe and Mail

    Here is another article about Tom’s life

  11. Mike Keyser says:

    I knew this cast of characters in Toronto/Muskoka’s colorful past. Harold Ballard did not steal the Leafs; he simply completed a business agreement with Stafford Smythe. The survivor would buy the deceased’s shares. This should clarify Tom Smythe’s comments of 2009.

  12. What Mr. Keyser said is correct. However, we did try to buy Ballard’s shares after the untimely death of my father and put together a very decent and respectable offer. His reaction to this offer was to scribble an obscenity across it and refuse to negotiate. After that, he had a Gardens employee come and get my mother’s car, he fired my brother and never had another thing to do with us. We did not even have our season tickets after that and the last game we attended as a family was the opening of the 1971 season.
    Cancer wreaked havoc with my brother’s brain and it is in the spirit of truth and forgiveness that I endeavor to set the record straight. I am grateful to Mr. Boutiler for his beautiful pictures, for his heart and kindness, and for creating this blog. It is my great hope that we will find a way to heal the hurts of the past and move on to a brighter day where we will see Leafs move out of this shadow and into the light of victory.

  13. Tim Irons says:

    Growing up in the States playing hockey, I have been a long admirer of the Leafs. The cemetery where Conn lies is just across the Joe River from where my grandmother lived for many years and where my family summered. I visited the site often over the years never forgetting the Smythe contribution to hockey in Ontario – for that I thank both the family and you all for keeping Conn’s spirit alive.

  14. Reed I Cudmore says:

    I did some searching on Stafford Smythe’s name while reading Bruce McDougall’s impressive book, “The Last Game,” a running commentary on the Leafs’ clinching game for the 1967 Cup. I was unaware of Stafford’s Naval service, as well as his own accomplishments as an athlete. I concur with the comments that he has not gained due recognition for his contributions to the sixties Maple Leafs.
    As a Red Wings fan, I realize the 67 Leafs were dotted with several former Wings- Sawchuk, Kelly, Pronovost, Hillman and Jeffrey, and I may have missed one. It was a great era for hockey as many of us recall.

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