Punch Imlach

George Imlach packed a punch. That may just be why he was generally known as “Punch”. Of course, it’s possible he was a master at the beverage bowl at New Year’s parties but that seems like a bit of a stretch.

“I recognize that I am a stubborn, tough bastard to deal with.”
– Punch Imlach

Punch Imlach was a hard-assed general manager and coach with hockey’s Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres from the fifties all the way to 1980, winning four Stanley Cups and being named in the Hockey Hall of Fame in the process. He actually got his nickname during his own playing career, when he was knocked out by a stray elbow, got up, and came back swinging – at his own trainer who had rushed onto the ice to help him up.

While he had the dubious judgment to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs, Punch Imlach clearly had great taste in headgear.

Imlach was one of those larger-than-life hockey personalities in that era that left us a smorgasbord of great stories.

For instance, in the 1974 entry draft, Imlach was on the phone announcing the Buffalo Sabres’ draft picks.  He became increasingly bored with the drafting process which had dragged on for hours on end. Then, apparently just to mess with the commissioner Clarence Campbell, in the 11th round he selected an imaginary Japanese player, Taro Tsujimoto from the Japanese League’s non-existent Tokyo Katanas.

Amazingly, no one thought this was strange, in spite of the fact that there had never been a Japanese player either drafted or signed to a professional hockey contract in North America. It took several weeks until anyone caught on. Tsujimoto is officially now listed as “invalid claim” in history books.

Punch is also remembered for bringing four Stanley Cups to Toronto, including the last one they ever won in 1967, with a team including the now legendary doughnut merchant Tim Horton.

Imlach always had a controversial reputation, especially towards his later years when he feuded with players, traded away those he didn’t like, and assessed fines for breaches to his strict dress code.

Today he is remembered for his success in Toronto, his unique, hard-hitting name, and perhaps as a pioneer for Japanese hockey.

About Arto

Co-founder of the Funny Names Blog, Hawaiian shirt enthusiast, and holder of a funny name himself with too many vowels for any sensible person. Currently residing in San Diego, California, scouring through obscure documents on a hunt for more funny names. www.funnynamesblog.wordpress.com
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20 Responses to Punch Imlach

  1. beatrix mana says:

    Back in the 50’s and early 60’s my great uncle Paul Bright was the owner of the Cleveland Crusaders. I saw a few of those games and new a few of the players but I was just a small child. Thanks for the memory.

    • Arto says:

      That’s awesome! I hope you got to meet at least one of Rich Pumple, Skip Krake, Bob Dillabough and Ralph Hopiavouri, all of who played for the Crusaders between ’72 and ’74.

      • beatrix mana says:

        Iam sorry it was the Cleveland Barons.Before it was named Crusaders.

      • Dave says:

        Arto, I’d love to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you knew those names off the top of your head (you do have a near-encyclopedic hockey memory – even though I’ve known things you didn’t know… twice!!), but I’ll be realistic and give you props for your mad research skills.

        In any case, one of my future goals is to assemble two all-time funny name all star teams for each major sport and let our readers vote on who gets in. Seems like the Cleveland Crusders are already well on their way!

  2. aFrankAngle says:

    Punch and the Maple Leafs take me back to my high school days.

    • Arto says:

      It was a bit before my time, but there’s nothing quite like reading about that era. Back then when a reporter asked one of these guys a question, they actually answered it! With personality!

  3. The last one the Leafs will ever win (I hope). Punch was always good for a quote. He was really a larger than life character.

  4. Dave says:

    It’s weird there’s a guy nicknamed “Punch” in hockey, but not in boxing. Another oddity: there’s a guy nicknamed “The Glove” in basketball, but not in any of the sports where people actually wear gloves – hockey, boxing, baseball, football. Life’s little mysteries!

  5. Paws To Talk says:

    Now that is a name! It seems like there are a lot of fun names in sports 🙂

    Bella and DiDi

    • Dave says:

      How about funny dog names? There must be a few. I know racehorses get ridiculous names all the time, and of course we all know that dogs are cooler than horses, right?

  6. Pingback: Our 100th Post! Sweet Brown’s Got Time for That! « The Blog of Funny Names

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