A poor boy from Timmins, Ontario who laboured at skating, Bill Barilko miraculously found himself playing defence on the hockey team of his dreams–the Toronto Maple Leafs. Through five National Hockey League seasons, Barilko emerged as the toast of Toronto, helping the Leafs win four Stanley Cup championships. On April 21, 1951, playing Toronto’s loathed rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, Bill Barilko scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime to give the Toronto Maple Leafs their seventh Stanley Cup in franchise history. It was the last goal he ever scored. It was the final game he ever played.
Four months later, preparing to return to Toronto for training camp, Barilko made a fateful decision and planned one final fishing trip to a favoured spot on the east side of James Bay. Neither Bill nor his friend, pilot Dr. Henry Hudson, were heard from again, prompting a massive aerial search. Eleven years later, the remains of both men were discovered in the remnants of their small aircraft, a few miles outside of Cochrane, Ontario.
It wasn’t until Barilko’s body was found, that the Leafs again hoisted the Stanley Cup. They won the Cup that same year–1962.
Bill Barilko’s life has been celebrated now for sixty years. The impeccable shot of Barilko flying through the air as he scored the goal on Montreal’s Gerry McNeil, taken by Nat Turofsky, is the most requested photograph in the archives of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The Toronto Star selected Barilko’s Stanley Cup-winning goal as one of the top three sporting moments in Toronto history in December 2003, the National Post called Barilko’s 1950-51 Leaf team the best Toronto hockey team of all time. The Tragically Hip has kept Bill Barilko’s legacy alive through their song, “Fifty Mission Cap.”
Barilko: Without a Trace chronicles the extraordinary story of this immensely popular athlete and includes a new chapter on the crash site, rediscovered forty years after it was first explored in 1962. Teammates Ted Kennedy, Allan Stanley, Gus Mortson and Howie Meeker are among those who share stories of their sporting life with Bill. Childhood friends, his grieving girlfriend and his sister, Anne, describe the Bill we never knew. Those involved in both the search and discovery tell their amazing tales.
It was as though fate singled out Bill Barilko for immortality.