Wednesday

John "Pie" McKenzie

When you think of the great Boston Bruins teams in the 1970s, a few names immediately pop into mind.

There is of course Bobby Orr, arguably the greatest player of all time. There's super scorer Phil Esposito. Scarfaced goalie Gerry Cheevers. The old warrior Johnny Bucyk. The playboy, Derek Sanderson. The coaches, first Harry Sinden then Don Cherry. Ken Hodge. Wayne Cashman. Ted Green. That Bruins team was so good that they probably should have won more than two Stanley Cups that they did win.

But don't forget John "Pie" McKenzie, the diminutive pest who was a real leader and fan favorite on that team. He was so popular that Boston fans bought 100s of bumper stickers that said "No matter how you slice it, Pie is the greatest."

Bostonians loved his courageous physical presence and dogged defensive attention. General Manager Milt Schmidt best summed up McKenzie as the Bruins' "mood-setter."

McKenzie described his approach to hockey to writer Andy O'Brien once.

"I guess what it boils down to is my custom at the start of games. I like to take a run at somebody on my first shift just to stir things up and plant the idea that if a squirt like me can go after 'em - particularly if my target is a big star - then why not everbody? I try to act the same way when were sagging in a tight game."

McKenzie was a tough customer, as you might expect a true cowboy-on-skates from High River, Alberta to be. McKenzie loved two sports in life and excelled at them both - hockey and rodeo. He could rope a calf with the best of them at the annual Calgary Stampede, but it was hockey where this cowboy would leave his mark.

It did not come quickly for the man known as Pie, a reference to his facial similarities to a cartoon character named Pie Face. He bounced around the NHL with Chicago, New York and Detroit along with several stops in the minor leagues before catching on in Boston in 1966.

He finally found a NHL home, forming an effective line with Fred Stanfield and Johnny Bucyk.

He didn't drop the gloves with great regularity, but that's what McKenzie instigated his rivals to do on numerous occasions, usually resulting in a Boston power-play. And when the Bruins did have the extra-man advantage, the man responsible for the situation was front-and-centre on the ice.

McKenzie also saw second unit power play time in Boston, allowing him to become a regular 20+ goal scoring threat.

In his best season the 5'9", 180-pounder netted 31 goals and recorded 77 points in 1970-71, despite missing 13 games due to a shoulder separation that required an operation.

That wasn't the worst injury McKenzie had in his playing career. He had to have his spleen removed in 1963, and in 1971 he actually was playing with a cracked skull before doctors clued in and forced him off the ice.

McKenzie was a nice piece of the Bruins' championship puzzle in both 1970 and 1972, but he would leave the team shortly after the second Stanley Cup celebration. The Bruins left him unprotected in the next season's expansion draft. Although he was somehow not selected, he felt very slighted by the Bruins' move and jumped at a $300,000 contract offer from the Worl Hockey Association.

He would join the Philadelphia Blazers where he was hired to play and coachup for the second time in 1972 before moving on to the World Hockey Association where he was hired to play and coach the Philadelphia Blazers, where he was reunited with Bruins' teammate Derek Sanderson.

After Philadelphia, McKenzie had stints in Vancouver, Minnesota and Cincinnati before settling for his final three seasons with the New England Whalers where the familiar hero was treated like a legend. In the end, his No. 19 was retired.

In 691 career NHL games, McKenzie scored 206 goals and added 268 assists for 474 points. In 477 WHA games, he netted 163 markers and contributed 250 helpers for 413 points.

McKenzie has always stayed in the Boston area since retiring. He first worked as a building supply salesman, helped to found a bank and for a long time sold BMWs.

In 2007 McKenzie returned to the game of hockey in the most unlikely of locations. He volunteers as the head coach for the newly created college hockey team at Berklee College of Music. He also has worked as the liaison of hockey development for University of Massachusetts Lowell.

9 comments:

wanda drew 11:54 AM  

I have lost touch with an old friend by the name of Joyce Heather McKenzie who was married to John. The last time I saw John, Joyce and Megan was when Megan was three months of age. They were visiting Toronto. I know that Joyce lived in Somerville and I think now in Woburn but she has an unlisted number and I would be so appreciative if you could relay this message to her. I would like to visit her in the Boston area. My name is Wanda Drew (Kelm) and I now live in London, Ont. My e-mail is wkdteetime@hotmail.com
Thank you and I look forword to hearing from you via ee-mail.

Anonymous,  7:12 PM  

You were my favorite player on the Boston Bruins 69-70 season. Hope you're watching this series. Can't believe what happened to Horton, can't believe Millbury was so heartless in his comments. Glad to see Bobby hold his flag, sorry you weren't there with him, you, Phil Esposito, and Cheevers should be there!

p.brophy1023@yahoo.com,  7:32 PM  

Thank you for posting my comment, wish I mentioned Kenny Hodge as well.

p.brophy1023@yahoo.com,  8:01 PM  

Sorry, not too technologically sound, my kids laugh at me for that, sadly, I was younger than they are when I watched you guys win that mother's day. My dad worked in Boston then, he kept us out of school for the parade in Boston. My sister and I were 10 and 11. My sister tried to take a picture of your float, and the crowd pushed forward, mom and dad were further back with my younger brother, you and Derek grabbed my sister's arms before she went under the moving vehicle.

Anonymous,  7:13 AM  

I just left a comment on Mark Recci's site. It brought back memories of you. I have been a fan of the Bruins for over 50 years. You were by far my favorite player. I've watched three Stanley Cups come to Boston, this was the most exciting. Can't believe it, three game seven wins. Marchand reminds me of you, always giving 110% to the game. Thanks for all the great memories.

Alberto Jara 5:25 PM  

John, I worked with you at BMW Gallery in Norwood, MA. How are u doing? If you have a chance. send me an email to alberto@iceglobaltrade.com. Alberto Jara

Gene Pitelli 1:10 PM  

I was a "New York Ranger" ticket holder for 10 years when the new Madison Square Garden" opened, and of course the NY fans hated the
dreaded "Boston Beuins" and who we hated more was "Pie Face" John McKenzie, Many years later I had owned a Limo in NY and I was in front of an upscale restaurant soliciting business, out came two gentlemen and I promptly asked them if they needed a Limo, they said yes so I proceeded to drive them to their destination, on the way I to asked them where they were from, they replied
they were bankers from Boston, I then asked if they were in town for business or pleasure,they said "both" then they said they were going to have lunch the next day with "Phil Esposito" I said "you fellas know Esposito, the shorter gentleman said "know him we played together on the "Boston Bruins," I promptly asked his name when he told me "John McKenzie" I almost crashed, I screamed "PIE FACE", you don't know I much I disliked you" he laughed, he turned out to be a gentleman and a good tipper also I may add..........Gene Pitelli

Anonymous,  5:06 AM  

you are my grandfather and i love you i saw many of your old games from mom ...wow you are amazing
love sammy<3

Anonymous,  5:07 AM  

you are my grandfather and i love you. you are so good at hockey mom showed me some videos wow.
love sammy<3

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