Algonquin (Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg)
July 6, 1930
January 24, 2021
George Armstrong is known as one of the first Indigenous trailblazers in the NHL. He played 21 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs between 1949 and 1971 and captained the team to 4 Stanley Cup championships in 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1967. George played more seasons, more regular season games, and captained the Maple Leafs longer than any other player in the club’s history. He was called by Conn Smythe "the best captain, as a captain, the Leafs have ever had."
Born in Bowlands Bay, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Wanapitei, George grew up in a small northern mining community. In the winters, he practiced his skating and hockey skills when lakes froze over, in the summers he enjoyed swimming and hunting in the bush. His mother, a strong Algonquin woman, raised George to be proud of his heritage.
After his time with the Copper Cliff Jr. Redman, George played for the Stratford Kroehlers in the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA), where he won the Red Tilson Trophy as OHA’s Most Valuable Player and the Eddie Powers Trophy as the league’s Top Scorer in 1947-1948.
In 1950, Armstrong won the Allan Cup with the Toronto Sr. Malboros. While visiting the Stoney Indian Reserve in Alberta during the Allan Cup finals, the band presented him with a headdress and gave him the name “Big Chief Shoot-the-Puck” in honour of his Indigenous heritage. The nickname “the Chief” stuck with him throughout the rest of his career.
After his retirement in 1971, George coached the Toronto Marlboros to two Memorial Cup championships in 1972-1973 and 1974-1975. In 1975, George was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. His jersey was retired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016. George ranks among the top all-time scorers in Maple Leafs history with 713 points in 1,188 regular season games.