Shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, a group of Toronto sportsmen decided to form a new athletic club in the downtown core. The name they chose was "The Toronto Marlborough Athletic Club."
The club was named after the Duke of Marlborough who's family name was Churchill. The Duke was an uncle to Sir Winston Churchill, a former Prime Minister of Great Britain.
In 1903, the club secretary Fred Waghorne wrote to the Duke of Marlborough in England for permission to use the storied name and crest.
The following year the club formed its' first hockey team, the Marlborough Seniors. In their first season they faced the Ottawa Silver Sevens for the Stanley Cup back in the day when the championship was still a challenge cup. The Marlboroughs fell short of winning that year but it laid the groundwork for the storied franchise in years to come.
The logo was taken from the Marlborough family using their crown and adding the initial A.C. for Athletic Club. In the late 1950's the logo was modified as the present day Maple Leaf was added behind the crown.
In 1927, Conn Smythe bought the NHL Toronto St. Pats and changed their name to the Toronto Maple Leafs. This was largely due to his patriotic pride and the Maple Leaf was a proud national symbol to him because of his military career. Smythe realized that his NHL team required a strong farm system and made the Marlboroughs part of the Maple Leafs organization.
Both the Maple Leafs and Marlboroughs practiced out of the Ravina Gardens in Toronto's west end and both teams played their games at the Mutual Street Arena until Maple Leaf Gardens was built in 1931.
In 1929, the Marlborough Juniors won their first Memorial Cup. Less than a decade later on May 28, 1937 the original Hot Stove Club was formed at Maple Leaf Gardens for the purpose of raising funds to support the Marlborough Hockey Club. Although the club was formed, it wasn't until 1963 that it was finally given a permanent home at Maple Leaf Gardens.
In 1949-50, the Marlboros captured the Allan Cup. Former Maple Leafs captain George Armstrong was a member of the senior Marlies during that season. He registered 64 goals in 45 games and a further 19 goals in 17 Allan Cup playdown games as the Marlboros captured the Canadian senior hockey championship.
In 1954-55, the Marlboros captured their second Memorial Cup and they wouldn't have to wait long for their third as they became just the second team to capture back to back Memorial Cups with their victory in 1955-56. The Oshawa Generals were the first team to accomplish the feat in 1938-39 and 1939-40.
In 1963-64, the Marlboros won the Memorial Cup again and it proved to be a historic win. To this date it is the only time that the Memorial and Stanley Cups have been presented in the same building as Maple Leaf Gardens played host to both trophy presentations. Many of the players on the 1964 Marlboros team like Ron Ellis, Mike Walton and Pete Stemkowski went on to help the Maple Leafs capture the Stanley Cup in 1967.
In 1966-67, the Maple Leafs and Marlboros pulled off the daily double yet again as the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup while the Marlies captured the Memorial Cup.
One of the most famous Maple Leafs and Marlboros of all time, George Armstrong, coached the Marlies to their final two Memorial Cup victories in 1972-73 and 1974-75.
Up until the NHL instituted the Entry Draft in 1967 that exists today, the Maple Leafs relied heavily on the Marlboro minor system to produce players from a young age in the hopes that some would ultimately play in the NHL. The affiliation with the Marlboros paid off as many players were part of Maple Leafs Stanley Cup winning teams.
Six players who played for the Marlboros and Maple Leafs have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. They are George Armstrong, Bob Pulford, Red Horner, Harvey Jackson, Charlie Conacher and Joe Primeau. A more telling statistic about the success of the partnership between the Marlboros and Maple Leafs is the 52 Stanley Cups that have been won by players who played for both teams.
Not only were the Maple Leafs successful, but the Toronto Marlboros were as well. They won seven Memorial Cups which is a record that still stands today.
When the Junior A Marlboros were dissolved in 1989, the Maple Leafs discontinued their direct involvement with the Marlboro minor system. However, through the permission of Harold Ballard, the Marlboro minor league teams were allowed to retain the name and logo which they still use today.