Larry Jeffrey

Larry Jeffrey started his career as a Red Wing, won a Stanley Cup with Toronto, had a short stint as a Ranger and then retired to the beach in Goderich, Ontario!

Larry Jeffrey played 76 games in a Maple Leaf jersey. Unfortunately, injuries which plagued most of his hockey career would keep him from skating with the Leafs in their Stanley Cup celebration. Instead, he would be on crutches when the championship team picture was taken with the Stanley Cup in 1967.

Jeffrey became a Maple Leaf when he was traded by the Detroit Red Wings on May 20, 1965. Punch Imlach, the Leafs general manager at that time seemed to have a penchant for blockbuster trades and this deal between Toronto and Detroit was no exception to that rule. Andy Bathgate, Billy Harris and Gary Jarrett headed to the Motor City in exchange for Jeffrey, Marcel Pronovost, Ed Joyal, Aut Erickson and Lowell MacDonald.

Jeffrey spent the 1965-66 hockey season playing 20 games with the Leafs and 51 games with their AHL farm club the Rochester Americans. But he would spend the entire 1966-67 season with the Maple Leafs. He played 56 regular season games notching 11 goals and 17 assists. Larry played 6 games in the playoffs that season before suffering an injury that would force him to watch from the press box as his team mates skated to a Stanley Cup victory. 

In the expansion draft on June 6, 1967 Jeffrey’s time in Toronto ended as he was claimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, he would never suit up with this expansion club as that same the Penguins dealt him to the New York Rangers for four players.

Two years later the Rangers sent him back to his original NHL club the Detroit Red Wings on June 17, 1969. Unfortunately, a few months later he suffered a career-ending injury on October 5, 1969.  

Larry Jeffrey’s debut in the National Hockey League exceeded the imagination of even the most star struck young hockey player. He had started the 1961-62 hockey season with the Red Wings farm club in Edmonton. Part way into the season he received a call to report to the Red Wings. So, in the early hours of the morning he boarded a plane and head half way across the continent.  When he arrived in the Motor City, he received a reception similar to that given to heads of state. At the airport he was met by two Detroit police officers who escorted him to the arena, arriving only a few minutes before the opening face-off of a game between the Wings and the Maple Leafs. Despite the emotional and physical strain from the arduous trek Jeffrey left an impression with the Red Wings and their fans in that first game that he was ready for the NHL! 

On his second shift he received a ten misconduct for arguing an off-side call. In the second period, Jeffrey scored his first NHL goal. This tally against Johnny Bower would be the first of five in his first five games in the NHL.

Larry Jeffrey was born on October 12, 1940 on a farm near Zurich a farming community in south-western Ontario. His family moved to the nearby town of Goderich when he only a year old. He spent his childhood playing in the Goderich minor hockey system.  His teams were a family affair as 5 or 6 relatives, including his brother, played on the same team each season. His Goderich teams captured the All-Ontario Pee-Wee and Bantam championships and when the Jeffrey clan suited up for the midget team, they won the All-Ontario title twice!

Larry’s hockey abilities came to the attention of the Detroit Red Wings and he was invited to their Hamilton Red Wings’ junior farm club’s training camp at the beginning of the 1957-58 season. Due to an illness he missed most of the camp and was assigned to play for Burlington’s junior “B” club. Midway through the 1957-58 campaign Larry was called up to the Hamilton team.  

In a 1998 interview Larry told me that a highlight of his junior career occurred during the 1958-59 season when he played in the OHA All-Star game along with future NHLers Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle.

He also recalled that at his first his first Detroit training camp, he was awe-struck. As a youngster he had been a Red Wing fan and now he was on the same ice as his hero, Gordie Howe! Despite the fact that he was nervous and a little overwhelmed by the circumstance Larry remembers that he got into fight with the fiery Forbes Kennedy.  

He returned to junior and during his last season an interesting incident occurred when Detroit played an exhibition game with their junior club. Gordie Howe was coming down the ice on his wrong wing, with his head down, and Larry clobbered him with a hard check.  Jeffrey continued to play and didn’t give another thought to his hit on Howe. A little later in the game, he says he was waiting for the play to develop when out of the blue “a freight train hit me”. Larry was just beginning to learn that the game’s greatest player did not let a hit go without repaying the slight!

If Jeffrey thought that Howe considered the score evened, he was wrong! A season later, in a practice, he was standing beside Howe waiting for the puck to be dropped at a face-off when Gordie said, “have an eye on my stick”. As the puck dropped Howe’s stick flashed upward, catching Jeffrey in a vulnerable area, and the rookie crumpled to the ice, gasping for air. Howe had settled the score to his satisfaction!

During the pre-season of 1962-63 Jeffrey tore his knee ligaments when he was hit by Teddy Green. The resulting operation would be the first of 11 surgeries performed on his knee culminating with a knee implant surgery in 1998. During the next six years he wore every kind of brace available. 

At the age of 29 Larry Jeffrey was out of hockey. Fortunately, his chronic knee problems had led him to prepare for the day that he finally hung up his skates. He  owned a beef farm and bought a concession booth at the beach in his home town of Goderich! 

Although his hockey career ended prematurely, Larry lived the dream of most Canadian boys. He not only played in the NHL, but he played on a Stanley Cup Champion team in Toronto. 


More Great Hockey History Stories

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.

Alex Faulkner: NHL Pioneer only played one game as a Toronto Maple Leaf, but to hockey fans in Newfoundland it was an important hockey game!

Forbes Kennedy suited up for 13 regular season games and one playoff game as a Toronto Maple Leaf. But a lot can happen in 14 hockey games!

Jean Beliveau, an outstanding hockey player, baseball player, a nice guy who in Quebec City was known as the "Ice Cream Man".

Hockey history: Florida details the one-year life of the Tropical Hockey League that entertained fans in the south Florida region in the late 1930s.

Larry Jeffrey started his career as a Red Wing, won a Stanley Cup with Toronto, had a short stint as a Ranger and then retired to the beach in Goderich, Ontario!

Paul Henderson: A Canadian Hockey Hero, "I scored six really good goals and the garbage goal is the one that everyone remembers.”

W.O.A.A. - Western Ontario Athletic Association was the idea of one man that grew to successfully promote sports in western Ontario.

Hockey history is full of surprises, amazing stories and athletes who never cease to surprise. It is more than just stories about the NHL, it is tales from the minor leagues, the bush leagues, and much more. And, it is not just a Canadian story.


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