The Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the “Original Six” NHL teams, is an ice hockey club located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The 13-time Stanley Cup winners compete in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the NHL. Founded nearly a century ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs have changed the franchise name four times, being a name-change record holder.
Toronto was slow to enter the competitive hockey rink. Thus, the first professional ice hockey team from la Ville-Reine was the Toronto Blueshirts, established in 1911. The team played in the National Hockey Association (NHA). In the 1913-14 season, the Blueshirts became Stanley Cup champions. The club was operated by notorious Edward Livingston, bothered other NHA team owners, who were much annoyed by his business practices. In 1917, the Toronto Blueshirts joined the NHL on the condition of cutting their ties with Livingstone. The Mutual Street Arena took the club under its wing; thus, the local people began calling the team Arenas. A year later, the team officially adopted the given name. The franchise joined the NHL during its inaugural season as the Toronto Arenas. In 1919, the new owners changed the club’s name to Toronto St. Patricks. The name might have hinted at the owners’ nationality of the owners: St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.
One of Toronto’s franchise history’s most dramatic turnouts came in 1927 when Conn Smythe purchased the wooden-spoon team. Served as a general manager of the New York Rangers, Smythe had been dismissed before the Rangers played a regular-season game. On returning to Toronto, up-and-coming Smythe was able to collect $160,000 to buy an outsider.
Conn Smythe was a Canadian businessman and sportsman. In 1965, the NHL honored his huge contribution to hockey by introducing the Conn Smythe Trophy, an annual award to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs. His first task as the new owner was the name changed to the Toronto Maple Leafs. There were plenty of reasons for this change. Firstly, the Maple Leafs is an extremely symbolic and patriotic name since Canada’s flag featured a stylized maple leaf.
Secondly, a long time ago, Toronto was a home town for the East Maple Leafs. The story tells that Smythe named his new team a tribute to the team’s memory he had once scouted.
Thirdly, the franchise was named in honor of the Royal Regiment of Canada, a Toronto-based infantry regiment, who wore a maple-leaf regiment badge.
Carlton the Bear, an anthropomorphic polar bear, is the official mascot of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Meaning and History
During World War I, Canadian soldiers wore the symbol of their native land – the maple leaf on their military badges. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ owner Conn Smythe, who served in the artillery in World War I, wanted his team to wear the given logo with honor, pride, and courage.
Fourteen logos accurately reflect the history of the franchise and the evolution of its name. The changes in the visual identity of the club convey important events in his career. The rebranding was associated with the renaming. The team began its sports path as Toronto Arenas, then became Toronto St. Patricks and only later received its modern name, which is still located in the maple leaf center.
The team’s first name was the Toronto Arenas, whose primary logo was as plain as day. It featured the capital blue-scripted letter “T” standing for the city of Toronto.
1918 – 1919
The new Toronto Arenas logo was updated with the “Arenas” wordmark in dark blue behind the letter “T.”
1919 – 1922
Since in 1920, the team was renamed the Toronto St. Patricks, the club palette’s main color became green. The third Toronto St. Patricks logo included the city’s green-scripted name placed above the “StPats” wordmark.
1922 – 1925
From 1922 to 1925, the team logo looked like a green pill-shaped background with white-scripted “St. Pats” wordmark inside.
1925 – 1926
The 1926 logo was back to the 1920 logo. It featured “Toronto” and “St Pats” wordmarks on the top and bottom. Both words were written in the lighter green shade.
1926 – 1927
In 1927, the franchise was acquired by Conn Smythe to begin the Toronto Maple Leafs era. Their original logo included a green maple leaf, resembling a tree, with the team’s white-scripted name inside.
1927 – 1938
For the next ten years, the primary team color was changed from green to blue. It was a return to the roots. In general, the logo remained identical to the previous one. The color of the maple leaf was the sole alteration.
1938 – 1963
The eighth Toronto Maple Leafs logo served the team for a long time. The concept remained the same: the blue maple leaf with the “Toronto Maple Leafs” in white inside. However, the given maple leaf had another shape and white veins.
1963 – 1967
In 1964, the logo designers added some details attempting to make it more realistic and voluminous. Now the logo featured the blue maple leaf with white veins and a white inner outline. The wordmark, its color, and design remained unchanged.
1967 – 1970
A distinctive change was made to the Leafs’ logo in 1968. The previous Leaf crest was replaced with a solid 11-point maple leaf – identical to the maple leaf displayed on the Canadian flag. The new logo looked more minimalistic with a new silhouette and sharper edges.
1971 – 1982
The 1971 Toronto Maple Leafs logo had even sharper edges than the previous one. The maple leaf itself looked simpler. The font of the “Toronto Maple Leafs” wordmark was changed to a bolder font.
1982 – 1987
1987 – 2016
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ logo was still a text-based maple-leaf-shaped emblem in dark blue. The blue color became darker and deeper. The full name of the team was written in white over the leaf.
2016 – present
On February 2, 2016, the officials unveiled a new logo, the Toronto Maple Leafs emblem, for the 2016-2017 season to celebrate the franchise. The logo was inspired by the iconic crest worn from the 1940s to the 1960s, yet combining both brand new and time-tested features. There are no contour lines in this version, but the shape, color, size, structure, veins are identical. The characteristic ribbed edges indicate that it is a maple leaf. It was first approved in 1926 by Conn Smythe. He, along with fellow soldiers from Canada, wore it during World War I.
The return to the origins of the symbolism is associated with the club’s centenary, celebrated in 2017. In the current version, the number of ribs and veins on a leaf is very important. They testify to important historical events that are associated with it. The 31 points protruding around the edges represent 1931, and the 31st point that refers to the opening of Maple Leaf Gardens. The top 13 streaks represent the team’s 13 Stanley Cup Championships. And 17 more (13 top + 4 bottom) are dedicated to the year the franchise was founded, 1917.
Font and color of the Emblem
The earliest logo designs are simple and straightforward. They represent the large “T” and indicate the club’s location – the city of Toronto. From 1917 to 1927, they were purely textual. Then the legendary maple leaf appeared, which underwent several transformations. Designers changed its size, shape, style, put different meanings. The image, as close as possible to the modern one, was approved in 1938. It differs only in recesses – in the current version, they are more expressive and sharp.
The textual part has always played a huge role in the team’s visual identity, so the management never removed the inscription from the logo. There are five types of typefaces in the history of Toronto Maple Leafs logos. All of them (except the 1927-1938 version) are smooth, chopped, grotesque types. But the color palette is simple and consists only of blue and white.