Wednesday

Mike Palmateer

Mike Palmateer was hailed as Toronto Maple Leafs savior by Torontonians even before he played in the NHL.

Born in Toronto, Palmateer was a junior standout with the hometown Marlboros of the OHA. Drafted 85th overall in the 1974 Amateur Draft by the Leafs after Palmateer backstopped the Marlies win of the Memorial Cup in 1974-75 during his last year of junior hockey.

Palmateer apprenticed in the Central Hockey League for a couple of seasons before making his NHL debut with the Maple Leafs in 1976-77. He had a solid rookie year, going 23-28-8 in 50 games as the Leafs starting goalie, taking that role from Wayne Thomas.

The following year he was Palmateer's best season. He played a career high 63 games played, 34 wins and 5 shutouts. Most importantly, he was a key figure in the club’s drive to the Stanley Cup semifinals. He recorded 2 more shutouts in the playoffs. It was the first time since 1967 that the Leafs had become serious contenders for the Stanley Cup.

In those 1978 playoffs Palmateer was at his best during the Leaf's quarter final upset of the New York Islanders.

Mike was an acrobatic goalie, always flopping around on the ice like a fish out of water. He was exciting to watch but every shot seemed like an adventure. He could make an ordinary save look spectacular, but at the same time he often looked bad as an easy shot got past him.

"Palmateer doesn't play text-book goal," said then-Toronto GM Mike Nykoluk. "But he is awfully quick and has great hands and a wonderful sense of anticipation. The idea is to stop the puck, and that's what he does."

Palmateer was extremely confident in his abilities.

"That's my style, and I think that scrambling and challenging the shooter is best for me. I can play with any goalkeeper in the NHL. No one is better than me, and I'm better than most."

Despite the excitement surrounding the Leafs, turmoil ruined that team. Owner Harold Ballard decided to get rid of most of the young budding superstars - Darryl Sittler, Tiger Williams, Lanny McDonald and yes Mike Palmateer. All four of these players had terrible relations with GM Punch Imlach, especially at contract time.

Prior to the 1979-80 season, Palmateer was traded to the Washington Capitals with a third round pick (Torrie Robertson) for Robert Picard, Tim Coulis and a 2nd round pick (Bob McGill). He played in the United States capital for two seasons.

"Mike couldn't adjust in Washington, where hockey is just another foreign sport. He was unhappy and missed the atmosphere in Toronto. I feel if Palmateer had played as well as he can for the Caps, I would still be there," said former Washington GM Max McNab.

Knee injuries really derailed his time in Washington. He missed all but 11 games in 1981-82, all while making a salary of $400,000 a year, one of the largest sums in the league at that time. Washington owner Abe Pollin got fed up with the Caps continued floundering, and saw that GM McNab, coach Gary Green and goalie Palmateer were all chased out of Washington.

Palmateer returned to Toronto where he stayed until his retirement following the 1983-84 season.

Palmateer recorded 17 shutouts and a goals-against average of 3.53 over an impressive eight-year NHL career. His career totals - 149 wins, 138 losses and 52 ties.

Following his hockey playing days Palmateer turned the world of real estate. He also has attempted to get into the coaching ranks.

10 comments:

Anonymous,  5:56 AM  

Mike is now one of the chief scouts for the Toronto Maple Leaf organization. Mike is a true gentleman, always there for the fans to give out autographs and talk. He had a restaurant in Aurora for many years along with his real estate adventures, but has been working full time as a leaf scout for the past several years. Mike Palmateer is one of the nicest people you will ever meet.

xrayspecs21 10:24 PM  

I believe in the late 70's, Palmateer was the most popular Leaf as measured by fan mail.

Svens 4:16 PM  

Mike was my hero as a kid playing goal. I tried to emulate him as much as possible and took some penalties trying to copy him. An extremely agile goalie, he was at his best scrambling.

Svens 4:18 PM  

Mike was my hero growing up. I always tried to emulate his agility and feistiness and took a few penalties doing so.

Anthony 5:55 PM  

met mike this past weekend in nashiville at the preds vs detroit red wings game very nice guy thanks mike for the picture.

Anonymous,  5:15 PM  

awesome my ultimate hero started playing goal because of him and still to this day have saved all of his hockey cards and autographs,now at 40 plus I only regret not meeting him in person.Thanks Mike 'The popcorn Kid'.
Chris H.

Jon Wolbers,  10:15 AM  

The way Mike flashed the leather has often been copied but never equalled. One of the best to wear the blue Leaf.

Anonymous,  4:29 PM  

I could swear I remember him in all black hockey pads in an Esso commercial stopping pucks shot at a black car. I wanted to get the same setup for my games in goal.

Anonymous,  10:59 PM  

The Popcorn Kid!

Leslie,  4:45 PM  

I used to cut pictures out the paper of Mike Palmateer and paste them in a scrapbook. I am female, now 50 years old, and still have the scrapbook! I love goaltending and hockey because of him. Thanks Mike!

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