Charles Joseph Sylvanus Apps, CM - Born January 18, 1915 in Paris, Ontario – Died December 24, 1998 in Kingston, Ontario was a Canadian Hockey centre, Olympic pole vaulter and a Conservative Member of Provincial Parliament in Ontario.
Apps was pursuing athletic endeavours while studying economics at Hamilton's McMaster University. In 1934, he had earned the gold medal in pole vaulting at the British Empire Games in London, England. Tipped off that there was a superb football player at McMaster, Toronto Maple Leafs president Conn Smythe drove to Hamilton and watched Apps dominate the play, and while he had never seen the young man play Hockey, offered him a contract to join the Maple Leafs. Syl declined, stating his intention to retain his amateur status so he could compete for Canada in pole vaulting at the 1936 Olympic Games to be held in Berlin, Germany. Apps went on to finish sixth at the international competition.
Following the Olympics, Apps signed to play Hockey with Toronto, joining the Maple Leafs for the 1936-37. Some questioned whether the non-drinking, non-smoking, non-swearing Apps was simply too nice to play in the National Hockey League. While the smooth-skating centre played the game with gentlemanly finesse, he was not to be crossed. When Boston's Flash Hollett highsticked the placid Maple Leaf, knocking out two teeth, he quickly learned that Apps could more than take care of himself. Syl pummelled Hollett before being restrained and escorted to the penalty box. It was the first of but three fights in which Syl would be engaged through his NHL career.
In his first NHL season, Apps scored 16 goals, an NHL-best 29 assists and collected a team-best 45 points, second-best in the entire league. He was named the league's rookie of the year for 1936-37, and the 1st Toronto Maple Leaf to win the Calder Memorial Trophy.
By his sophomore season, Syl Apps was already being recognized as one of the finest players in the league, securing a spot on the NHL's Second All-Star Team in 1938-39 after finishing second in the NHL scoring race with 50 points. By 1938-39, Apps finished sixth in league scoring and was selected for the NHL's First All-Star Team.
Apps played for an all-star team competing in Montreal on October 29, 1939, to raise money for Babe Siebert's family - Babe Siebert Memorial Game.
A broken collarbone in January of the 1939-40 season curtailed Syl's campaign, but by 1940-41, newly named as captain of the Maple Leafs, Syl was back at the top of his game, and at the top of the league. He finished second in scoring that season.
Apps finished eighth in scoring in 1941-42, but almost more remarkable was the fact he went the entire season without collecting a single penalty. Along with First All-Star Team honours, he was awarded the 1942 Lady Byng Trophy for his gentlemanly play. During the playoffs, Apps led his teammates to the most improbable Stanley Cup victory in the franchise's history. After being down three games to none to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup final, the Maple Leafs rebounded, winning the next four games to claim the 1942 Stanley Cup championship.
Injuries again kept the Maple Leafs' captain out of action in 1942-43, this time, a broken leg incurred when sliding into a goal post during a contest with Boston in January 1943. Nevertheless, he still scored 23 goals and 40 points in 27 games and was named to the NHL's Second All-Star Team, the fifth of his five NHL selections.
Apps's gentlemanly demeanour may best be exemplified by his actions following the January 30, 1943 accident. Syl was making $6,000 per season, but visited Maple Leafs' president Conn Smythe with a cheque for $1,000, feeling that if he wasn't earning his pay by playing, he should reimburse the team. Astounded, Smythe refused the gesture, but his estimation of Apps grew even greater.
Like many other players across the National Hockey League, Syl Apps left this Hockey career to serve his country during the Second World War. On the suggestion of Smythe, Apps enlisted in the Canadian Army, and missed two seasons while the war raged in Europe. Apps suited up for the Toronto Army Daggers, the Brockville Army and the Ottawa All-Stars during his time in the Canadian Army
When he returned for the better part of the 1945-46 season, coach Hap Day gave him back the team captaincy (teammate Bob Davidson had served as captain in Apps's absence), and although it was an almost completely different team from the one that won the Stanley Cup with Apps in 1942, the Maple Leafs would win the 1947 Stanley Cup championship.
Apps served as the Maple Leafs captain during the first National Hockey League All-Star Game October 13, 1947, at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Apps would captain the Maple Leafs to his final Stanley Cup championship in 1948, and would retire after the final game at the Detroit Olympia, where the Maple Leafs swept the Red Wings in 4 straight games. Both Conn Smythe and Hap Day attempted to change their captain's decision but he was resolute. He took a marketing position with Simpson's department store.
On his retirement, Syl Apps had scored 201 goals, assisted on 231 others and accumulated 432 points in 423 regular season NHL games. During that time, he had but 56 penalty minutes. In post-season play, Apps played 67 games, scoring 25, assisting on 29 and served just 8 minutes in penalties.
Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe called Apps the greatest player in franchise history.
Apps was also interested in politics, and while still playing Hockey, Apps ran for parliament in the 1940 federal election. He was a candidate in the riding of Brant for the National Government Party but lost to incumbent George Ernest Wood of the Liberals by 138 votes.
Apps later ran and was successful as a Progressive Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, serving the riding of Kingston from 1963 to 1967, followed by serving the newly-devised riding of Kingston and the Islands from 1967 to 1975. During that time, Syl served as chairman of the Select Committee on Youth until he was appointed Minister of Correctional Services in 1971, serving in that position until 1974. He also served as the Ontario Athletic Commissioner during this time.
Syl Apps was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.
In 1975, Apps was elected to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame and then Apps was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1977.
Apps is also a member of the Canadian Amateur Athletics Hall of Fame and McMaster University's Sports Hall of Fame.
Syl Apps was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
Unveiled by the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame on January 13, 1998, the Syl Apps Award is emblematic of Ontario's Athlete of the Year.
In 2001, Canada Post included Apps in a series of NHL All-Star 47-cent postage stamps.
In 2017 Apps was named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history.
Several institutions are named for him, including the Syl and Molly Apps Research Centre in Kingston, Ontario, and the Syl Apps Youth Centre in Oakville, Ontario. The sports arena in his home town of Paris is named the Syl Apps Community Centre.