John Anderson is one of the few Toronto born and raised hockey players who played their junior hockey at Maple Leaf Gardens and did not escape the grasp of the Maple Leafs. It was a dream come true for the man with the unmistakable moustache.
While he may not have earned the status of those other draft picks, Anderson developed into one of the top left wingers in the game in 1980s. He had speed to burn, and the agility to go with it. He had great puck skills - able to softly lay a pass to a streaking teammate or power a slapshot from the top of the faceoff circle. He was a mainstay on the powerplay, and although he did not play aggressive defensive hockey, was a good penalty killer because of his skating abilities.
After an impressive year of apprenticeship in the minor leagues, John joined the Leafs full time in 1978-79. He had his ups and downs in his first three years in the league, but by 1981 he had found a home on the Leafs top line. Anderson's speed and puck skills were a perfect compliment for slippery center Bill Derlago and heavy shooter Rick Vaive.
Anderson, who operated several hamburger restaurants in Toronto as well, scored 30 or more goals for 4 consecutive seasons while on the top line. Yet playing in Toronto was not easy for Anderson, or for many star players either. Anderson came to this realization after being a key player for Canada in the 1985 World Championships in Prague.
"Over there, I realized how much the pressure in Toronto had hurt me. The fans at the Gardens are demanding, as they have every right to be, but it seems as though your problems are magnified. You try harder and that makes things worse. When I got to Europe, it was like having a weight lifted off of my shoulders."
Anderson's comments were one of the last he made as a Leaf, although the words played no role in his departure. He was traded late in the summer of 1985 to Quebec for solid defenseman Brad Maxwell. The red headed Anderson didn't last a full season in Quebec before landing in Hartford where he briefly enjoyed his best days in the NHL. He finished the 1985-86 season with 8 goals and 25 pints in just 14 games, and added 13 more points in 10 playoff games. He followed that up with a 31 goal, 7 5point season in 1986-87 before slowing down in his final two years in the league.
Although he was out of the NHL scene by 1989, Anderson continued to excel in the AHL, IHL and Italy until 1994. He then stepped behind the bench and became a top coach in the minor leagues, which led to a two year coaching stint with the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers.