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Bill Barilko was a Canadian ice hockey player who was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs between 1946 and 1951. He played his entire professional, albeit short, for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Barilko is best remembered as the scorer of the overtime goal that won the Toronto Maple Leafs the 1951 Stanley Cup in game 5 of the series as well as the way he lost he lost his life shortly after.
Barilko was born on August 26, 1951 of Ukrainian descent near Cochrane, Ontario. He started his professional career with the Hollywood Wolves, an affiliate of the Maple Leafs in the Pacific Coast Hockey League. When Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe saw Barilko playing for the Wolves he was impressed and had him promoted to the Maple Leafs during the 1946/47 season, where he would have a short but memorable career.
Bill Barilko’s Most Notable Achievements
Unfortunately, Bill is remembered most for the tragic way in which he lost his life, disappearing for 11 years before the wreckage of the plane in which he died was finally found. Bill was not exactly a high profile player but he had a reputation among rivals and teammates for being a hard hitting, no-nonsense defenseman who was always among the penalty minute leaders.
Barilko was known for his ferocious body checking and zealous play, an attribute that endeared him to fans. He played in the 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951 Stanley Cup Finals, all of which were won by the Maple Leafs. His overtime goal in the overtime of game 5 of the 1951 Stanley Cup, and which also turned out to be his last ever goal catapulted Barilko to the height of his fame.
The 1951 final between the Toronto Maple Leafs and their mortal foes the Montreal Canadiens is the tightest series ever played in the history of the Stanley Cup. His overtime goal in the overtime of game 5 of the 1951 Stanley Cup, and which also turned out to be his last ever goal catapulted Barilko to the height of his fame. The 1951 final between the Toronto Maple Leafs and their mortal foes the Montreal Canadiens is the tightest series ever played in the history of the Stanley Cup.
All five games went to overtime, the only time such an occurrence has ever happened. In game 1 Barilko sacrificed his body to save what seemed to be a sure goal by Rocket Richard. Toronto would win the game in overtime. The Canadiens would win game two before the Leafs won the next two in Montreal. In game 5, played in Toronto on April 21, 1951, the Leafs found themselves trailing 2-1 with the game heading to a close but they equalized with 32 seconds left on the clock.
Bill Barilko picked up a loose puck and shot past Canadiens goaltender Gerry McNeil on the 2:53 mark of the first overtime. The goal won the Stanley Cup for the Maple Leafs with the team beating the Canadiens 3-2. His number 5 jersey is one of only two numbers to be retired by the Maple leafs, the other being Ace Bailey’s number 6. He appeared in three All-Star games (1947, 1948 and 1949) and he scored a goal in the 1949 edition.
What Happened to Bill Barilko?
Bill Barilko’s life ended when he was just 24 in tragic manner, in the spring of 1951 coming off a Stanley Cup win with the Maple Leafs. On August 26, 1951 he and his friend Henry Hudson who was a dentist took Hudson’s floatplane, a Fairchild 24 for a weekend fishing trip to Seal River in Quebec.
Barilko and Hudson both disappeared on the return journey and their whereabouts would not be known until 1962 when the wreckage of their plane was discovered by helicopter pilot Ron Boyd. Apparently the pair’s plane had had a crash a hundred kilometers north of Cochrane Ontario. This was 35 kilometers off course, which suggested pilot experience. The plane was also deemed to have been overloaded and plagued by bad weather.
Interestingly that was the same year that the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup again since the 1951 edition when Barilko’s goal had secured it for Toronto. Barilko’s remains were buried at the Timmins Memorial Cemetery in Ontario, Canada. Barilko is immortalized in a number of ways including a hit song called “Fifty Mission Cap” from the 1992 album Fully Completed by the band Tragically Hip. He is also a likely candidate for induction to the hall of fame in the near future.