The King and I
My memories of King Clancy were somewhat jaded as I grew up watching every Toronto Maple Leaf home game in the 1970s and all I can remember is seeing a diminutive King poised in the presidents box beside a towering Harold Ballard.
Clancy always seemed quite reserved and somewhat overshadowed by the boisterous Ballard but it wasnt until later in life how much I would learn through collecting what a king he really was and that I would come to have allot more in common with him that I ever thought I would. I will explain more, later in this article.
Francis Michael King Clancys nickname "King" originates from his father Tom, who was the first 'King Clancy' and played football for Ottawa. At the time the football was not snapped as is done today, but was 'heeled' back from the line. Frank's father was very good at this and was named 'King of the Heelers' or 'King' for short. This nickname was eventually transferred to Frank.
Although Clancy played for the Ottawa Senators for 10 years in the 1920s it would seem that his stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs for seven years had made his name King more of a household name.
Very few collectibles other than cards were released in the 1920s. So I would like to focus on a few rare pieces that were produced in the 1930s that saluted the King in more of a memorabilia sense and that are not often seen in the hobby.
One of the first pieces of memorabilia that would surely take a weeks pay to acquire would be an original press photo noting that Clancy had been traded from Ottawa to Toronto for a record $40,000 dated on October 30th, 1930.
This would be first time Clancy was seen in a Leaf uniform and compared to todays standards; Clancy seems a little small to be in any professional league however history would prove otherwise.
Now the Toronto Maples Leafs of the 1930s werent the most winning hockey team of this decade and with only one Stanley Cup in 1931-32 notched in their stick, a brides-maid they would be six other times. It certainly wasnt for lack of quality players or talent as the Leafs had so many recognized today as being some of the best that ever laced up their skates and with the King being one of their best.
With Clancys popularity the Enos Fruit Salts company would solicit the King in the early 1930s to promote their wares. Fruit Salts was a commonly used product mainly consumed as an antacid; it is still around today. Within old hockey programs, magazines and newspapers, King Clancy was widely seen promoting this product.
A rather unknown collectible is this beautiful colour photo of Clancy and was inscribed By the Courtesy of Enos Fruit Salts. This picture measures 10 3/8 and 8 1/4 with a pronounced boarder. Accompanied on this photo was a facsimile autograph stating Best Wishes King Clancy.
Certainly a premium offering of some type, one of which history will keep in its mysterious origin in the back pocket of Father Times wallet, until its picked. This early coloured photo could be in your collection for around $350 to say the least.
One of the most memorable times for Clancy was on March 17, 1934, where the patron saint of the Leafs would be honored on St. Patricks Day at Maple Leaf Gardens with King Clancy Night.
The Toronto Maple Leafs would host the New York Rangers on this night, the last game of the regular season before 11,000 fans. And oh what a night it was with 21 penalties in Donnybrook style of hockey; the Leafs went on to win 3-2.
Before the game started Clancy was dressed up wearing a crown, beard and an elegant robe as to portray the likes of the Celtic, Old King Cole. Poised on a three-stepped throne float, the King was a merry old sole that the Leafs would go to this extreme just for him. Even some of the Ranger players participated in a few skits that would follow and surly entertained the fans with all the different players contributing in Irish jocularities, using such floats and props as potatoes, pipes and boxing gloves.
The king was also showered with gifts which he shared with his wife by his side, his father Tom Clancy was also on hand, the original King was he.
Through the first period King Clancy was garbed in an all-green Maple Leafs uniform which was not worn for the second and third period because the Rangers complained it was too confusing.
All this would lead to a very collectible piece being a 3 ½ diameter pin-back button stating Long Live The King with Clancys face positioned in front of a 3 leafed clover.
Although not confirmed, the exact nature of this pin is assumed to have been either given out to the fans (although you would think more would be around today if this were so) or they were for purchase at the concession booth and possibly just given to the players to wear?
We many never know the origin to this pin or the quantity produce but the photo in the newspaper would confirm the identical photo of this truly rare piece of probably one of the most memorable nights in Leaf history for fun and frolic.
Now getting back to my relationship with Clancy and in 1980-81 while I was playing for the Ted Reeves All-Star Select team we went on to win the King Clancy Select Championship. This was an annual event where all the Ontario arenas All-Star teams would collectively play a series for this prestigious award.
We were presented with a neat trophy and a jacket, of which both I still have today. You know its funny, not until I dug out the trophy did I realize that the green stripe running through the middle of it was obviously put there because of Clancy and the connotation of his Irish decent.
How much is this worth today, well to me it is a priceless part of my hockey history, one that is shared with only the King and I.