The Toronto Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup in 1967. The roster included nine future Hockey Hall of Famers. Milan Marcetta is second from left in the back row.
Milan (Millie) Marcetta
Born: September 19, 1936 (Cadomin, Alberta)
Died: September 18, 2014 (Vernon, British Columbia)
Milan Marcetta was a 30-year-old journeyman minor leaguer when he made his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the spring of 1967. He wound up having his name engraved on the Stanley Cup after just three playoff games in which he failed to record a point.
Marcetta was a high-scoring centre for the Victoria Maple Leafs when he and defenceman Aut Erickson were last-minute playoff call-ups by Toronto general manager Punch Imlach. Both men became celebrated decades later as the most obscure names on a Stanley Cup roster filled with future members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The centre returned to the minors with the Rochester Americans for the start of the following season. On Dec. 26, 1967, Marcetta and Jean-Paul Parise were traded to the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars for Ted Taylor, Duke Harris, Murray Hall, Len Lunde, Don Johns and a season-long loan of goaltender Carl Wetzel.
Marcetta only scored four goals in 36 regular-season games with the North Stars in 1967-68, but he went on a tear in the playoffs, scoring seven goals and adding seven assists over 14 games as Minnesota eliminated the Los Angeles Kings before being eliminated in the seventh game of the West Division semifinal by the St. Louis Blues. Those were his final NHL playoff games.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound centre was known for his bursts of speed and slick scoring moves.
He was born at Cadomin, a coal-mining hamlet in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta which takes its name from the Canadian Dominion Mining company. After two seasons of junior hockey with the Medicine Hat Tigers in his home province, Marcetta was recruited by Wild Bill Hunter for his new Yorkton (Sask.) Terriers squad in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
After turning professional before the 1956-57 campaign, Marcetta spent 10 seasons in the minor pros with the Calgary Stampeders, Saskatoon Quakers, Denver Invaders and Victoria Maple Leafs of the Western Hockey League; the Buffalo Bisons and Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League; the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds and St. Louis Braves of the Eastern Professional Hockey League; and, the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Professional Hockey League.
The centre had his most productive seasons with Victoria, where he played on a line with Andy Hebenton, an ironman forward with the New York Rangers, and Bob Barlow, another career minor-league journeyman who would make his long-awaited NHL debut only after the 1967 expansion. In 1965-66, the trio scored 101 goals. They posed at season’s end in the locker-room at Memorial Arena in Victoria, known as the Barn on Blanshard, with stacks of pucks. The Victoria team went on to win the Patrick Cup as WHL champions.
Marcetta notched a career high 40 goals in 1966-67. He also had 35 assists to record 75 points in just 70 games. He only served a single two-minute minor penalty all season. The Victoria team finished out of the playoffs, making it easy for Imlach to recruit Marcetta and Erickson as extras for Toronto’s playoff run.
The Western recruits were put up at the Westbury Hotel around the corner from the arena in Toronto, a hockey-mad city in which the anonymous backups could eavesdrop on conversations in bars and restaurants.
“Everybody was talking about the Leafs,” Marcetta told Paul Hunter of the Toronto Star two years ago. “It was nuts. The atmosphere was unbelievable. Nobody had any idea who we were. Nobody was asking for autographs. You could sit in a restaurant and listen to people talk about the game. Some would say, ‘They’re going to do it.’ Others would say, ‘They’re a bunch of old guys. They ain’t going to do nothing.’”
The 1967 Maple Leafs were underdogs going into the Stanley Cup quarter-finals against the heavily favoured Chicago Black Hawks. Marcetta made his NHL debut on April 11 at Maple Leaf Gardens, as the home team beat the visitors by 3-1. The centre again played in Toronto two days later in a game won 4-3 by Chicago. The Leafs eliminated the Hawks in six games.
Marcetta played in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, as Johnny Bower shut out the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 at the Forum on April 22. The Leafs went on to claim the Cup in six games, the most recent time Toronto has won the Stanley Cup.
Both Marcetta and Erickson had their names engraved on the trophy alongside such Hall of Famers as Bower, Terry Sawchuk, George Armstrong, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Marcel Pronovost, Tim Horton, Red Kelly and Bob Pulford.
After a second short stint with the North Stars, Marcetta completed his career with five more seasons in the minor pros with the Memphis South Stars, Phoenix Roadrunners and Denver Spurs. His NHL totals included seven goals and 15 assists in 54 games.
The Los Angeles Sharks of the World Hockey Association, a rival to the NHL, drafted the centre in 1972, but Marcetta instead began the 1972-73 season as the interim coach and general manager of the Spurs. By November, 1972, he returned to the ice as a player.
For a time he managed minor hockey in Anchorage, Alaska, before returning to Canada. Marcetta became involved in building maintenance and for a time managed a condominium apartment building in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond. He retired to rural Enderby, B.C., where he long struggled with emphysema.
The unexpected 1967 victory was the highlight of a long life in hockey.
“How many guys play years and years and years and never win a Stanley Cup? I came out of the blue and get called up and get to be on the winning team,” Marcetta told the Star in 2012.
Marcetta held the Stanley Cup in the delirious dressing room after the game. He took a sip from the bowl, but never did get to see his name engraved on the storied trophy.
From left: Andy Hebenton, Milan Marcetta and Bob Barlow pose with pucks at end of 1965-66 season with Victoria Maple Leafs.