HARTFORD, Conn. -- Toronto owner Harold Ballard fired General Manager Gerry McNamara before Sunday night's game against Hartford, into which the Maple Leafs carried a 1-14-6 slide, a club spokesman said.
Ballard, whose club had won only once in 1988 and has the worst record in the NHL, asked McNamara for his resignation, Assistant General Manager Gord Stellick said. McNamara refused and Ballard, who recently was released from a Miami hospital where he had recovered from a mild heart attack, fired him, Stellick said.
There was no immediate word on a replacement for McNamara, who was in his sixth full season with Toronto. But radio reports in Toronto said until a replacement is named, the job would be shared by Ballard, Stellick, Coach John Brophy and chief scout Floyd Smith. The Leafs also lost Sunday, 4-2 to the Whalers.
'Something had to be done,' Toronto forward Russ Courtnall said. 'But it's too bad Gerry had to go. He worked hard and we (the players) are the ones to blame.'
Ed Olczyk agreed with Courtnall.
'It's a tough situation and we're all at fault,' said Olczyk, who joined the Leafs from the Chicago Blackhawks before the season. 'Plain and simple, it's the players' fault. Nobody does the playing for us. It's not fair to blame one person.'
Brophy, himself the target of dismissal rumors, said he learned of McNamara's firing through the team's press release early Sunday afternoon.
'It wasn't my decision,' he said. 'The only thing I can do is win some games. I don't know how this will affect the team.'
The Leafs, who built a club-record 15-game winless streak, 0-11-4, before defeating the Los Angeles Kings Jan. 27, are 15-32-9 this season, 23 points behind first-place Detroit in the Norris Division.
Toronto hired McNamara as a scout in 1972. He previously played professional hockey for eight seasons, including stints with the Leafs in 1960-61 and 1969-70.
McNamara was credited with bringing to the Leafs, who last won the Stanley Cup in 1967, Swedish defenseman Borje Salming, who has been with the team since 1973.
McNamara took a sabbatical from scouting for the team, which dominated the NHL with four Stanley Cups in the early 1960s, to coach the club's Central Hockey League team in Dallas.
The father of five returned to Toronto as chief scout the following season, and in October 1981, he was appointed acting general manager after Punch Imlach became ill. McNamara was given the job officially the following June.
During McNamara's reign as general manager, the Leafs missed the playoffs three times and finished above fourth in the five-team Norris Division only once.