86 Facts About Conn Smythe


Conn Smythe is best known as the principal owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League from 1927 to 1961 and as the builder of Maple Leaf Gardens.


Conn Smythe is known for having served in both World Wars, organizing his own artillery battery in the Second World War.


The horses of Conn Smythe's racing stable won the Queen's Plate three times among 145 stakes race wins during his lifetime.


Conn Smythe was born on February 1,1895, in Toronto to Albert Conn Smythe, an Irish Protestant from County Antrim who immigrated to Canada in 1889, and Mary Adelaide Constantine, an English woman.


Conn Smythe was the second of the couple's two children; he had a sister, Mary, five years older, who died due to illness in 1903.


Conn Smythe remembered his mother Mary, who was known as Polly, as pretty, a drinker, and troublemaker, while Albert was quiet, a vegetarian, and a devoted member of Madame Blavatsky's Theosophical movement.


Albert Conn Smythe was a charter member of the Theosophical Society of Canada in 1891, and edited its newsletter until the final years of his life.


At one point, Albert and Conn Smythe moved to a house in Scarborough while Polly and Mary stayed on North Street.


Mary died in 1906, and Conn Smythe attributed his lifelong teetotalism to his mother's drinking.


At age eleven, Conn Smythe was christened, the occasion marking the first time that he insisted on the name "Conn Smythe" instead of his given name, Constantine.


Albert and Conn Smythe became estranged after Albert began a new relationship with Jane Henderson.


Conn Smythe first attended high school at Upper Canada College, but disliked it and transferred to Jarvis Collegiate Institute after a year and a half.


Conn Smythe developed his athleticism there, playing on the hockey, rugby football, and basketball teams, and playing on city championship teams in basketball and hockey in 1912.


At the age of 16, Conn Smythe met Irene Sands, his future wife, after a football game against Parkdale Collegiate Institute, which she attended.


Albert Smythe wanted his son to attend university, but Conn defied his father, bolting at age 17 to become a homesteader on 150 acres in Clute Township, near Cochrane, Ontario.


Conn Smythe played on the University of Toronto football team, although not as a starter.


Conn Smythe played one game at centre, and then decided to replace himself with a better player.


In February 1917, Conn Smythe earned a Military Cross, when during an attack the Germans counter-attacked with grenades.


Conn Smythe transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in July 1917.


Conn Smythe was shot down by the Germans and captured on October 14,1917; he was imprisoned by the Germans at Schweidnitz in Upper Silesia.


Conn Smythe made two failed escape attempts and ended up in solitary confinement as a result.


Conn Smythe returned to the University of Toronto and finished his civil engineering degree in 1920, marrying Irene during the school year.


Conn Smythe believed Hammond fired him because of his refusal to sign two-time NHL scoring champion Babe Dye, against Hammond's wishes.


Conn Smythe applied to coach the Toronto St Pats, but was rejected in favour of Mike Rodden.


Conn Smythe continued coaching for the University of Toronto and took on a new senior team made up of University of Toronto players, called the Varsity Grads.


Conn Smythe refused to go when two Varsity Blues players he had promised could be part of the team were blocked by what he described as a "pressure play" from two Grads players to get relatives placed on the team instead.


Conn Smythe turned Rickard down partly because of the disputed $2,500, although Rickard ordered Hammond to pay off the rest.


Bickell, a part-owner of the St Pats, contacted Conn Smythe about coaching the team.


However, Conn Smythe told Bickell that he was more interested in buying the team, or at least a stake in the team.


Bickell contacted Conn Smythe and told him that if Conn Smythe could raise $160,000 and keep the team in Toronto, Bickell would not sell his $40,000 interest.


Conn Smythe succeeded Querrie as the team's governor, and installed himself as general manager.


Conn Smythe took over as coach and for the next three years served as team governor, general manager and coach.


Conn Smythe used any tactic available to disrupt the opponent.


In 1929, Conn Smythe decided, in the midst of the Great Depression, that the Maple Leafs needed a new arena.


Conn Smythe knew it would take over a million dollars to construct the building, and he got backing from the Sun Life insurance company for half a million.


Conn Smythe gave up the coaching position to concentrate on the arena project.


Selke and Smythe were successful in negotiating the payment method in exchange for using unionized workers.


Conn Smythe knew that he would be away in the war and felt that Irvin would not be tough enough without Conn Smythe to back him up.


Conn Smythe first became interested in horse racing as a boy, when he would take stories his father wrote at the track to the newspaper office downtown.


Conn Smythe started owning horses in the late 1920s, but he rarely had any success.


Conn Smythe was full of blind hope, and on the trainer's advice, entered her in the race.


Between the winnings from his bets and his portion of the winner's purse as horse owner, Conn Smythe won more than $10,000 on that one race.


The purchase was only possible because of his gambling winnings, as the other Maple Leafs owners refused to pay the Senators' then-high price, and only agreed when Conn Smythe volunteered to use his own money.


Conn Smythe continued to own horses through the 1930s, but he sold them in 1940, when he made plans to fight in the Second World War.


Conn Smythe did not re-enter the racing business until 1954.


In 1951, Conn Smythe bought land for a farm in Caledon, Ontario, originally looking for a new location for a gravel pit.


Conn Smythe learned about the business and went into breeding, buying mares in foal from top thoroughbred lines, and hiring future Hall of Fame trainer Yonnie Starr.


Conn Smythe's stable won the Queen's Plate twice, the first in 1958 with Caledon Beau and the second in 1967 with Jammed Lovely.


In 1973, Conn Smythe became a founding member of the Jockey Club of Canada.


Conn Smythe was offered a higher rank to become the army's sports officer, but turned it down.


Conn Smythe, who had seen that the army was using improperly trained troops due to a lack of soldiers, interviewed other soldiers during his time in the hospital, compiling a record over which to confront Mackenzie King.


King had developed an official government policy of voluntary service for political reasons and Conn Smythe saw the detrimental effect it had on the Army.


From his bed in the Chorley Park Hospital, Conn Smythe dictated a statement to The Globe and Mail newspaper, which printed it on its front page on September 19,1944:.


The publisher of The Globe and Mail at the time was prominent Conservative George McCullagh, and Conn Smythe was friends with Ontario Conservative Premier George Drew.


The issue of lack of reinforcements was well known within the Army and Conn Smythe did not make any complaints to senior officers while in active service.


Conn Smythe suspected that MacBrien, a member of the board of directors, wanted to succeed Bickle as president and make Selke general manager in his own right.


Conn Smythe wanted to be president and asked Selke for his support.


Bickell and the help of a $300,000 loan from Toronto stockbroker and Gardens shareholder Percy Gardiner, Conn Smythe bought controlling interest in Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd.


However, Conn Smythe had been the face of the franchise for more than two decades before then.


Conn Smythe later succeeded MacBrien as chairman of the board.


Conn Smythe oversaw one of hockey's greatest dynasties when Toronto won six Stanley Cups in 10 seasons between 1942 and 1951.


Conn Smythe was named in a poll of Canadian sports editors the "most dominating personality in any capacity in sports" for 1949.


Conn Smythe was known for caring little about gaudy regular-season records.


However, just after the Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs in 1957, Conn Smythe told the media that it had been "a season of failure" and that he did not know if the 55-year-old Day would be available for the next season.


Conn Smythe was an NHL owner during the era before the advent of a players' union.


Players who did not follow Conn Smythe's rules were traded or sent to the minors.


Conn Smythe allegedly called Thomson a traitor and publicly blamed him for the team's poor season.


Years later, Conn Smythe claimed that he thought the sale was only to Stafford, and was furious to learn that he'd brought on Ballard and Bassett as partners.


Conn Smythe resigned the team chairmanship after Toronto won the Stanley Cup in 1962, and Bassett succeeded him.


In 1964, Smythe opposed the plan of Liberal Prime Minister Lester B Pearson to replace the traditional Canadian flag with a completely new design.


In March 1966, Conn Smythe sold his remaining shares in Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd.


Conn Smythe gave generously of his time, expertise and treasure to aid in the organization's success, even housing its offices and storing its incoming batches of wheelchairs for his fellow veterans, at Maple Leaf Gardens.


Conn Smythe became heavily involved in the Ontario Society for Crippled Children.


Conn Smythe helped organize the financing and construction of their Variety Club Village complex in Toronto.


In 1975, at the age of 80, Conn Smythe organized the financing and building of the Ontario Community Centre for the Deaf, which opened in 1979.


Conn Smythe supervised the construction of the Hockey Hall of Fame building in Toronto in 1961.


Conn Smythe served as the Hall's chairman for several years, but resigned in June 1971 when Busher Jackson was posthumously elected into the Hall.


Conn Smythe made provisions for a portion of the lands of the sub-division to be reserved for the centre.


Conn Smythe was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.


Conn Smythe married Irene Sands on March 17,1920, at Central Methodist Church.


Irene and Conn Smythe had two other children, Hugh and Patricia.


Conn Smythe had had a rapprochement with his father, seeing him at Christmas and at times when Albert came to Toronto to preach.


Conn Smythe's health continued to deteriorate and Conn realized that he was dying.


Conn Smythe arranged for his grandson Thomas Smythe to take over the Conn Smythe Foundation, and he made gifts of money to relatives.


Conn Smythe died at the age of 85 in 1980 at his home on Baby Point.


Conn Smythe is interred with Irene at Park Lawn Cemetery in Toronto.