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Morning Coffee – Thu, Dec 17 – Raptors Republic

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8 bold predictions for the 2020-21 Toronto Raptors – Yahoo!

Raptors slip out of the top-5 in defense

Toronto’s defense kept the team afloat last season, especially across stretches where the Raptors suffered from injuries. Every member of the starting five graded out between good and elite on defense, and Nurse also had Ibaka, Powell, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to fill in. Toronto’s rim protection was airtight, particularly with Gasol in the middle, and the Raptors forced enough turnovers to fuel the most efficient transition offense in the league.

The Raptors will still be excellent on defense this season, but repeating as a top-five defense will be challenging. For one, the losses of Gasol and Ibaka are significant. Aron Baynes is a physical and disciplined defender, but he isn’t as big as Gasol, nor is he as savvy at anticipating plays. The drop-off from Ibaka to either Alex Len or Chris Boucher will be even steeper. Len offers slightly more size than Ibaka, and might be as effective in a conservative scheme where Len can simply stay by the basket, but Len has none of Ibaka’s versatility. Boucher is capable of the supernatural with his three-point blocks, however, he is prone to mistakes and is too slender in the post which leads him to compensate by jumping for everything.

The loss of Hollis-Jefferson isn’t significant on its own, but the bigger issue is that Toronto never replaced him. Anunoby is already being tabbed as the reserve power forward behind Pascal Siakam, while there is an open tryout between a handful of G-League forwards for the 15th slot. Hollis-Jefferson wasn’t consistent but he was immense at times. He famously forced Kawhi Leonard into a career-high in turnovers, then followed it up by limiting Damian Lillard to single digits in scoring. Hollis-Jefferson was instrumental in the 30-point comeback against Dallas, and stood up Karl-Anthony Towns as a smallball center during the 15-game win streak. That’s not insignificant, especially for a team that lacks size from top to bottom.

The cumulative effect of their offseason losses will set the Raptors back, the question is by how much. The only teams that are definitely better on defense are the Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks, who both have too much size and experience to fail. If Baynes’ health and rim protection holds up, the Raptors will be in that next tier with the Celtics, Clippers, and Sixers.

Raptors’ backcourt logjam, new situations at home and away – The Athletic

One of the brighter spots: newcomer DeAndre’ Bembry. After playing nine minutes in the opener, mostly with players thought to be deep on the bench, he jumped up to 16 on Monday, even getting a look in the second quarter in OG Anunoby’s place with the rest of the starters. The Raptors looked good during that stretch and Bembry finished with nine points, two assists and a steal. He fluently controlled the ball in transition, helping Fred VanVleet get going off the ball.

“He was kind of in the Pat McCaw role today,” VanVleet said on Monday, “just taking the pressure off. Those guys were picking up full court and (it helped to) have an extra ball handler. And he was a scorer in college. I remember him coming out (in the) class and DeAndre has some great ball skills. He can put on the floor, he can shoot and he can playmake. So there’s a rhythm. I think I’ve been studying his game. I think he knows my game. And so we just had a natural rhythm out there.”

“This is the perfect system for him,” Alex Len, Bembry’s teammate in Atlanta and now Toronto/Tampa, said of Bembry’s fit within the Raptors’ more aggressive defensive schemes. “He’s going to be flying around on defence getting stops, getting hands on the ball. I think it’s a perfect fit for him.”

Beyond Bembry’s poor career 3-point shooting, there is just one problem: The Raptors have a ton of guards. After OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, the Raptors quickly become short on players who might crack the rotation who can be classified as bigger wings. This is a guard-heavy team, and that is even after considering the two-point-guard starting unit.

In fact, Nurse said that Norman Powell might be playing small forward instead of shooting guard. While positions are pretty much interchangeable at this point, Nurse is speaking about positions in terms of size — that Powell will be on the floor more often with two players who are smaller than him rather than just one. With Stanley Johnson looking to be an afterthought in terms of rotation minutes, the Raptors are going to have to play on the small end more often than not.

The Raptors have rarely suffered because of this defensively, but they have sometimes struggled to score against bigger, longer teams such as Philadelphia and Boston because their scorers lack size or the requisite athleticism to make up for it.

We’ll see how much that impacts the Raptors. In the short term, it is immediately clear there are not enough minutes to go around. Even if you pencilled in Flynn for just 10 minutes per game and assumed three of the Raptors’ guards will be playing at all times, which is faulty because they will be starting with only two of them, the rotation players’ averages from last year would already have them nearly 40 minutes above the 144 total minutes available across three positions.

Why smaller lineups could become Raptors’ go-to this season – Sportsnet

Toronto boasts a flexible roster, particularly among some of its core guards. So while it may look like this is a team that’s giving up size, from Nurse’s perspective, they won’t be in practice all that much.

“…I never really feel small,” Nurse said. “We don’t feel small because Fred and Kyle play so big, so that’s one thing. And I would imagine one of those guys probably shifts to part of the second unit. So, again, I think either Fred or Kyle can guard most twos in this league — and even threes — so I’m not overly concerned.”

The same can be said of a player like Powell, who can defend shooting guards and small forwards, and Anunoby, who we’ve seen play centre before and we know can guard all five positions on the court.

The Raptors can go small — and may have no choice but to do so with some of the standouts we’ve seen in the pre-season so far.

Nurse has been particularly impressed with newcomers Malachi Flynn and DeAndre’ Bembry so far and sounds like he wants to find a spot in the rotation for them. This means the team will likely have to play smaller than it has in the past to make room for them in Nurse’s rotation and, as he said, that not everyone on the roster will benefit from as much burn as, perhaps, promised.

“I’m not going to be able to for all those guys, that’s for sure,” Nurse said of finding minutes for all his guards and wing players. “I think that I’m continuing to evaluate it and I probably have to tinker around a little bit.

“You know, I would say that two guys we didn’t know at all have played very well in Flynn and Bembry. They’ve knocked on the door here for sure just because they’ve played so well. And it’s just one of those situations where you can’t play everybody.”

This is an interesting wrinkle coming Nurse’s way with Toronto’s regular season beginning in exactly one week as he was indicating before that he wanted more certainty about the No. 8 or 9 spot of the rotation and Matt Thomas looking like the front-runner. Could Flynn and Bembry’s strong play be making Nurse think twice about Thomas in the spot now? Could it possibly return to a platoon spot in the rotation again?

With just one more pre-season game to play, chances are Nurse will continue to experiment even when the games become real.

Toronto Temperature: The preseason is underway and the Toronto Raptors are already hot – Raptors HQ

When the photo of the Raptors new red jersey hanging on a clearance hanger in a department store leaked, there was, understandably, some rancor. Twitter gathered in hordes to call the jersey lazy, uninspired, and downright unnecessary. Well, the echo chamber eventually calmed down and now we’re seeing the Raptors finally playing in the jerseys rather than merely viewing them under flourescent tube lighting.

Will the white jerseys look as good? Time will surely tell.

Giannis Antetokounmpo extension could impact Toronto Raptors’ decision on OG Anunoby – TSN.ca

There are several valid reasons to extend Anunoby ahead of the December 21 deadline – cost certainty, and buying goodwill with the player and his representation, are chief among them – but in spite of them all, it seemed unlikely that anything would get done, until Antetokounmpo made his commitment to the Bucks.

The primary benefit to waiting until the off-season, allowing Anunoby to become a restricted free agent, and signing him – or matching an offer sheet – then is to maximize cap space for next summer, which has been a top priority for Toronto. As a free agent, Anunoby would remain on the books for his cap hold of $11.6 million, as opposed to the first-year salary of his new deal if they were to extend him, which would probably be in the neighbourhood of $15-to-20 million.

With only , VanVleet and Malachi Flynn under guaranteed contract past this season, the Raptors have given themselves the flexibility to open up enough room to sign a max player on the open market. In this scenario, they could theoretically use their space on a big-name free agent, then exceed the cap – and likely go into the luxury tax – to retain Anunoby using his Bird Rights.

Given the recent emphasis on keeping their books as clean as possible following 2020-21 – it’s the reason why was only given a one-year extension last fall, it’s why VanVleet’s new deal was negotiated with a dip in salary for his second season, and it’s why they weren’t more aggressive in pursuing or in free agency – that appeared to be the Raptors’ plan.

“I think there are talks to be had,” team president Masai Ujiri said earlier this month, when he was asked about the possibility of extending Anunoby. “They know of the abilities that we [have], so we’ll keep having those conversations.”

The implication there was that unless Anunoby and his reps are willing to take a significant discount to get a deal done now – likely something close to that cap hold of $11.6 million, which is far lower than what they’re asking for – it will have to wait until the summer.

However, things have changed. With Antetokounmpo – Toronto’s presumed top target in free agency – off the board, would Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster be more inclined to eat into their coveted cap space in order to secure Anunoby’s future with the team? The answer, most likely, is that it will depend on the cost.

Anunoby’s camp is believed to be seeking something in the ballpark of the four-year, $85 million deal that VanVleet got last month. The team will likely come back with an annual figure closer to $15 million. Would both parties be agreeable to a compromise in the range of $17-to-18 million annually?

At that price, the path to opening up a max slot next summer would become far more complicated, verging on impossible, and would probably take the Raptors out of the running for top tiered free agents like or . On the other hand, those guys don’t move the needle in the same way Antetokounmpo would have. Toronto would have its young core of Siakam, VanVleet and Anunoby under contract for the foreseeable future, and would still have enough cap space to chase a lower tiered free agent or two, and perhaps bring Lowry back.

DeAndre’ Bembry’s role with the Raptors remains unclear, but he’s used to being under the radar | The Star

The most impressive character trait of DeAndre’ Bembry is that he fully knows what he could be but also realizes what he needs to be. That difference may unlock a role for him with the Raptors this season.

Bembry could be a scorer. He has been one in the past and the skills are there to be developed. It would be great if the 26-year-old morphed into a slasher and a shooter and a 15-point-a-night kind of guy.

But to fit with Toronto, to earn minutes and as defined a role as any backup on the roster will have, Bembry knows that defending and helping, doing the unglamorous work is the key.

It’s a mature mindset, one appreciated by his teammates and his coaches, the men who will ultimately determine how much he plays.

“People enjoy my defence so much they might overlook that … I can play with the ball, I’m a real good cutter, but I don’t mind being under the radar,” Bembry said after Toronto’s pre-season win over Charlotte on Monday. “I’ve been under the radar a long time in my life, so I think I’ve just always tried to find a way and it just always seems to work out for me.”

It will work out for Bembry with the Raptors if he can consistently fill a role that’s probably best described as “the other guy.” The team has enough scoring, it needs versatility from its backups, a willingness to defend first and take what comes on offence. Bembry seems self-aware enough to understand that.

“He makes a lot of good plays and he might be a fit,” coach Nick Nurse said after Bembry got his first extended run with a group of starters on Monday.

“He looked like he was a good fit out there with the kind of majority of the first group. So, (we’re) still learning him and he’s learning us, I like what I’ve seen so far.”

What next for NBA teams waiting on Giannis Antetokounmpo? – Yahoo!

Toronto’s concerns are less pressing and possibly less consequential. The Raptors have also not been a popular free-agent destination. President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri had developed close ties to Antetokounmpo, which made Toronto a possibility. Ujiri’s history with Leonard leaves open the possibility of a reunion, but beyond that unlikely scenario pitching Toronto over Miami is a tough sell to NBA players.

Pascal Siakam is an All-NBA performer but not one who can be the best player on a championship team. Only he and Fred VanVleet are signed beyond 2021 for less than half the projected salary cap. OG Anunoby will warrant a healthy raise, but not one so hefty that it will break the bank, barring the positive development of a breakout season that commands one. Toronto should be able to maintain cap flexibility going forward, although that could mean the loss of quality players like Norman Powell and franchise mainstay Kyle Lowry.

Re-signing Powell and Lowry or trading their expiring contracts for longer-term assets are also possibilities now that the allure of Antetokounmpo is gone. It might even be likely without a superstar awaiting in 2021. That would keep Toronto a star away from contention, with plenty of tradable assets to make a move. Heck, the Raptors could enter the fray for Harden right now with a package that might have to include Siakam.

Ujiri is as sound a decision-maker as there is in the NBA, and that means the Raptors will be fine. They may not be great without Antetokounmpo in the picture, but they will be ready when an opportunity rises again.

Siakam becoming a better player knowing he’ll draw added attention from foes | Toronto Sun

There’s no rim protector like Serge Ibaka, no big capable of making solid entry passes or swinging the ball the way Marc Gasol did, no alpha dog in Leonard.

Kyle Lowry might be the heart and soul of the franchise, but he’s in the final year of his deal, while Fred VanVleet is entering the first year of a new four-year contract.

To say the Raptors are championship contenders would be wrong.

To say Siakam is about to enter a big season would be to state the obvious.

What’s required from Siakam is to show that he is mentally and physically capable of assuming that go-to role.

And then it’s up to the Raptors to surround him with the necessary pieces.

As of today, it would seem a reach to suggest the team can or will acquire a piece that is better than Siakam.

Even in the pre-season, which wraps up Friday when the Raptors play a “home’’ game in Tampa against Miami, extra defenders have been sent Siakam’s way.

Coach Nick Nurse noticed the extra attention Charlotte gave Siakam in Monday’s tip.

Teams load up on players such as Siakam, who in turn need to make the right read and pass when the ball gets forced out of his hands.

During his Zoom call, Nurse spoke of adjustment the Hornets made when Siakam wanted to initiate drives.

“I give him credit for passing out of those (double teams) so willingly and doing it well,’’ Nurse said. “That’s kind of the scenario you find yourself a little more lately in this league when you’re a scorer. Teams are going to say: ‘OK, let’s hold down the other guys. This guy is going to get his anyway.’ Or some teams are saying: ‘This guy is not beating us tonight.’ On those nights you have to become a facilitator because there’s just no way to fight the game.

“It’s part of a development for him. We’ve been practising a lot with him. And it’s just not him because it’s the other guys’ spacing, the other guys’ cutting into areas where we can hurt them. And we should. If you put two or three (defenders) on the ball you’ve done your job as a scorer.”

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Conor McGregor’s leg ‘completely dead’, ‘like an American football’ after Dustin Poirier’s kicks at UFC 257 – MMA Fighting

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Like many fighters whose calves get kicked, Conor McGregor didn’t realize the damage done until it was too late.

Speaking to reporters after his loss to Dustin Poirier in the headliner of UFC 257 on Saturday, McGregor struggled to process the reversal of fortune that turned a solid performance in the first round into a stoppage via second-round TKO.

“It’s heartbreaking,” McGregor said after stepping up to the podium at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, which hosted the pay-per-view event. “It’s hard to take. The highest highs and the lowest lows in this game.”

Part of McGregor’s reconciliation was accepting how much of a part Poirier’s low leg kicks played in setting up the flurry of punches that handed him the first TKO loss of his professional MMA career.

The former two-division champ and box-office star showed up to the press conference on crutches.

“My leg is completely dead, and even though I felt like I was checking them, it was just sinking into the muscle in the front of the leg, and it was badly compromised, he said. “It’s like an American football in my shoe at the minute. It is what it is. Dustin fought a hell of a fight.”

Poirier was the victim of McGregor’s punches the first time they met in 2014 in a featherweight bout. The loss was the catalyst for Poirier to move up to the lightweight division, where he went on a tear that led to the interim title.

As for the path McGregor will walk, he said he’ll make the necessary adjustments and soldier on. There’s no doubt that part of his work will be to minimize the potential affect of low kicks. Up until the second round, McGregor felt he was trending in the right direction despite giving up a takedown.

“I thought I done well,” he said. “I got up, turned him. I felt alright with him in the clinch, I felt like I was better than him in the clinch. But too little, too late. The leg was compromised, and I didn’t adjust. Fair play to Dustin.”

McGregor is not the first fighter to suffer debilitating effects as the result of calf kicks. The strike affects the peroneal nerve that provides movement and sensation to the leg. Damage to the nerve can cause foot drop, rendering a fighter unable to lift or plant the foot. While it didn’t appear that the ex-champ was hobbled in such a way, he said the situation only got worse as Poirier continued to land the strike.

“I was going to tough her out,” he said. “I toughed it out as much as I could. It was an unusual one. I felt like I lifted my leg up multiple times, but it just sunk into to the muscle at the front, and it was badly compromised. And then Dustin had good, solid defense, as well. So when I was pressing forward with the shots, he was defending well. He fought a hell of a fight, and I’m happy for him.”

McGregor made no excuses for being unable to perform. The setback was instead something to reflect on, and he was still in that process as reporters asked him about what happened. The best answer he could arrive at was that he had simply been outclassed, and he would return to make things right.

“It was a phenomenal performance from Dustin,” he said. “I don’t know what to say. I’m going to go back, chill out, watch the full fight and get a better grasp on it. But the leg was compromised, and I was rushing the shots a little bit. And I didn’t adjust. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. I don’t even know whether I’m that upset. I don’t know what to say.”

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Why George Armstrong was the best captain the Maple Leafs ever had – Sportsnet.ca

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George Armstrong would stand in front of the full-length mirror in the locker room, his arms skinny like broomsticks, teeth in his hand and belly puffed out.

“You’re beautiful, Chiefy-cat,” he’d say, flexing his muscles as his teammates roared with laughter.

This was the ‘Chief’: the Toronto Maple Leafs captain who doubled as locker-room joker.

“George always kept things light,” recalled fellow Hall of Famer and former teammate Red Kelly back in 2013, chuckling. “Toronto was lucky to have him, in good times and bad.”

Armstrong, nicknamed Chief because of his Iroquois heritage, died at the age of 90. The team announced his passing on Sunday.

One of the first players of Indigenous descent to play professional hockey and the longest-serving captain in Maple Leafs history, Armstrong played his first full season for the Blue and White in 1952. He was named captain six years later by team owner Conn Smythe and wore the “C” for 12 seasons, leading the Leafs to four Stanley Cups. During the unlikely run in 1967 against the Montreal Canadiens, it was the Chief who scored the Cup-clinching goal on an empty net.

“He got over centre and he shot the puck, straight as an arrow,” Kelly said.

It’s a moment burned in the memory of many a Leafs fan; the last time Toronto hoisted Lord Stanley’s mug.

Despite all of Armstrong’s accomplishments, he long remained one of the game’s most underrated leaders. The big right winger wasn’t a fast skater and he didn’t have a great shot; critics didn’t even think he’d crack the NHL. But he was a hard worker and in his 21 seasons in Toronto, he tallied 296 goals and 417 assists in 1,187 games.

Smythe called No. 10 “the best captain the Leafs have ever had.” Coach Punch Imlach thought so much of Armstrong’s leadership that when the Chief retired for a short time after the 1967 season, Imlach left the captain position open in case he came back (he did).

“Some people thought I was nuts to hold the job open, but I never thought so,” Imlach later wrote. “George Armstrong did more for the Maple Leafs than any other hockey player who played for me. He always felt that he had a responsibility to the game, that it gave him a lot and he was always trying to put some of it back.”

Armstrong wasn’t the type to give speeches. He led by example, the last guy off the ice after practice. When Jim McKenny joined the Leafs as a rookie, Armstrong taught him to work the corners and boards, told him to stay out of league politics, even tried to make sure he made curfew. He treated everyone with the same respect, from first-liners to players who rode the bench. And he used his off-ice antics to help his teammates keep loose before big games.

“He’d always come up with something at the spur of the moment,” Kelly said. “It was just like, boom, out of nowhere, he’d hit the target and he’d have us all laughing.”

Armstrong went on to coach the Ontario Hockey Association’s Toronto Marlboros for three seasons, leading them to a Memorial Cup championship in 1975, the same year he was enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He even reluctantly took over behind the bench for the Leafs during the 1988–89 season, a short stint before starting a job as a scout for the Toronto club.

The Chief was a private guy who didn’t do interviews or make many appearances, which McKenny said was a shame, since Armstrong was such a great personality.

“He always [took] it upon himself to entertain,” said McKenny, chuckling.

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George Armstrong, Maple Leafs legend and long-time captain, dead at 90 – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO — George Armstrong, who captained the Toronto Maple Leafs to four Stanley Cups in the ’60s and wore the blue and white his entire career, has died.

He was 90.

The Maple Leafs confirmed the death Sunday on Twitter.

Armstrong played a record 1,187 games with 296 goals and 417 assists over 21 seasons for the Leafs, including 13 seasons as team captain. The right-winger added another 26 goals and 34 assists in 110 playoff games.

Known as the Chief, Armstrong was one of the first players of Indigenous descent to play professional hockey.

Armstrong was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975. Some 41 years later, Armstrong was voted No. 12 on the franchise’s list of 100 greatest Maple Leafs in its centennial season.

“George is part of the very fabric of the Toronto Maple Leaf organization and will be deeply missed,” Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement. “A proud yet humble man, he loved being a Maple Leaf but never sought the spotlight even though no player played more games for Toronto or captained the team longer. Always one to celebrate his teammates rather than himself, George couldn’t even bring himself to deliver his speech the day he was immortalized on Legends Row.”

A young Armstrong met Syl Apps when the Maple Leafs star came to his bantam team’s annual banquet. Armstrong would go on to wear No. 10, the first Leaf to do so after the retirement of talismanic Cup-winning captain Apps.

Armstrong would also become one of a select number of Leafs honoured with a banner at Scotiabank Arena and his number was officially retired in October 2016 at the team’s centennial anniversary home opener.

In 2015, Armstrong and Apps were added to the Leafs’ Legends Row.

The Leafs released a statement on Sunday with the words from Armstrong’s unread speech that night.

“Hockey is a great game and I love it. I am part of a fading generation that you will never have again. Every one of us is one of a kind, that will never be repeated. To all of my friends and acquaintances, thank you for your advice and direction, that helped make me who I am today ? a very, very happy person.”

After hanging up his skates in 1971, Armstrong coached the Toronto Marlboros to Memorial Cup victories in 1972-73 and 1974-75 before accepting a scouting position with the Quebec Nordiques in 1978.

He spent nine years with Quebec before returning to the Toronto fold as assistant general manager and scout in 1988. Armstrong served as interim coach for the final 47 games of the 1988-89 season after John Brophy was fired after an 11-20-2 start.

The next year, Armstrong returned to his role as a scout for the Leafs.

Armstrong scored 20 goals four times during his career but was better known for his leadership and work ethic, helping restore the franchise’s winning touch. A smart player and talented backchecker, he worked the angles to get the best shot at his opponent and formed a formidable penalty-killing tandem with Dave Keon.

A humble man, Armstrong was quick to deflect praise. He credited his players for his Memorial Cup wins as coach.

“It wasn’t because I was a great coach, it was because I had some great players,” he said in a 1989 interview, listing off the likes of the Howe brothers, John Tonelli, Mark Napier and Mike Palmateer.

And he offered a typical response when inducted into the Leaside Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

“I don’t know whether I deserve it or not but I sure am happy to get it,” said Armstrong, who lived in several areas of the city before making Leaside his Toronto home.

Born in Bowland’s Bay, Ont., to an Irish father and an Iroquois mother, a young Armstrong honed his hockey skills in Falconbridge near the Sudbury nickel mines where his father worked.

The Boston Bruins were interested but Armstrong waited until the Leafs put him on their protected list while he was playing with the Copper Cliff Jr. Redmen of the NOHA in 1946-47. After winning the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy as the OHA’s leading scorer with Stratford next season, the Leafs sent him to their main junior affiliate, the Toronto Marlboros.

He was elevated to the senior Marlies for the 1949 Allan Cup playoffs and helped the team win the title over Calgary the next year.

It was during the Allan Cup tournament, specifically a visit to the Stoney Indian Reserve in Alberta, that he got his nickname. When the band heard of Armstrong’s ancestral background, they made him an honorary member with the name “Chief Shoot-the-Puck” and presented him with a ceremonial headdress.

It was a different era and “The Chief” nickname stuck. Armstrong, who was proud of his mother’s heritage, would become the first player of Indigenous descent to score in the NHL.

He spent most of two seasons in Pittsburgh with the Leafs’ American Hockey League farm team before making the big league. He made his NHL debut in December 1949 and became a full-time member of the Leafs in time for the start of the 1952-53 season.

“It looks as if he’s going to be here for quite a long time the way he handled that puck,” legendary broadcaster Foster Hewitt said after Armstrong scored his first NHL goal in a 3-2 win over Montreal.

Taking a pass from future Hall of Famer Max Bentley, Armstrong beat defenceman Butch Bouchard and beat goaltender Gerry McNeil.

“I did a little war dance that night and I think everybody in Maple Leaf Gardens was pretty happy about it as well,” Armstrong recalled 15 years later.

Toronto owner and GM Conn Smythe named Armstrong his captain before the 1957-58 season. Smythe would later call Armstrong “the best captain, as a captain, the Leafs have ever had.”

The Leafs won the Stanley Cup in 1962, the first of three straight championships.

Armstrong was 36 when the veteran Leafs won the franchise’s last championship in 1967. His insurance empty-net goal with 47 seconds remaining in the clinching 3-1 Game 6 win proved to be the final goal of the Original Six era.

The six-foot-one, 204-pounder played a few more seasons, but suffered a knee injury during the 1969-70 campaign that forced him to retire. Armstrong was convinced to come back for the 1970-71 season before quitting for good at age 40.

At the time, Armstrong had played more seasons and more games as a Maple Leaf than any other player, and was second in career points.

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