Rick Vaive is the Greatest Player Left Un-Honored by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Toronto Maple Leafs began the great sports tradition of honoring players by retiring jersey numbers when they became the first professional sports team to do so by retiring #6 Ace Bailey in 1934.
In total, the Leafs have honored 19 players by retiring 13 numbers (some numbers were used by multiple players before they were retired).
Perhaps the greatest Toronto Maple Leaf to not receive this honor is #22 Rick Vaive. It is a great honor to have your jersey number raised to the rafters. Not everyone can receive this honor. However, Rick Vaive is a player who definitely deserves it.
Rick Vaive Achievements with the Toronto Maple Leafs
Rick Vaive sits 5th in all-time Toronto Maple Leaf goal scoring.
He sits 10th in all-time points by a Toronto Maple Leaf.
He holds the record for Most Goals by a Toronto Maple Leaf in a Single Season with 54 goals in 1981-82. (stats quanthockey.com).
He holds the record for Most 50+ Goal Seasons by a Toronto Maple Leaf by scoring 50+ goals during 3 seasons: 54 in 1981-82, 51 in 1982-83, 52 in 1983-84.
During the 1981-82 season, Rick Vaive also became the first Toronto Maple Leaf to score 50 goals in a single season. In NHL history, only 14 players have more 50 goal seasons than Rick Vaive.
He lead the Toronto Maple Leafs in goals for four seasons: 1981-1982, 1982-83, 1983-84, 1984-85
He lead the Toronto Maple Leafs in points for three seasons: 1981-82, 1983-84, 1984-85
As a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Rick Vaive was top 5 in NHL goal scoring for 2 seasons and top 10 for 3 seasons: 1981-1982 (5th), 1982-83 (7th), 1983-84 (5th).
Rick Vaive scored 30+ goals in a single season 7 times for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He scored more that a point per game in 4 seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He was captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1982-86.
He was inducted into the Prince Edward Island Sports Hall of Fame in the year 2000.
How Does Rick Vaive Compare to Toronto Maple Leafs with Retired Numbers?
Of the 19 players with numbers retired by the Toronto Maple Leafs, only Mats Sundin (420), Darryl Sittler (389) and Dave Keon (365) have scored more goals as a Maple Leaf than Rick Vaive. That puts him in very elite company!
No player with a number retired by the Toronto Maple Leafs has scored 50 goals in a single season as a Maple Leaf. Only 3 members of the Toronto Maple Leafs have done that so far: Gary Leeman (51 in 1989-90), Dave Andreychuk (53 in 1993-94) and Rick Vaive (who did it 3 times)!
Of the 19 players with numbers retired by the Toronto Maple Leafs, only Mats Sundin has been a Top 5 goal scorer in a single season since the league expanded from 6 teams in 1967. Rick Vaive did it twice! Since 1967, Lanny MacDonald, Dave Andreychuk, Phil Kessel, Auston Matthews and John Tavares have also been Top 5 single season goal scorers as Maple Leafs.
Why haven’t the Toronto Maple Leafs Raised Rick Vaive to the Rafters?
There is a fear that if a franchise retires too many numbers, eventually there wont be enough numbers available for the players on their roster. The Leaf currently have the second most retired numbers in the NHL with 13. The Montreal Canadiens has the most with 15.
Besides Ace Bailey and Bill Barilko, the Toronto Maple Leafs used to “honor numbers” instead of retiring them until the club decided to retire all the honored numbers in 2016. Honored numbers were raised to the rafters just like retired numbers. If the Maple Leafs still practiced the act of honoring numbers instead of retiring them, raising #22 Rick Vaive to the rafters might be an easier decisions.
A few teams including the Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes and Ottawa Senators have created what they call their “Ring of Honour” as a way to honor franchise legends without taking their jersey number out of circulation. The Philadelphia Flyers have created their own “Flyers Hall of Fame.” These teams still retire numbers, it’s just a way to honor players without reducing available jersey numbers too much. The Leafs don’t do this, but if they did, it’s the least they could do to honor Rick Vaive.
There’s just something magical about going to an arena (especially for the first time) and seeing those numbers in the rafters. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a historic franchise that has featured so many legends, and I’d love to see more players receiving this great honor.