Hap Day

Clarence "Happy" Day was born in Owen Sound Ontario on June 14, 1901. Like many other star hockey players of the 1920s and 1930s, Day grew up learning the game on the frozen ponds during harsh winter weather. Eventually that hard work paid off as he became a leader with the Midland Juniors and later with senior Hamilton Tigers.

Hockey was not the only subject that interested Day. He very much aspired to become a pharmacist. He enrolled at the University of Toronto where he eventually obtained a degree. While attending university he played for the varsity hockey club and was discovered by Toronto hockey promoter Charlie Querrie. Querrie convinced Day to turn pro.

Day, nicknamed Happy because of his cheery nature, turned pro with Toronto of the NHL, then known as the St. Pats. In Day's third year, 1926-27, Conn Smythe bought the team and changed the name to the Leafs. Smythe had great deal of respect for Day, and the two became great friends and partners.

Day was a strong and fearless player. His first three years in the league he started out at left wing, often playing on a great line with Jack Adams and Babe Dye. By year 4 he became better known as a defenseman, anchoring a Leafs blueline that also boasted King Clancy and Red Horner. He was a marvellous team player who infused lots of humour into the team's dressing room. The jolly Leafs teams during Day's stay were affectionately known as "The Gashouse Gang" because of their love for humour.

Day was always in the shadow of Clancy and Boston's Eddie Shore, but there was no doubt he was a top defenseman of his era. Offensively he was a constant threat, although unlike Clancy and Shore was never flashy. Defensively he was a genius. He was a masterful stick checker and positional player, and, along with the New York Rangers Ching Johnson, was the league's top body checker. Day was very well respected around the league, even though he employed a clutch and grab style of hockey he would later popularize as a coach, becoming a league power by using the rule-bending tactic.

Day put his heart and soul into 14 long seasons in Toronto, but his finest moment came in a game on April 2, 1932 at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Leafs needed to win by one goal to take the two-game total goals series against the Montreal Maroons. Down 2-1 late in the third period, Day, the team captain, picked the puck up in his zone and weaved through the entire Maroons team to score the overtime forcing goal. Bob Gracie scored for the Leafs in overtime to advance the Leafs to the Stanley Cup finals, where they were ultimately unceremoniously dumped by the New York Rangers.

Smythe released Day after the 1936-37 season. Not ready to quit playing, Day signed for one year with the New York Americans, and then retired. After spending 2 years as a referee, Hap, not yet ready to turn his attention to a pharmacy, returned to Toronto. In 1940 he was hired by Smythe to coach the Leafs. He would coach them for 10 years, winning the Stanley Cup 5 times! Many of his understudies would call him the greatest coach they had ever played for.

He stepped away from the bench in 1950 but remained with the team until 1957 when he retired to pursue business opportunities outside of hockey. During the 1950s he was officially titled as the assistant manger to Conn Smythe, but in reality he was the one doing most the legwork. With highly respected scoring totals for a defenseman of his era (86 goals, 202 points in 586 career games), he was enshrined in Hockey's Hall of Fame in 1961.

Few people have given more to the Toronto Maple Leafs organization than Clarence "Happy" Day, who passed away on February 17, 1990. Yet somehow he never was able to escape the shadows of Clancy and Ace Bailey while playing, nor could he escape the shadow of Conn Smythe for his contributions to the team as a coach and manager.


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