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1964: Brawny Baun goes for broke

For avid fans of the fastest game on ice, the National Hockey League's regular season is a mere dress rehearsal for the real campaign: the Stanley Cup playoffs. Here's a look at 10 of the most memorable moments from NHL postseasons past.

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Though known at the time as one of the NHL's most punishing hitters, Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Bobby Baun will forever be remembered for battling his own painful injury to lead the Leafs on to playoff glory. With Leafs and Red Wings tied 3-3 and his team facing elimination in Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup finals, the rugged blue-liner collapses after a harmless looking third-period face off and is hauled away on a stretcher. 

Mere minutes into sudden-death overtime, Baun makes a heroic return to the ice and stuns the capacity crowd at Detroit's Olympia Stadium by intercepting a clearing attempt from Red Wings defenceman Al Langlois and beating goaltender Terry Sawchuk with a hard shot from the point. The game-winning tally forces Game 7, which the Leafs go on to win 4-0 to capture a third consecutive championship title. Following that game, an X-ray reveals a broken bone in Baun's lower right leg.

• Robert Neil Baun was born in Lanigan, Sask. on Sept. 9, 1936. He played junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey Association's Toronto Marlboros from 1952 to 1956, winning back-to-back Memorial Cups in his last two years with the team. • Baun's National Hockey League career spanned 17 seasons, during which he donned the jerseys of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Oakland Seals and Detroit Red Wings. During the 1970-71 season, Baun was claimed off waivers by the Buffalo Sabres and promptly traded to the St. Louis Blues before being sent back to the Maple Leafs in exchange for forward Brit Selby.

• Though just five feet nine inches tall, Baun was revered as one of the NHL's most effective and hard-hitting body checkers of his era.

• After scoring his heroic 1964 game-winning playoff goal, Baun refused to have his leg X-rayed until after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals for fear Leafs medical staff would refuse to let him play.

• Though commonly referred to as an ankle injury, Baun's legendary break was sustained on his lower right leg just above the ankle. Earlier in the game, Baun had been hit in the leg with a puck shot by Red Wings great Gordie Howe, likely causing the initial fracture.

• Baun retired from the NHL in 1972 after suffering a neck injury in his fifth game of the season. He was 36 years old at the time. After three years spent cattle farming, Baun returned to hockey as head coach of the World Hockey Association's Toronto Toros. Despite a roster that included his former Leafs teammates Paul Henderson, Frank Mahovlich and Jim Dorey, the Toros registered the worst record of the WHA's 1975-76 season, prompting Baun to return to farming.

Medium: Television
Program: Hockey Night in Canada
Broadcast Date: April 23, 1964
Commentator: Bill Hewitt
Duration: 2:38

Last updated: April 25, 2014

Page consulted on April 25, 2014

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