The short, remarkable life of Bill Barilko ended in tragedy just weeks after he became a team's hero. Barilko hailed from Northern Ontario and pursued his lifelong dream to play for the Maple Leafs. He started his pro career playing in Hollywood of all places, but his ferocious checking and determined play earned him a callup to Maple Leaf Gardens, and extraordinary promotion, to say the least.
Once Conn Smythe saw Barilko play in the Blue and White, he knew his defenceman was never going to Hollywood again except, perhaps, on a summer vacation. Barilko hit every opponent with equal force and was a rock on Toronto's blueline. In his five NHL seasons, he won four Stanley Cups, scoring, arguably the most dramatic Stanley Cup winning goal, and certainly the one that is reproduced more frequently than any other.
In 1951, the Toronto-Montreal finals were the closest ever, with all five games going into overtime, the only such final series in Cup history. It was Barilko who scored the winner in that deciding game, hero for a city and country. But in the summer, he went on a fishing trip with a friend, taking a small plane into the remotest north of Ontario. On its return, the friends likely weighed the plane down with catch, and the plane crashed, killing the two men. It was not until 1962, that the plane and remains were discovered by pilot Ron Boyd, shortly after the Leafs had won the Cup. It was their first victory since Barilko's heroics.