LEAFS TIME MACHINE: Play it again, great Toronto TV commercials

Get the latest from Lance Hornby straight to your inbox

Article content

William Nylander’s underground acting debut in a new commercial for TTC cell phone coverage, Morgan Rielly’s Pepsi plug and those gambling ads Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner appear in have us reminiscing.

Advertisement 2

Article content

About all those other Mad Men Maple Leafs who were bit players in popular TV spots that are still talked about.

Article content

“Unlike today, where Leafs players, their crest and the team are plastered everywhere, years ago they were an unexpected surprise,” said team historian Mike Wilson, co-host of Squid and The Ultimate Leafs Fan podcast.

“In the 1960s, with games on TV just once a week and coverage in the press limited, to see a Leafs player anywhere was a thrill, especially for a kid.”

Some of our favourites:


Near the end of his Hall of Fame career around 1970, the late, great goalie was in a witness box courtroom setting, accused of ducking the disc-shaped wheat cereal.

“The catch phrase from the lawyer was ‘Mr. Bower, are you puck shy?,” his son Johnny Jr. said with a laugh. “And they threw a couple at him or something.

Advertisement 3

Article content

“The funny thing about that was he was really hurting that day, having pulled a leg muscle in a game just before that was filmed. He was all taped up and trying not to bang his knee on anything.

“But he had lots of fun doing that ad and everyone got a kick out it, mostly because of the contradiction. You knew he wasn’t puck shy, just from that old clip of him flat on the ice, blocking a John Ferguson shot with his face.”

Bower’s gracious nature made him that much more popular for any TV, radio or print ad.

“He was so straightforward and honest,” Johnny Jr. continued. “But he didn’t read so well and always needed help from the crew with his lines.”


“When Brian gets hungry, he goes wild,” mustachioed McDonald told the audience, wary of the big defenceman as he tore the door off the freezer to paw at his Hungry Man TV dinner.

Article content

Advertisement 4

Article content

This was 30 seconds of pure gold, as the two banter about their big appetites and wolf down some meat ‘n’ potatoes, declaring the tin foil feast “enough to turn a wild man … into a pussycat,” ending the with a McDonald “meow!” and highly contrived chuckling.

“All the guys first saw that and laughed their asses off,” teammate Ian Turnbull told us in an earlier interview. “The acting was so bad, it was good. A classic.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement 5

Article content


A later competitor of Muffets, this product brought veteran Ullman and his young teammate to the golf course. Ullman ignores a beautiful fairway drive by Sittler out of concern his partner hasn’t eaten breakfast yet.

“Sure did Norm. Starting with Weetabix. As usual.”

Ullman drains a 15-foot putt to show how well the wheat germ works on his short game and raises his club in goal celebration.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement 6

Article content


This 1980s public service message “Be nice, clear your ice,”, was notable for who didn’t appear with the bellicose winger in the crease.

Clark’s foil was supposed to be owner Harold Ballard, hidden under goal equipment and mask until revealing himself for the punch line. Twice the film crew set up at the rink, twice Ballard backed out, just to be a pain.

But on the second try, the producers had Blue Jays outfielder Lloyd Moseby ready to take his place.


These dairy ads with Gilmour’s calves painted Holstein black and white was at the captain’s zenith of popularity in Toronto.

In one, he’s guzzling a glass when a Russian teammate spots his black and white hinds and marvels “holy cow.”

Advertisement 7

Article content

Another sees No. 93 and his dance partner perform flawless moves before both kick up their bovine legs.

And while sometimes shy about attention, it was ironic the dandruff ad was about getting his his mullet looking magnifico for a packed press conference.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement 8

Article content


A series of humorous ads geared to American broadcasts were memorable for Sundin being seen, but not heard.

Angry ‘Francois Dupuy’, a French-Canadian goalie with stereotypical accent and in full Habs gear, struggles with a career change as both a gardener and taxi driver after Sundin’s dekes drives him out of the NHL.

Sundin appears at the very end of another Nike bit for its rollerblades. After a reckless skating youth wearing his sweater causes havoc on the streets, Mats drills the kid into the window of a restaurant in front of shocked diners.

Sundin’s Chunky Soup commercials had faux teammates teasing him after his doting mother calls him in for a bowl of Campbell’s. Sundin made sure the media knew his real mother, a nurse, was nothing of the sort.

Advertisement 9

Article content

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement 10

Article content


Eddie the Entertainer did very well in commercials for someone supposedly so bad in school that he couldn’t read a script or sign an endorsement contract.

He and his probiscis put the most gusto in the Pop Shoppe series with his ‘nose for value’ running through the aisles of bottles while minor hockey players shout ‘clear the track!’ and a bemused female clerk looks on.

Shack also teamed up with a tuxedoed Bobby Orr for Planter’s, joining an all-star team of costumed Mr. Peanuts with hat and cane for some staged figure skating.

“Hey, didn’t I play with you guys in L.A.?,” Shack asks the shells.

Our favourite was Shack in boxing gloves working over a popular brand of green garbage bag, totally exhausting himself before starting to kick it in frustration.

Advertisement 11

Article content

“That wasn’t in the script, Eddie added that himself,” hockey video archivist Paul Patskou said. “It was great on his part. The players’ acting could be bad in those ads, but it didn’t matter. They were the Leafs.”


Not a real commercial or real product, just simply perfect SCTV satire.

Sittler (a curly haired John Candy) and Lafleur (Joe Flaherty) endorse each other’s hockey stick brands and try to share a bowl of cereal, requiring multiple takes in a spoof of language/culture differences.

“Whether it was on a cereal box, peanut butter jar, tea, colouring book, marbled, an Eaton’s catalogue, Esso gas promotion, hockey instruction pamphlets or album records, seeing the Leafs was special,” Wilson said. “Do you know how much Jell-O I had to eat – and I didn’t even like it – to find a Leafs coin? And the disappointment I had when it was another team’s player?”

Advertisement 12

Article content

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement 13

Article content


Featuring one of the more than 1,100 players, coaches and general managers who have played or worked in Toronto since 1917.


Born: March 7, 1935 in Shaunovon, Sask.

Years with the Leafs: 1956-59

Games played: 86 (15-18-33 pts, 18 PIM)

Numbers: 21, 22, 26


While many Leafs traced their ticket to Toronto through Punch Imlach, it was the opposite for Aldcorn.

“Punch got rid of me,” the 88-year-old Aldcorn said with a chuckle from his sculpting studio in Lethbridge, Alta. (more on his art later). “I’d played for Billy Reay (Imlach’s coaching predecessor) in Rochester the year before and maybe that was the problem.”

A Toronto Marlboro junior, part of their 1955 Memorial Cup team with Bob Baun, Bob Pulford and Billy Harris, Aldcorn was ready for NHL Leafs duty the next season. After a strong start with Rochester, he hoped for a long stay. Imlach saw the future differently.

Advertisement 14

Article content

“One day at practice Punch lined up me beside Frank Mahovlich and had us race end to end to compare our skating. Frank could fly and it was a no-brainer who’d win. I knew Frank well and maybe should have told him to take it easy on me.

“The Leafs had Frank and Dick Duff at left wing and I was definitely third on that totem pole. I moved up and down, didn’t play much my last year there and was gone in the inter-league draft. Which turned out to be the best break of my career.”

Aldcorn played two years full time in Detroit, benefitting from both the skill and friendship of Gordie Howe.

“I came to their camp, sat between Gordie and Alex Delvecchio, not sure where I’d fit in on their team. Then Gordie asked if I wanted to go out of town on a day off, up to Northern Michigan to hunt quail. We were both from Saskatchewan, I knew how to use a rifle and said ‘sure’, thinking there’d be a bunch of guys on the trip.

Advertisement 15

Article content

“It turned out to be just me, him and a hunter friend of his, just Gordie’s way of making me feel welcome. I had a 16-gauge, but don’t think I fired it all day. I didn’t want to see the headline ‘Howe accidentally shot by teammate.’”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.


Aldcorn played on the Canadian national team in the 1960s and wrote many parts of the National Coaching Certificate Program in the ‘70s, tenets still in use today. His NCCP works is something he wishes he received more credit for.

A self-taught sculptor — “I always had an artistic touch and loved the process and creativity” — his first attempt was a whale and he graduated to many different techniques, favouring cold-cast bronze busts of celebrities such as Pope John Paul II and sports figures, particularly hockey players.

Advertisement 16

Article content

The Leafs’ Mahovlich, Terry Sawchuk and Darryl Sittler were his projects and, in 2007, he began a Mats Sundin piece in anticipation of the Swede passing Sittler for the franchise points record. A ceremony was planned at the end of 2007-08, but Sundin thought it wrong to accept such a gift in a year the Leafs missed the playoffs.

When Sundin didn’t come back to Toronto the next season, the piece sat in Aldcorn’s studio until Leafs historian Mike Wilson saw it and bought a number of Aldcorn’s works, bringing him to national prominence.

Aldcorn also was working on a 25-inch Tim Horton bronze with a plan to reproduce it in many of the donut chain’s stores, until too many managers feared they’d be stolen or vandalized.

“Tim is a nice one, I have him doing a turn on the ice and I’m really proud of it,” Aldcorn said. “I’m trying to get in contact with one of his daughters to offer it to them.”

Advertisement 17

Article content

The day we called Lethbridge, Aldcorn was working on a statue of the famous Flying Father priest, Les Costello, and a six-player Legends of Sport tableau including Howe, Bobby Hull, Rocket Richard and Bobby Orr.

Aldcorn also spent 20 years of his retirement in the Caribbean, sailing the Bahamas, Cuba and Guatemala.


“With the Marlies, Turk Broda (the Leafs Hall of Fame netminder) was our coach. He was great, with a real sense of humour and one day was trying to explain something to our goalie. Johnny Albani, about the right way to be square to shots. He went right out on the ice in net, took off his coat, put the blocker and catcher on and had us shooting at him. With a chance like that, no one was letting up on him and a couple just missed his head.”

Advertisement 18

Article content

Recommended from Editorial


Former Leafs assistant and Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins is taking over Adler Mannheim in Germany after NHL stints in Edmonton and Anaheim … Wilson was able to drop off another automated external defibrillator to Durham North Big Brothers and Sisters at the Hall in Port Perry this week. Sales from his book, Ultimate True Tales From Beer League Hockey, go towards installing the life-saving devices in arenas … Ex-Leaf Dan Hodgson had his No. 16 retired this week by the Prince Albert Raiders, whom he led to the 1985 Memorial Cup.


Sheldon Keefe will pass Red Kelly for sixth in games coached for Toronto on Saturday (319) … Jim (Howie) McKenny turns 77 on Dec.  1 … Wednesday will mark 24 years since Steve Thomas broke Mario Lemieux’s NHL record for regular-season overtime goals with his 10th in a win over Buffalo. Thomas finished with 13, while Alex Ovechkin is the current leader with 25.

Have a comment, question or want to see a former Leaf profiled? Drop a line to [email protected] or via X, @sunhornby.

Article content