With the exception of 1972 Team Canada hero Paul Henderson, there is perhaps no other professional hockey player who has become as well known for his exploits in just a single game as Robert Neil "Bob" Baun.
Baun's career-making night was the sixth game of the 1964 Stanley Cup final, with Baun playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs against Detroit. Baun describes what happened halfway through the third period with the score tied 3-3 at the Detroit Olympia: "I got hit in the foot by a shot by Gordie Howe, so they took me to the Olympia infirmary. The guys who looked at it didn't think I could hurt it any more than I already had, so they froze it and I went back to play the game," recalls Baun, who had to be taken from the ice on a stretcher. "I knew it was broken; I didn't need any X-rays to tell me that. But I didn't want to miss the overtime. I told the trainer he had to do everything possible to get me out there. He gave me a shot of painkiller, which numbed the ankle, and taped it tight. Then I laced up my skate and went back to the bench."
His foot did turn out to be broken?Baun later jokingly called it "the best break I ever had"?but that didn't stop him. And for the Leafs, it was a good thing the stalwart defenseman decided to rejoin the action in game six. Just two minutes into the overtime, Baun made himself a hockey legend. He took a pass from Bob Pulford near the blue line. His shot deflected off the skate of Detroit's Bill Gadsby, past Terry Sawchuk and into the net.
Two nights later, the Leafs won game seven, and with it the Stanley Cup. The irrepressible Baun played a regular shift in the deciding game.
The upshot of Baun's painful goal-scoring heroics was that he was never much of a marksman during his 17-year NHL career, recording just 37 goals and 187 assists in 964 career games. From the standpoint of personal stats, his best season was one goal and 20 assists in 1970-71. Instead of wowing the fans with impressive offense, though, Baun was known as a hard-checking pure defender, and he was a mainstay of the "Big Four" of Leafs defenders in the 1960s.
Born in Lanigan, Saskatchewan, in 1936, Baun started off in the junior ranks with the Toronto Marlboros and then was assigned to the American Hockey League's Rochester Americans. He was brought up to the Leafs for the 1956-57 season and joined other young future stars Tim Horton and Carl Brewer on defense. After 11 seasons with the Leafs, in which he played on Stanley Cup winning teams from 1962 to 1964 and in 1967, Baun was picked by the Oakland Seals in the 1967 Expansion Draft. After only one season in California, he asked to be traded back to one of the Original Six teams and the Seals complied, dealing him to Detroit, where he played for three years. Finally, he came back to the Leafs in 1970-71 and played there until 1972-73.
But Baun didn't remain out of the game for very long. He went on to coach the Toronto Toros of the WHA in 1975-76.
Baun once fined every member of the Toros $500 after a game against Cleveland when the team botched an 8-2 lead and lost 10-9. He later refunded the money but was replaced as coach in 1976. Baun continued to farm and also had a sideline selling insurance in his retirement.