Bep Guidolin

Armand "Bep" Guidolin is and almost certainly always will be known as the youngest player to ever perform in the National Hockey League.

When he debuted with the Boston Bruins on November 12th of 1942, he was just 16 years old! Due to war-time player shortages the Bruins used several youngsters that season. Guidolin played on a line with 17 year old Don Gallinger and 20 year old Bill Shill. With the famed "Kraut Line" of Milt Schmidt, Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer absent from the Bruins line up due to war commitments, the Boston press was quick to dub the rookie line as the "Sprout Line."

Guidolin spent 4 seasons with the B's, though he missed the 1944-45 season due to his own military service. He later played with Chicago and Detroit in the NHL before rounding out his career with several seasons in the minor leagues. By 1958 he was reinstated as an amateur in Canada and helped the Belleville McFarlands win the Allan Cup.

He then went to coach junior hockey, specifically the Oshawa Generals, a junior team affiliated with the Boston Bruins. Yes, Bep Guidolin coached Bobby Orr in junior! He also would coach the Kitchener Rangers.

In 1971 Bep was called upon by the Bruins to coach their new farm team in the AHL - the Boston Braves. Guidolin did an incredible job. His teams were extremely well conditioned, disciplined and aggressive. In his first year as coach the Braves were the best team in their division by far.

In the middle of his second season with the Braves Bep was rewarded for his work by getting the call to step behind the Bruins bench, as Tom Johnson's successor.

Bep was not exactly popular with the players. He ran exhausting practices with relentless drills. He'd keep the whole team working until he was convinced every player had worked his butt off. The results were incredible - In 104 regular season games he had a coaching record of 72-23-9, well over .730 winning percentage!

However things were not rosy in Boston, not for Bep anyways. His players hated playing for him, particularly Phil Esposito and Derek Sanderson, who both had bitter feuds with him. In the playoffs when the Bruins became the first original six team to lose to an expansion club in the Stanley Cup finals, the Bruins used that to release Guidolin, despite his great results. Someone named Don Cherry was given the bench.

Guidolin ended up in Kansas City for the next year and a half, though with but a fraction of the talent he had in Boston, his results plummeted to well under .300 winning percentage.

Guidolin's last stop in pro hockey was Edmonton, where he was briefly the coach and GM of the WHA Oilers. He would walk away from the job with 18 games left in the 1976-77 season after hand picking one of his players to take over as coach. That man was none other than hard-nosed team captain Glen Sather.


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