Wednesday

Milt Schmidt

Time has eroded the legacy of Milt Schmidt, Mr. Boston Bruin. He last played in 1955, in a long forgotten era that was vastly different than hockey today. With little video evidence of his greatness to preserve his stature, modern fans who do know of Schmidt have to do some heavy research and understanding of the players and the era.

Thanks to the memories of the decreasing old time fans, writers and most importantly on ice peers, Schmidt is still recognized as one of the greatest players in NHL history. In 2000, The Hockey News assembled 50 hockey experts to definitively rank the top players of all time. Milt Schmidt came in at number 27, ahead of the likes of Paul Coffey, Henri Richard, Bryan Trottier, Patrick Roy and Boom Boom Geoffrion.

In fact, only two players of Schmidt's approximate era ranked ahead of him. Eddie Shore and Howie Morenz. Contemporaries such as Syl Apps, Charlie Conacher, Dit Clapper, Bill Cook and Max Bentley finished below Schmidt. Scmidt's legendary rivals, namely Elmer Lach, Sid Abel and Ted Kennedy, all Hall of Famers, didn't even make the list.

Schmidt was considered to be the ultimate two-way player of his day, a Trottier or Steve Yzerman of the 1940s. He was small but determined. He was a strong skater and clever puck distributor but also a great finish. As beautiful as he was to watch on the offense, the Bruins long time captain took equal pride in the defensive zone, and was not afraid to get his nose dirty. While he usually played cleanly, one reporter described his play as "angry."

Yet the 1940 NHL scoring champion and 1951 NHL most valuable player might not have ever come to Boston if it hadn't been for a couple of friends in Kitchener, Ontario.



The Bruins had previously signed wingers Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer. The duo immediately began campaigning for the club to sign the center they played junior hockey with. The B's weren't as interested in Milt but signed him too, and assigned Schmidt to Providence of the AHL. Schmidt joined the Bruins for the second half of the 1936-37 season, and he quickly established himself as the leader of the Bruins.

Schmidt was reunited with the high scoring Dumart and the smooth skating Bauer. Known in the less politically correct era as the Kraut Line (changed temporarily to the Kitchener Kids during World War II), the trio was as complete and balanced a line as the NHL had ever seen. In fact they were so dominant the trio finished 1-2-3 in the NHL scoring race one year.

The Bruins of 1938-39 won the second Stanley Cup in franchise history. It wasn't just the Kraut Line that was responsible for that. Eddie Shore, Dit Clapper, brilliant rookie goalie Frank Brimsek, and veteran scorers like Bill Cowley, Flash Hollett and Roy Conacher made for one of the greatest teams of all time.

Two years later it was Schmidt who led the Bruins to another Cup. After a relative off-season (13-25--38pts in the regular season), Schmidt led the Bruins to their second Cup in three years by collecting five goals and six assists for 11 points in as many playoff games. In this era prior to a MVP award for Stanley Cup playoff competition, it is unanimously agreed Schmidt was the key cog. The Bruins lost NHL scoring leader Bill Cowley to a knee injury in the very first game of the playoffs. Schmidt came through with a hard-checking style that earned him mention as a game star in four of the games against Toronto, then was great in the finals with points in all four games. He led all playoff scorers by 3 points.

That Bruins team might very well have become known as the greatest team ever, however World War II wiped out Boston's chances at establishing a true dynasty. Schmidt and his linemates enlisted, left for the Royal Canadian Air Force near the end of the 1941-42 season, and weren't seen again in Boston until the fall of 1946.

Schmidt was 28 years old by the time he returned. Many other NHL players had difficulty starting their careers again, but Schmidt actually seemed a better player after missing more than three seasons. In his first year back, Schmidt scored more goals (27) and points (62) than he ever would in a career that would cover 16 NHL seasons.

Schmidt was elected Boston's captain after he and the Bruins suffered through a miserable 1949-50 season, in which the club missed the playoffs and Schmidt scored a somewhat average 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) in 68 games. With the 'C' on his sweater, Schmidt rebounded strongly for 22 goals, a career-high 39 assists and 61 points in 1950-51. He was awarded the Hart Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player, and earned the last of his three first-team All-Star berths.

Schmidt had a strong, second-team All-Star season in '51-52 (21-29--50), and his career-high five playoff goals in 10 post-season games a year later helped Boston to a surprise berth in the Stanley Cup final despite a sub-.500 regular season.

Schmidt didn't complete his final season on the ice. General Manager Lynn Patrick, Schmidt's coach starting in 1950-51, asked Schmidt to move behind the bench in 1954-55, and Schmidt became Boston's coach on Christmas Day, 1954. He'd hold the post through 1960-61, getting Boston to the Cup finals in 1957 and '58, then returned to the bench for four more seasons after a two-year hiatus.

Schmidt succeeded Hap Emms as GM in 1967-68. The B's, already on the rise with the addition of Bobby Orr, took off like a rocket after Schmidt's first big trade brought Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield to Boston from Chicago.

Schmidt, who had been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961, oversaw Stanley Cups in 1970 and '72 before retiring as GM. He returned to work as the expansion Washington Capitals' first GM in 1974-75, but left that post a year later, only return to the Boston.

17 comments:

Anonymous,  9:41 AM  

I am in possession of what I believe is the 1939 Stanley Cup Bruins, team signed hockey stick.
Including the Kraut Line and the rest of the Champs.
Anyone have an idea of its value? Would be interested in selling.

Anonymous,  9:42 AM  

I am in possession of what I believe is the 1939 Stanley Cup Bruins, team signed hockey stick.
Including the Kraut Line and the rest of the Champs.
Anyone have an idea of its value? Would be interested in selling.

Anonymous,  10:29 AM  

I grew up near Milt Schmidt as a young child from 1964 to 1972, Milt and his wife used to babyset me. I never realized how great he was until I saw his number retired on the ceiling of the Boston Garden.I had always thought of him as a nice old man who gave me candy on Halloween,

Anonymous,  5:40 PM  

I have a boston bruins hockey jersey #15 with the C on the chest and the emblem of the spoked B has 24 on the left side of the B and 49 on the right, it is the 25th anniversary of the bruins and it is Milt Schmidt's number could you tell me how much it is worth and if it is really Schmidt's.

Brian Codagnone 9:49 AM  

I have a boston bruins hockey jersey #15 with the C on the chest and the emblem of the spoked B has 24 on the left side of the B and 49 on the right, it is the 25th anniversary of the bruins and it is Milt Schmidt's number could you tell me how much it is worth and if it is really Schmidt's.

Can you e-mail me, preferably with pictures.

S1019@aol.com

Anonymous,  9:52 AM  

"I have a boston bruins hockey jersey #15 with the C on the chest and the emblem of the spoked B has 24 on the left side of the B and 49 on the right, it is the 25th anniversary of the bruins and it is Milt Schmidt's number could you tell me how much it is worth and if it is really Schmidt's.

Can you e-mail me, preferably with pictures? S1019@aol.com.

Anonymous,  1:34 PM  

Milt and the rest of the Kraut Line played at my (now sadly gone) home rink in Durham, England during the war (Google Durham Wasps). I'm wondering if anyone out in Boston knows anything about this or has any idea if Milt and the lads ever spoke about it?

Christina Schmidt,  6:12 PM  

I am writing in response to the person who said they had a team signed stick. How did you come into possession of this?? I would love to buy it from you. I am related to Milt, and have only recently started to appreciate just how amazing he is. This would mean a lot to me to buy this stick from you. Please feel free to contact me via email at christina.schmidt83@gmail.com
Thanks!

Tara Schickler,  10:18 PM  

I am also related to him...he was an amazing hockey player!

Anonymous,  7:21 PM  

I encounter Mr. Schmidt regularly in my travels. Exectly what that is not relevent here and I wish to preserve Mr. Schmidt's privacy. I only have to say he is both a remarkable man and a very human person. He is still going strong at 93. We got to wish him happy birthday just the other day! For a man of his considerable accomplishments; status as one of the all time great hockey players, coaches and managers and wide spread fame he is a real regular guy! I salute you Mr. Schmidt and wish you many more years of a happy life!

Charles Thompson,  6:41 PM  

While I haven't seen Milt Schmidt since 1943 I remember him well as a "heads up"hockey player-He had to be,
our rink in Durham England was in a big tent with large poles in the ice area supporting the roof.Further it was my privlege to assist on a few occasions with the taping of his knees.RCAF 419 & 428 Squadrons were most fortunate in having the Kraut line to represent us.Charles Thompson

Bob Barrett,  7:52 PM  

I worked with Milt in the Blades and Boards Club at the old Boston Garden. Milt is a wonderful person. I was around 17 at the time and he always had time to talk about my schooling. He was like a dad to me. If anyone has his address please send it to me at blackhawk_19872003@yahoo.com
Thanks. Bob Barrett

David M (greater Boston area),  12:56 PM  

Today a dream came true!!! This morning I had the honor to have my picture taken with Mr. Schmidt and the 2011 Stanley Cup at his home in MA. Even though he is an old man now, he looks great! His grip felt like a steel vise when he shook my hand. He even picked up a little girl from the floor and hoisted her up onto the table that the Cup was perched on. I told him that I was more impressed with meeting him than seeing the Cup up close and personal. He smiled, slapped my back and politley said, "Thank you".

James Crandell,  9:19 PM  

I am trying to find out more about my father, T.M. Crandell, who was a hockey player and served with the 419 Squadron in 1942-3 before he was shot down. He often spoke of playing with Milt Schmidt in the Air Force and I wonder if it was at Durham. If Charles Thompson knows anything about this, please contact me at JCrandell@shaw.ca. Of course, if anybody has Mr Schmit's email address, I would like to contact him to see if he remembers my father.
James Crandell

Chazac 2:59 PM  

What impresses me most is the reverence that the old Bruins show for Mil Schmidt. This reflects his greatness. Of course, everyone knows and associates the Boston Bruins and Bobby Orr. Well, last October at the season-opener, the Bruins unveiled the Stanley Cup and had a flag-raising ceremony. In the intoductions before the flag-raising they trotted out the old Bruins and of course EVERYONE expected Orr to be the last to be introduced - he wasn't - it was Schmidt. I heard that Orr insisted that it be Milt instead of him to be introduced last saying 'As long as he is alive, Milt IS the greatest living Bruin' .... says a lot for both Bobby Orr and for Milt Schmidt.

Anonymous,  10:36 PM  

Sounds like Orr - ever the team player and the Gentleman. Speaking of Gentlemen - who else but Milt Schmidt would you want to defer to, the class he is and always has been!

Derek 10:51 AM  

Before Orr - Schmidt was #2 and Shore was #1 - that is not a slight at all on Schmidt - just Shore was as big as Orr.

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