Francis William "Frank" "The Big M" Mahovlich, CM - Born January 10, 1938 in Schumacher, Ontario is a retired ice Hockey left winger, and a former Liberal Senator in the Canadian Senate.
Mahovlich played for his local hometown teams, and got his first taste of junior Hockey with the Schumacher Lions of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association in the 1952-53 season. Mohovlich was spotted by Toronto Maple Leafs scouts, and then signed him to one of their property contracts, and sent him to one of their Ontario Hockey Association affiliates, the Toronto St. Michael's Majors. Mahovlich played there while attending St. Michael's College School from 1954 to 1957.
While at St. Michael's, he received instruction from Joe Primeau, who Mahovlich would later call the best coach he ever had. When he was 17, he scored 24 goals during his second full season with the Majors, and scouts and fans alike began to fill the arenas where he played to get a look at the big kid everybody was talking about. The next season he scored 52 goals in 49 games, won the Red Tilson Trophy as the league's most valuable player and made his first three appearances with the Maple Leafs, scoring 1 goal.
Mahovlich joined the Maple Leafs full time to start the 1957-58 season, and scored 20 goals and 36 points in his rookie season, and he was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as top NHL rookie. He beat out Bobby Hull, who also entered the league that year as a much talked about youngster.
The next season, Punch Imlach was hired as one of the Maple Leafs two assistant general managers, and In November 1958, Imlach was named general manager. He soon fired the coach Billy Reay, and made himself the Maple Leafs coach.
Mahovlich's next two NHL seasons were erratic on the ice but consistent on the score sheet. He scored 22 and 18 goals, good totals for a young player, as he helped the Maple Leafs reach the 1959 and 1960 Stanley Cup finals, losing both years to the Montreal Canadiens. Mahovlich scored 11 points and 4 points respectfully during the those playoffs.
In the 1960–61 season, Imlach put Mahovlich on a line with Red Kelly and Bob Nevin. The three immediately clicked and were the team's top three scorers that year, led by Mahovlich's 48 goals - a Maple Leafs record that would stand for 21 years. Still only 23 years old, Mahovlich led the league for much of the year in goals. With 14 games remaining, he had 48 goals, two less than Maurice Richard's record of 50. He seemed destined to seize the position of the game's top scorer. Those final two goals never came, however. Bernie Geoffrion overtook him late in the year, tying the Rocket's record in the process. Mahovlich was selected to the NHL First All-Star Team in 1961.
The Maple Leafs were now a good strong team, with Mahovlich playing a big part of their success, as he scored 33 goals, 38 assists during the regular season, and then during the playoffs, had 6 goals, 6 assists, which included a dominant performance in the finals, where Mahovlich scored 4 goals and 3 assists, as the Toronto Maple Leafs won the 1962 Stanley Cup championship, defeating the Chicago Black Hawks in 6 games.
Initially, Mahovlich and Imlach got along well, but their relationship deteriorated after a few seasons, particularly when Mahovlich's contract was up for renewal in 1962. He felt the Maple Leafs gave him a low-ball offer and walked out on the team during training camp in September. Red Burnett at the Toronto Star described the situation as a "cold war" between the two. Mahovlich responded to Imlach's berating by not reacting to it. He admitted later that the two men didn't speak for five years.
During an evening of drinking revelry with his Toronto counterpart Harold Ballard, Black Hawks owner James Norris proposed buying Mahovlich from the Maple Leafs. On that memorable night of Oct. 5, 1962, Norris agreed to write a check for $1 million to the Maple Leafs for Mahovlich. Ballard and Norris were as drunk as they were sincere about the exchange because each thought his club would benefit. However, before Norris actually delivered the dollars, stories of the astonishing trade flashed across the continent before midnight, Oct. 6. Exhibit A was The Chicago Tribune, which ran a banner, super-deal bulletin on its front news page. Further confirmation was supplied by Ballard’s associate, then Leafs boss Stafford Smythe, who was in on the deal. As Ballard’s bad luck would have it, Jim Norris had a kid brother named Bruce who just happened to own the Detroit Red Wings. And when Bruce realized his Red Wings would be facing Hull and Mahovlich on the same team, he immediately – and desperately – worked to kill the deal. Bruce’s first move was a panicky phone call to Stafford’s father, Maple Leafs founder and retired king of NHL power brokers, Conn Smythe, Still mighty in league circles, Conn shared Bruce’s feelings about toppling the trade but for a different reason; he knew the Maple Leafs needed a superstar more than super-bucks. “Find Stafford and have him call me,” the elder Smythe demanded of Norris. Sure enough, at 3 a.m. the call was made. Dunnell, who was an insider with the Maple Leafs general staff at the time, recalled the following in his column several years after the deal: “Conn said to his son no player was worth a million dollars, so they had taken advantage of the whiskey to make a sale. If the Leafs were lucky enough to have a player for whom that kind of money was offered, he belonged in Toronto, not Chicago.” Trouble was that Jim Norris had awakened early the next morning believing he owned The Big M. As promised, he wrote the million-dollar check, dated Oct. 6, 1962. Jim’s GM, Tommy Ivan, then delivered it to Stafford Smythe at Maple Leaf Gardens. To Ivan’s astonishment, Stafford respectfully declined with an altruistic explanation: “We never rolled a drunk yet, and we don’t have to start now”, and told the Black Hawks GM that their apparent agreement the night before had been a misunderstanding. The Black Hawks accused the Maple Leafs of reneging on a deal. Conn Smythe, at this point a minority shareholder in the Maple Leafs, was adamant that the deal should be rejected. Through it all, Frank remembers a desperate phone call from his father when the elder Mahovlich originally heard about the dynamic deal. “You’ve been sold to Chicago for a million dollars,” asserted Frank’s dad. “Make sure somebody pays for moving your furniture.”
The Maple Leafs would soon after, give Mahovlich a contract offer he would accept.
The 1962-63 season had Mahovlich scoring 36 goals, 37 assists during the regular season, but failed to score during the playoffs, and was heckled during home games, including being booed during and after the game in which the Maple Leafs clinched the 1963 Stanley Cup championship at Maple Leaf Gardens. Even the next day the heckling continued at a reception in downtown Toronto for the Stanley Cup winners. Mahovlich was again selected to the NHL First All-Star Team in 1963.
During the 1963-64 season, Mahovlich scored 26 goals, 29 assists, again leading the team in goals scored, playing the full 70 game regular season. The Maple Leafs won the 1964 Stanley Cup championship, with Mahovlich scoring 4 goals, 11 assists in the playoffs, but only 1 goal in the finals vs Detroit Red Wings.
Though the team and the doctors didn't admit it for several years, and under pressure from fans and management, Mahovlich was admitted to Toronto General Hospital in November 1964, suffering from what was publicly described as "constant fatigue" but diagnosed as acute tension and depression. Mahovlich was flooded with well-wishes from fans during his time off. He returned to the lineup a month later and was still able to lead the Maple Leafs in scoring in the 1964–65 season, despite missing 11 games. Mahovlich led the Maple Leafs in scoring again in the 1965–66 season.
The Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup in 1967, with Mahovlich having his lowest-scoring year in seven seasons leading into the playoffs with 18 goals, 28 assists. During the 1967 NHL playoffs, Mahovlich scored 3 goals, 7 assists, but did not score a goal in the 7 game finals vs the Canadiens.
The Maple Leafs played the Montreal Canadiens on November 1, 1967, Mahovlich played a wonderful game, scoring a goal and adding two assists in Toronto's 5-0 win. He was named one of the three stars of the game and took his bow in front of the remaining fans as was the custom at the end of the evening. Many in the crowd cheered the big winger, but there were also boos, even on that night. The next day, with the Maple Leafs leaving on a trip to Detroit, Mahovlich got up from his seat on the train, told a teammate he was going home and left. He was soon under the care of the Toronto General Hospital psychiatric staff. He was in a deep depression and, according to many reports, had suffered a nervous breakdown. "Mahovlich is a sensitive, easily-bruised individual," wrote Milt Dunnell in a page-one story in the Toronto Star.
Mahovlich stayed away from the rink to deal with his nervous condition. After more than a month, during which he missed 11 games, he made his return at home in a game against the Canadiens. While he was away, young Mike Walton had taken up the slack in scoring for the Maple Leafs, winning several consecutive games with late goals. When Mahovlich stepped on the ice, he was on a line with Walton and the Maple Leafs captain, George Armstrong. Mahovlich gathered the puck at center and sailed down the right wing into the Montreal zone, pulling a defenseman wide with him to open up the middle. With one perfectly placed pass, Mahovlich found Walton, who fired it into the net. In all it took 18 seconds for the Big M to announce his return, and now the fans were united in their applause.
Near the end of the season, the Maple Leafs decided to part ways with their big winger. In the biggest trade of the year, he was sent to the Detroit Red Wings with Pete Stemkowski, Garry Unger and the rights to another Maple Leafs enigma, Carl Brewer, for Paul Henderson, Norm Ullman and Floyd Smith, and Mahovlich would have a strong finish to the season with the Red Wings.
Freed in Detroit from all the pressure and conflict in Toronto, Mahovlich experienced a rebirth. He also joined his younger brother Pete, known as "the Little M" even though he had five inches on Frank. During the season, Pete split his time between the Red Wings and their minor league affiliate, the Fort Worth Wings.
Frank Mahovlich became more outgoing, joking with teammates and fans. He was put on a line with Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio and had his best NHL goal-scoring year in his first full season with the Red Wings, 49 goals with 29 assists in the 1968-69 season.
At the start of the 1970–71 season, Red Wings general manager Sid Abel wanted to get rid of coach Ned Harkness and was overruled by team owner Bruce Norris, then fired on January 6, 1971. Once Harkness took over as general manager on January 8, 1971, he got rid of players he deemed a threat to him. The Montreal Canadiens were preparing for a run to the Stanley Cup playoffs, and acquired Mahovlich for three players on January 13, 1971 - Mickey Redmond, Guy Charron and Bill Collins. He was reunited with his brother, who was becoming a star player himself with the Canadiens.
Mahovlich had a spectacular playoffs with the Canadiens that won the 1971 Stanley Cup, due in large part to his league-leading 14 goals and 213 assists. Mahovlich was truly happy in Montreal. He had his best overall season in 1971-72, collecting 96 points, and was selected to play for Team Canada that played the Soviet Union in the 1972 Summit Series.
In 1973 Mahovlich was selected to the NHL's First All-Star Team, one of only three times he achieved that honour (1961, 1963, and 1973). And once again he was outstanding in the playoffs, scoring 9 goals, 14 assists, capturing his sixth and final Stanley Cup championship.
Mahovlich played 1 more season in Montreal, scoring 31 goals, 49 assists, and 1 goal, 2 assists in 6 playoff games. Montreal was starting to make changes on their team, and Mahovlich knew he would be playing less, so instead of finishing his career in Montreal, Mahovlich signed a lucrative contract with the World Hockey Association / WHA. The Houston team selected him in the 1972 Entry Draft and then traded him to the Toronto Toros, who attempted to sign both Mahovlich brothers. They were thrilled when Frank, at age 36, signed a four-year deal. He was one of the league's top scorers in his first year with 38 goals, 44 assists and headlined the team in its attempt to compete with the Maple Leafs in Toronto.
The Toros team moved after two seasons to Birmingham, deep in the southern U.S.A., and became the Bulls. Though Mahovlich still had a great desire to play, the Bulls didn't capture the imagination of the fans. At the end of his four-year contract, having just turned 40, Mahovlich retired from the WHA.
Mahovlich attempted an NHL comeback with the Detroit Red Wings in 1979, but it was unsuccessful, and he formally retired on October 7, 1979.
Mahovlich played in the 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, and 1974 NHL All-Star Games.
Number (27) is retired by the Toronto Maple Leafs (shared with Darryl Sittler).
Frank Mahovlich was Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981.
Frank Mahovlich was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.
Frank Mahovlich was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1994.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien appointed Frank Mahovlich to the Canadian Senate in 1998.
Frank Mahovlich was a inaugural inductee into the World Hockey Association Hall of Fame as a "Legends of the Game" in 2010.
In January, 2017, Frank Mahovlich was part of the first group of players to be named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history.