Darryl Sittler – A Career Collapsed by Management
By Jordan Laroche
St. Jacobs, Ontario native Darryl Sittler was drafted eighth overall in the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. It would only take five seasons for Sittler to earn the captaincy role for the team and in his first season as captain he became the first Leaf to ever hit the 100-point mark with 41 goals and 59 assists that year.
In the 1976 season Sittler would score an NHL record 10 points in a single game. He had six goals and four assists in a game against the Boston Bruins en route to an 11-4 Leafs victory. And just a few seasons later he score 117 points in the 1977-78 season which was a team record until Doug Gilmour passed him in 1993.
Even with all the accolades, Sittler’s time with the Leafs came to a shaky end. Disagreements between Sittler and team Owner Harold Ballard and General Manager Punch Imlach would result in very public disputes within the organization. Imlach believed Sittler had too much influence in the room, so Imlach attempted to undermine his presence. After Imlach filed an injunction to stop Sittler and a teammate from appearing on a TV show he would announce that he was looking for trade destinations for Sittler.
After the team traded Lanny McDonald to the Colorado Rockies, Sittler ripped the ‘C’ off his jersey, stating that a captain had to be the go-between with players and management, and he no longer had any communication with management. After threatening to not play the following season, the team would waive his no-trade clause, but it would take close to seven weeks for Sittler to walk away from the team after doctors said he was “mentally depressed.”
On January 20th, 1982, Sittler would be traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for Rich Costello and the Hartford Whalers’ second round pick that year. Before the 1984-85 season Sittler was told he would be named captain of the Flyers, and on the day of the announcement newly appointed General Manager, Bobby Clarke, broke the news that Sittler had been traded again to the Detroit Red Wings. Sittler described this as the biggest disappointment in his life in his autobiography “Clarke can’t come close to realizing how much he hurt me, and my family, that day.” After an unproductive year, the Red Wings bought out his contract at the end of the 1984-85 season and retired.
Sittler was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989, and in 1991 he would rejoin the Leafs organization as a consultant under General Manager Cliff Fletcher and works in Public Relations for the team. Sittler’s number 27 was retired by the Maple Leafs in 2016 during the team’s 100th season celebrations, it was also worn by Frank Mahovlich.