"Hap" Day

"Hap" Day was a Hall of Fame hockey player, coach and general manager as well as a life-long Toronto Maple Leaf.

Clarence “Hap” Day:
Player, Captain, & Coach

Clarence “Hap” Day, other than other Conn Smythe and King Clancy, is perhaps the one person who dominated the first twenty-five years of Maple Leafs hockey.

“Hap” Day started his career with Maple Leafs as a defenseman. But, before he retired from the world of hockey, he had served as the team’s captain, and coach. 

Hap DayHap Day Toronto Maple Leafs - Paul White Sports Memorabilia Collection

Day’s presence with the Leafs was even extended to the general manager’s office. Although he was never officially named the general manager, from 1955 through 1957 he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the team.

Day was born in Owen Sound, Ontario on June 1, 1901. As a youngster his family moved to the Midland area on the southern shore of Georgian Bay. He played amateur hockey for the Midland Juniors before moving on to play OHA Senior “A” for the Hamilton Tigers.  

He was not just a great athlete, but also an outstanding student. He combined sports and academics by studying pharmacy and chemistry at the University of Toronto.  

In 1924 “Hap” signed to play for the Toronto St. Pats. In 1927 he became a Maple Leaf when Conn Smythe purchased the team and changed its name to the Maple Leafs. Smythe made Day the Leafs first captain. 

The all-star defenseman patrolled the Leaf’s blueline until he was traded to the New York Americans in 1937.  

When he signed with the St. Pats, Day received the incredible sum of $5,000 for the season. Although this does not seem like much money when compared to the salaries of today's professional hockey players, his contract was higher than any previous Toronto hockey player had received.

He was an outstanding defenseman and many, including his former team mate, "Ace" Bailey, considered “Hap” Day to be the best defenseman ever to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. His skills and leadership were so highly regarded that he was chosen captain of Maple Leafs over such legendary team mates as "Ace" Bailey, "Red" Horner and Charlie Conacher.

While playing in Toronto, the entrepreneurial Day convinced the owners of the Maple Leafs to allow him to practice as pharmacist in a pharmacy which he set up in Maple Leaf Gardens. However, according to columnist George Hayes, pharmacist Day "sold more sandwiches and milkshakes than he did pills."

After playing the 1937-38 season for the New York Americans "Hap" Day retired as a player. For the next two seasons he worked as a NHL referee. In 1940 Day threw away his referee's whistle and stepped behind the bench to become the coach of the Maple Leafs.

During his NHL career he scored 86 goals and recorded 116 assists. These numbers are considerable considering that most defensemen in that era played a purely defensive game and seldom rushed into the opponent’s end of the ice like the great defensemen such as Doug Harvey and Bobby Orr of later eras.

In 1933 Day captained the Maple Leafs to their first Stanley Cup. Winning the Stanley Cup would become a habit for "Hap" as a coach. He coached the Maple Leafs from 1940 until 1950 and during that time the Toronto team captured five Stanley Cups. Perhaps Day's coaching abilities are best remembered for the exploits of his team in the 1941-42 Stanley Cup playoffs. That year the Red Wings won the first three games of the finals. However, Coach Day regrouped his troops and under his leadership the Maple Leafs won the next four games and the Stanley Cup! This is a feat that has never been duplicated in the National Hockey League! 

After leaving the coaching ranks he was twice offered the presidency of the American Hockey League. But instead "Hap" retired to St. Thomas, Ontario where he owned Elgin Handles until he sold his interests in 1977.

Writer Al Nickleson wrote of Clarence "Hap" Day in the 1950-51 Maple Leafs program:

He's a living example of a truly great athlete, who never smoked or drank and who, as a kid, trudged a total of 10 miles in bitter cold so that he might practice hockey at a rink in Owen Sound.

His dedication to the game and his strict principles led more than one of his players to state that Coach Day's training camps were more like prison camps. His loathing of players wasting their time on road trips, drinking alcohol, led to some interesting attempts to evade the scrutiny of the disciplinarian coach. Rex MacLeod wrote in the Toronto Star in 1983 that:

"Players who liked to slake their thirst on road trips discovered it was prudent to hide out in dark saloons, far off the beaten path and even then it was advisable to post a lookout. "Teatotaller" Day somehow had an incredible instinct for homing in on the players' favourite watering holes."

Clarence “Hap” Day player, captain, and coach, not to mention de facto general manager probably more than anyone else typifies the first twenty five years of Maple Leafs hockey!

SIDEBAR: Little is known about Clarence "Hap" Day's hockey exploits during his youth in the Owen Sound area. However, Day told a gathering in 1948 honouring himself and two other Owen Sound hockey legends, "Butch" Keeling and Harry Lumley, that because his family did not have enough money to buy a sweater he could not play for his school team. "The sweaters", he said, "cost $2.75 and at the time the Day’s, individually and collectively, didn't have it!"

A version of this story first appeared in my Sports History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times. For more information about Owen Sound's hockey history, check out my latest hockey book, Journey Through Owen Sound's Hockey History.

  1. History Articles
  2. Hockey History
  3. "Hap" Day
Share this page:

More Great Information Pages
About Owen Sound Hockey History

The 1920s Owen Sound Hockey Stars made there mark in amateur ranks and then many of them went on to careers in the NHL and other professional hockey leagues.

The 1927 Owen Sound Greys with a priest serving as coach named Jack Spratt and not one experienced defenseman were an unlikely Canadian National Hockey Championship team.

Benny Grant: Memorial Cup Champ grew up in Owen Sound and enjoyed a hockey career, which included a surprising turn of events that led to a stint in the NHL.

"Buck" Jones, like most Canadian boys, dreamed of playing in the NHL. Little did he realize that one day he would wear the sweater of an NHL club and would be the idol of youngsters like himself!

The Chin Brothers dominated in their hockey league which drew attention from the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Ralph "Cooney" Weiland skated from a Memorial Cup championship in Owen Sound, to a Stanley Cup in Boston to fame as a U.S. college hockey coach.

The Crescent Club has a long history of sponsoring sports teams and leagues in Owen Sound providing consistent management and financial assistance to athletics.

"Cyclone" Taylor was hockey's first superstar. Born in Tara Ontario, he was involved in a controversy in Ottawa which still has not been resolved.

Doug Brindley: From Maple Draft Choice to a role in Slap Shot: a Memorial Cup champ; coached by Don Cherry; and he played in the WHA; what more could a Walkerton Ontario native ask for in a hockey career?

The Durham Yellowjackets hockey team was a force to be reckoned with in Ontario Intermediate hockey in the 1930s.

Goalie "Red" Henry: An All-Star Netminder: Another great Owen Sound goalie who played for the love of the game.

"Hap" Day was a Hall of Fame hockey player, coach and general manager as well as a life-long Toronto Maple Leaf.

Norm Locking Chicago Black Hawks & Former Owen Sound Grey was known for his hard and deadly shot in Al Capone's Chicago.

Harry Lumley spent his Hall of Fame hockey career tending the nets for four NHL clubs and he spent one period of a hockey game goaltending for a fifth NHL team.

Henry Kelso: Owen Sound Sports Legend not only contributed to the sporting life of his students, he also had a significant influence on the rest of their lives.

Junior Hockey Commentary: Should there be controversy about the use of non-local hockey players? This article was written in 1998 in response to a letter to the editor in the Owen Sound Sun Times.

Meaford Knights Hockey: The 1953-54 Championship Knights' line-up had of several pairs of brothers. Many felt that the brothers made a winning difference.

Newspaper Sports: Owen Sound Hockey History was detailed in the pages of the Owen Sound Sun Times in detail in the days before the radio and television eras.

Owen Sound Hockey's early history some references suggest started in the 1880s. However there are records of organized hockey teams beginning in the early 1900s.

Owen Sound was a Hockey Hotbed in 1950-51: Their fans were hockey crazy during this OHA Senior A Championship season as their star-studded team marched to an Allan Cup victory.

The 1959-60 Owen Sound Greys: A Tough Act to Follow: Tragedy struck this hockey team of young men, yet they persevered.

The 1960s Owen Sound Greys Stars who went on to NHL action including Brian Perry, Doug Brindley, Jim Schoenfeld, and Jack Lynch brought Owen Sound a reputation as a hockey hotbed!

Owen Sound Attack: The arrival of this new OHL team is the latest chapter in the Owen Sound region's rich hockey history.

Owen Sound Goalies: Why does Owen Sound produce so many fine goaltenders? There must be something in the water! 

Some Great Owen Sound Greys. The history of this hockey team is a story of players who were not only local boys, but came from many locations to hone their skills.

Owen Sound Hockey Heritage stretches from rural farmhouses on Saturday night to backyard rinks to cheering for local hockey successes and hockey heroes.

Owen Sound Junior Hockey History began almost one hundred and twenty years ago and is rich with championship teams, great players, and dedicated fans. 

Owen Sound's New Arena in 1938 opened a new era in Grey and Bruce counties with the first artificial ice making machine in western Ontario north of Kitchener.

Owen Sound Platers: Ray McKelvie the quiet and knowledgeable leader behind the success of the 1999 hockey team.

Pat McReavy enjoyed a long hockey career which brought him three championships, the Stanley Cup, the Allan Cup and a World Hockey Title.

Paul MacDermid, born in Chesley Ontario, through hard work and determination enjoyed a 12 year NHL career, before keeping junior hockey alive in Owen Sound by working with a group citizens to purchase the Attack OHL franchise.

"Red" Armstrong, a fiery spirited hockey player, known more for his fierce checking than his scoring prowess surprised even himself on his first NHL shift.

Red Leckie was more than a good hockey player. He played for the team, not for himself. Outside hockey, he responded when he saw a need in his community.

Southampton hockey history in the early years featured a distinct line of defense in the local arena, and stories of interesting "road" trips.

Tommy Burlington: the Greatest North American Never to Play in the NHL captured scoring titles in every league that he played, bringing comparisons to NHL greats.

Owen Sound Hockey History is rich with stories of championship teams, star hockey players, and community support.