By looking at Gary Doak's stats it's obvious that he wasn't a major scoring threat. But what the stats don't tell us is that he was one of the most rambunctious player of his time. Gary was absolutely fearless and never hesitated to dive to block shots, something he did frequently. His style of play caused him to miss many games due to injuries.
Gary grew up in a small town named Goderich, Ont. with his parents, brother (Steve) and sister (Sue). His dad worked in the docks and in the grain elevator. Gary himself worked there for many summers. His mother worked in a hospital. Gary was always a hard worker off the ice and he took that attitude with him to the rink.
As a junior Gary played for the Hamilton Red Wings (OHA) and made his professional debut in the AHL with the Pittsburgh Hornets. He played for the Hornets between 1963-66. His NHL debut came on November 14,1965 when he donned the jersey of Detroit against Montreal in a 2-2 tie. He was sent back to Pittsburgh and wasn't recalled again until February 12, 1966. He played a total of four games for Detroit and saw very limited ice time. Shortly thereafter,on February 18,1966 he was traded to Boston. Hap Emms who was the Bruins GM at that time had scouted him while he was a junior and liked what he saw. Gary finished the season by playing 20 games for Boston.
A month before Gary was to report to the Bruins training camp for the1966-67 season he managed to break his leg while roller-skating with some friends in Goderich. He wasn't ready to skate until December and was sent to Oklahoma (CHL) so he would get into playing shape. Even though he played 29 games for Boston in 66-67 it was evident that Gary was still hampered by the injury.
In 1967-68 Gary bounced back and had a solid season for Boston,being the teams 5th defenseman.
Harry Sinden who was a coach back then was full of praise for Doak:
"He doesn't rush like Orr, but defensively he takes a back seat to nobody on our squad," Sinden said.
Sinden was right, Gary had a career +/- rating of +141 and was very solid defensively. Gary played in Boston until 1970, winning the Stanley Cup there. For the next three seasons between 1970-73 he bounced back and forth between three teams. He played for Vancouver between 1970-71, NY Rangers 1971-72, then went back to Detroit in 1972-73, before once again coming back to Boston. This time he stayed in beantown for over 8 seasons.
Gary's medical journal wasn't pleasant and he admitted that a couple of times he almost gave up on himself.
"The first time I broke my leg was the off-season and I fell down roller-skating in my home-town. That was embarrassing. The second time I broke my leg was the first game I played for Detroit. I don't know how the story started that I had a spinal surgery, but I didn't. I did have a bad back, but rest and cortisone shots cured it. The most painful injury was the broken collarbone. That was hard to handle. But they all hurt. Mentally as well as physically," Gary said.
Some other of his injuries included mononucleosis, knee injuries, sprained ankles, hyperextended elbows, rib injuries, fractured knuckles and sprained shoulders.
A typical Gary Doak scenario was during the 1977-78 season when he suffered three broken cheekbones near his left eye and 13 stitches in his head after having been belted head first into the boards by Detroit's Dennis Hextall. In only his second game back after that injury he dove head first into a Bill Barber shot on an open net and saved a virtually certain Flyers goal. Gary never let up. Both his teammates as well as his home fans loved his never say die attitude. His teammate Gerry Cheevers summed it up like this:
"Gary was the kind of player who never let up. He was always putting out 100 % whether he took a guy into the boards or blocking a shot. He had that rambunctious style of play that kept him going even if he was risking injury."
Harry Sinden added:
"As much as any player Gary exemplified the attitude surrounding Bruins teams in the 1970's."
As a Bruin player back then, that was the best compliment you could get. Gary's strength wasn't his offensive talents but his strong work ethic and sacrificing play. He was a strong support player and great teammate.