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Ace Bailey
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1975
Ace bailey 1934.jpg
Bailey in 1934
Born (1903-07-03)July 3, 1903
Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada
Died April 7, 1992(1992-04-07) (aged 88)
Toronto, Canada
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight 160 lb (73 kg; 11 st 6 lb)
Position Right Wing
Shot Right
Played for Toronto Maple Leafs
Playing career 1926–1933

Irvine Wallace "Ace" Bailey (July 3, 1903 – April 7, 1992) was a Canadian professional ice hockey player. He played for the Toronto Maple Leafs for eight seasons, from 19261933. His playing career ended with a fight he encountered during a game against the Boston Bruins; he was severely injured in the resulting scrum. He is the first professional sports player to have a jersey number retired in his honour. Bailey led the NHL in scoring in 1929, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.

Playing career

Born in Bracebridge, Ontario, Bailey grew up in Toronto and attended the University of Toronto. After two years in university he joined the junior Toronto St. Mary's in the Ontario Hockey Association. He played senior hockey in Peterborough for two seasons (1924–1926) and in November 1926 was signed by the Toronto St. Patricks of the National Hockey League, renamed the Toronto Maple Leafs in his first season with the team. He was the leading scorer and goal scorer in the NHL in the 1928–29 season, with 22 goals and 32 points in 44 games. He was again the Leafs' leading scorer in 1929–30 and one point short of repeating in 1930–31. After three consecutive 20-goal seasons, his offensive production declined in the 1931–32 season. Bailey still helped Toronto win the Stanley Cup in 1932, scoring the Cup-winning goal in game 3 of the finals.

Bailey's career came to an abrupt end on December 12, 1933, when he was hit from behind by Eddie Shore of the Boston Bruins, and hit his head on the ice, fracturing his skull; he convulsed on the ice of the Boston Garden. This occurred after Maple Leafs teammate King Clancy upended Shore with a hard check as the latter player rushed up the ice. Angry, dazed, and thinking he was going after Clancy, Shore rushed at Bailey intent on revenge. Another teammate, Red Horner knocked Shore out cold with one punch after the incident. It was feared that Bailey would not survive after severely injuring his head. He came out of a coma for the second time 10 days later, making a full recovery, but did not play professionally again. When he was assured that Bailey would survive, league president Frank Calder suspended Shore for 16 games. An all-star benefit game was held at Maple Leaf Gardens on February 14, 1934, which raised $20,909 for Bailey and his family. Bailey and Shore shook hands and embraced at centre ice before the game began. Thirteen years later, the NHL introduced an annual all-star game.

Bailey's #6 sweater was the first ever to be retired by an NHL team, and is one of the 13 numbers (19 players) to have been permanently retired by the Maple Leafs. In 1968 Bailey asked it be unretired so Ron Ellis could wear it. Over his career, Bailey totaled 111 goals and 82 assists in 313 games.

Post-playing career and death

Bailey (left) shakes the hand of Eddie Shore at the benefit All-Star Game held in honour of Bailey.

Following his career-ending injury, Bailey asked the NHL if he could work as a linesman, but he was turned down. He coached the University of Toronto Varsity Blues men's ice hockey team from 1935 to 1940 and again after World War II from 1945 to 1949, winning three Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union championships. He also worked as a timekeeper at Maple Leaf Gardens from 1938 to 1984, when the 81-year-old Bailey was told by Gardens owner Harold Ballard that his services were no longer needed. On April 1, 1992 Bailey's number was again retired by the Maple Leafs; that same day Bailey had a stroke, and he died on April 7, 1992 of lung failure at the age of 88.


Bailey was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975. Named in his honour, the Ace Bailey Memorial ice hockey tournament for youth players is held annually in Stoney Creek, Ontario.

Bailey's jersey number was the first to ever be retired in professional sports; it was retired by the Maple Leafs' then-owner Conn Smythe at the game organized for his benefit.


  • November 3, 1926 - Signed as a free agent by the Toronto Maple Leafs

Awards and achievements

  • 1928–29 – NHL Scoring Leader
  • 1932 – Stanley Cup champion
  • February 14, 1934 – #6 jersey retired by the Toronto Maple Leafs; first ever number retirement in professional sports
  • 1975 – Hockey Hall of Fame, honoured member

Career statistics

Regular season and playoffs

Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1921–22 Bracebridge Bird Mill OHA
1922–23 Toronto St. Mary's OHA 4 2 1 3 4 2 1 3
1922–23 Toronto St. Mary's M-Cup 4 2 1 3
1923–24 Toronto St. Mary's OHA 8 10 0 10
1924–25 Peterborough Seniors OHA Sr 8 5 0 5 2 3 0 3 2
1924–25 Peterborough Seniors Al-Cup 2 0 0 0 6
1925–26 Peterborough Seniors OHA Sr 9 9 2 11 2 2 2 1 3
1925–26 Peterborough Seniors Al-Cup 6 2 2 4
1926–27 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 42 15 13 28 82
1927–28 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 43 9 3 12 72
1928–29 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 44 22 10 32 78 4 1 2 3 4
1929–30 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 43 22 21 43 69
1930–31 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 40 23 19 42 46 2 1 1 2 0
1931–32 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 41 8 5 13 62 7 1 0 1 4
1932–33 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 47 10 8 18 52 8 0 1 1 4
1933–34 Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 13 2 3 5 11
NHL totals 313 111 82 193 472 21 3 4 7 12

See also

  • Ace Bailey Benefit Game
  • List of past NHL scoring leaders
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