Thursday

Dave Reece

Poor Dave Reece!

After starring with the unlikely hockey program at the University of Vermont, the goalie came out of nowhere to sign with the Boston Bruins in 1972. After three years battling snipers in the minor leagues, Reece was called upon by Boston in the 1975-76 season.

The Bruins were without ace starter Gerry Cheevers (who fled to the WHA) and Gilles Gilbert (due to a mid season injury). Boston called up Reece, who double majored in political science and education, was called upon early in 1976 to tend the Bruins net. Reece did a good job too. He went 7-4-2 in 13 games and had the team on a 7 game winning streak when it was announced that Cheevers was returning to the Bruins from the WHA.

The signing of Cheevers was great for the Bruins of course and Gilles Gilbert would ultimately return to be his backup. The Bruins however did not want to dress Cheevers in his first game back, fearing that he wasn't ready to play on that particular night, February 7, 1976. The Bruins instead gave the starting assignment to Reece as a reward for his good play with the Bruins that year. The game, played in Toronto on a Saturday night which meant it was shown nation wide in Canada and parts of the US on Hockey Night In Canada, was a bittersweet moment for Reece, as he was informed prior to the game that the Bruins would be demoting him to the minors quickly afterwards in order to make roster room for Cheevers.

Bittersweet was as good as Reece would feel on that night. It soon became an agonizing night for the young goalie as he would become both famous and infamous at the mercy of the Leafs amazing center Darryl Sittler. Sittler had the single greatest one-game performance in National Hockey League history - at Reece's expense. Sittler scored 6 goals and 4 assists for a mind-boggling 10 points in an 11-4 Maple Leaf victory! Sittler owned Reece on that record breaking night. 10 points in one game! Gretzky, Lemieux, Yzerman - no one - had or has ever equaled or bettered that!

Sittler had a great joke about Reece afterwards that helped add to Reece's infamy.

"(Reece) was so distraught after that game he tried to commit suicide by stepping in front of the train. Fortunately it went through his legs."

Reece of course was sent to the minors a couple of days later. The demotion wasn't because of his performance against the Leafs - as mentioned earlier it was planned ahead of time. However legend has always had it that Reece was demoted because of that. Reece never returned to the NHL, and his infamous role in Sittler's incredible feat probably had something to do with that. Everywhere Reece went he must have been pestered with questions about that night.

He finished the year in the minors and played one more year before hanging his goalie pads up and focusing on his career in education and consulting. It's too bad that he is remembered exclusively as the goalie who was in net for Sittler's 10 point game, as he had a good little stint in the NHL minus that last game. He also twice represented Team USA in international events - as a spare goalie at the 1972 Olympics and playing in 5 games at the 1977 World Championships

22 comments:

Anonymous,  9:38 AM  

Dave Reece was the Director of Admissions of my prep-school in CT., and was my lacrosse coach as well. I remember watching that a of the game in Toronto during a lacrosse team end-of-the-season BBQ. He was funny and uncanny in a way. I wonder what has happened to him ever since.

Anonymous,  4:36 PM  

He is living in the Upper Valley of NH/VT and private coaching local, prep, and college hockey boys and girls. He is awesome in his own, Dave Reece kind of way.

Anonymous,  3:42 PM  

Dave Reece is a great coach in the upper valley. He doesn't really talk about that night anymore. He is still skating using his trusty old skates from '72. He's a very nice guy.

Anonymous,  10:03 AM  

I remeber dave reese as a younger youth hockey player in troy,ny area I myself put 6 past him. He most likely let me. I even have my old hockey glove with his autograph. That was just before the Bruins era. DAVE J.

er3L,  9:03 PM  

I remember THAT game on Boston's tv38. I was doing homework at the kitchen table and kept turning around every couple minutes to see a replay of a goal. It was surreal. As said, he was actually doing well before that game when nothing went his way. The topper was a goal off the face-off to his right. It was drop-smack-light although it took a bit to figure it out. Somehow Sittler hit the drop at the net, by Reece, off the center pole in the net and rebound out to the other circle. It seemed impossible that the puck could get past a goalie on both sides (in and out) off a face-off!

Anonymous,  6:53 PM  

I went to TP in Pawling NY, Dave Reece was My Lax Coach and was a True Coach and inspiration for leadership; I will be forever Greatful. TJMc 89

Anonymous,  6:23 PM  

he named his dog after Darryl Sittler. The little dog comes runnung everytime he hears "Sittler".

Jim 7:09 PM  

I just came from a Dave Reece skating clinic put on for the Hanover Wild Peewees at Dartmouth's Thompson rink tonight. He puts on a number of clinics for the various teams in the area and it shows in the high level of competitiveness in the local High Schools. He plays at being the curmudgeon but you can tell he is out there for the love of the game and the kids. Some kids say they "hate" the Dave Reece skates b/c he works them so hard but the good ones all say they got where they are b/c of him.

Anonymous,  8:12 PM  

I can honestly say that I am a better person for having played for Dave Reece in High School; the work ethic that he instilled in everyone is uncomparable. I think some of his humbling experiences only made him a better, more effective teacher and coach. I hope he is well

Anonymous,  6:19 PM  

Gotta say Dave is so dedicated to the youth in the Upper Valley. Often I will be lacing my skates while looking at Daves and wonder how pissed off he would be if someone actually sharpened them without him knowing!

Anonymous,  12:43 PM  

I was 9 at the time and story around school was that Dave had committed suicide. I couldn't believe it... somewhat distraught even... it made no sense to me as it takes an entire team to let in 11 goals. I was glad to find out that he was fine and people in the world were idiots especially when it comes to the rumour mill.

TonyC,  6:20 AM  

This game left an indelible impression on me. I was 8 and I lived for the Bruins. I remember thinking why don't they pull the goalie, wtf?? And I remember my dad making me watch the whole thing, laughing at my pain, even as I was close to tears. It was not the character building experience he intended it to be.

Dave, God bless you, I hope life has treated you better than Don Cherry did.

Anonymous,  8:10 PM  

Here's a difficult trivia question: Dave Reece played only 13 games in the NHL, but he gave up hattricks to three different players in that time. Besides the double hattrick of Sittler's, who were the other two players to record 3-goal games against Reece?

Anonymous,  3:22 PM  

Answer to the trivia question

Chuck Lefley of the St. Louis Blues and Ron Sedlbauer of the Vancouver Canucks both lit up Reece for hat tricks.

Robert

Scott Brownfield,  9:24 PM  

Dave Reece took a chance on me and gave me a opportunity to play for him at Trinity Pawling. It was a experience that I will never forget. I'm glad to hear he is still teaching kids the game. He may have had one bad night in the NHL but he made it.

Anonymous,  3:10 PM  

I played for David at Trinity Pawling and made the mistake of calling him "red-light Reece". My legs will never forget. I lost count of how many hills I ran after 25. The best coach and mentor a young high school student could ever have. I also remember the wind sprints we ran after every game even if we won. WOW did that ever draw looks from the other team. JEB class of 1989

Carrie 9:32 PM  

I am lucky enough to attend adult learn-to-play hockey classes where Dave Reese coaches power skating every other week. He is able to structure a practice so that you can see improvements in your technique after even just a single session.

And the fact that he even works with adult beginners at all (not only the talented Upper Valley youth players) just shows how much he loves hockey...

He does play the curmudgeon, but you can't hide a heart that big with so much passion for the game!

Anonymous,  4:11 PM  

I played for Coach Reece for three years at Trinity-Pawling. Every year at the Avon Christmas Tournament all coach gave a speech. They always saved Coach Reece for last, because no one could top his combination of intensity, compassion and humor.

I may be giving myself away, but I am proud to be the first recipient of the annual Reece Award my junior year, in memory of his father who died during the 1985-86 year.

Some players could not handle his intensity, but he coached his kids to succeed after adversity in life. He knew the NHL was not in the cards for 99% percent of us, so he taught us to succeed as men, not hockey players.

Thank you Coach Reece.

Anonymous,  7:24 PM  

I don't believe Sittler ever made that joke about Reece.
Sittler is a classy guy and that was a classless thing to say.
Pure fiction.

Anonymous,  2:13 PM  

The real story behind that game is that the Bruins players allowed the Leafs to walk in and pepper Reece with shots to embarrass him and force management to sign Cheevers, their Canadian buddy. In those days, the NHL was 99% Canadian players, where Reece was one of the first Americans to play at that level. The Bruins coaches - also Canadian - were in on the fix by not pulling Reece at a certain point.

That's the truth of the matter, though Reece will never say it publicly because he's such a fine person.

Nicole,  3:50 PM  

Dave Reece is awesome. I was in the Learn to Play hockey class in NH where he would teach us skating..I can still hear "You're horrible!!!!" Hahahaha...he's right! I did get better thanks to him and I still do a lot of the drills on my own that he taught us. Love you Dave!
Nicole

james,  6:12 PM  

Cheevers was already signed by the bruins and was the backup goalie that night.Reece by the way played a good game and deserved better. Blame his team for letting him down.

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