TORONTO – Today the Toronto Maple Leafs commemorate a 100 year milestone: having a name containing a spelling mistake that has lasted without correction longer than any other spelling mistake in the world.
For the past 90 years Toronto’s NHL franchise has called itself the Maple Leafs, despite the fact that the plural of leaf in English is “leaves.” This is an error the hockey team has never taken steps to correct, even though the mistake has been pointed out by hundreds of thousands of people over the years.
“In 1927 Conn Smythe bought the Toronto St. Patricks and immediately changed the name of the team to the Maple Leafs,” explained Herbert Farmer, a spelling and grammar historian. “Mr. Smythe was a hot-tempered authoritarian. When he misspelled the name of the team, no one else associated with the franchise was willing to risk his wrath by pointing it out, for fear that they would be made into a ‘human Zamboni,’ a practice where Mr. Smythe used an player’s face to clean the ice of Maple Leaf Gardens.”
The team has changed ownership several times since Smythe sold the team in the 1960s, but the team always refused to change the name of the team to Maple Leaves because, according to current MLSE Chairman Larry Tanenbaum “We’d have to change all the signs.”
Other famous misspellings within the sports franchise that were never corrected include former team captain Matt Sundin being accidentally transcribed as Mats Sundin, and current centreman Austin Matthews who, to this day, continues to be billed as Auston Matthews, which everyone agrees, isn’t a real name.