Cam Neely

Cam Neely was the ultimate Boston Bruin. Character, perseverance, team work, physical play, play to death, win - all traits that can be easily used to describe both Neely and his B's.

Cam Neely actually started his NHL career with his hometown Vancouver Canucks when they made him their first round selection way back in 1983. Neely probably turned out to be their best first round pick ever selected by the Vancouver Canucks. It's just too bad, as any Canucks fan will tell you, they traded him away so early in his career.

The trade happened on Neely's 21st birthday. In hindsight it was the best birthday present he probably ever got. The floundering Canucks traded him and the third overall draft pick in 1987 ( Boston selected Glen Wesley who went on to a career spanning 2 decades) for Barry Pederson, who at the time was a star in the league but was coming off of two major shoulder surgeries to remove a benign tumor. Pederson never did regain his superstar form. Neely became the Bruins leading scorer and the Boston Garden's fan favorite.

Cam would score 36, 40, and 38 goals in his first 3 seasons with Boston. Cam would go on to record two straight 50 goal seasons before he suffered a major blow to his knee. During the Bruins Conference Final against Pittsburgh, a cheap hit on Cam's thigh by rival defenseman Ulf Sameulsson began Cam's injury woe's that would plague him for the rest of his tragically shortened career.

Limited to 22 games the next 2 seasons Cam still managed to chip in 20 goals and 10 assists, and added 4 playoff goals in the '93 playoffs.

Cam returned for the 93-94 season scoring 50 goals for the third time. It took Cam only 44 games to reach the 50 goal plateau, only Wayne Gretzky has done it faster. (Mario Lemieux in the 88-89 season also scored 50 in 44 games.) Cam hurt his knee again shortly after scoring his 50th, and missed the playoffs that season.

Again, Cam went into an extensive rehabilitation program, and returned in the strike shortened season of 1994-95 and scored 27 goals in 42 games. The 1995-96 season proved to be Cam's last, as on February 7, 1996 the Boston Bruins suffered perhaps their worst loss in franchise history. They lost to Buffalo in overtime 2-1, but Cam suffered a degenerative hip condition forced Cam into a premature retirement. But not before he had established himself in the hearts of Bruin fans everywhere. Cam played the game the way it was meant to be played. Cam was as devastating with his body checks and fists, as he was with his goal scoring exploits. Cam's intense efforts to come back time and again from devastating injuries were recognized with his winning of the Masterton Trophy after the 93-94 season.

On January 12th, 2004, the Boston Bruins bestowed their highest honor on Neely, retiring his jersey number 8 high to the rafters, never to be worn again. It was a fitting tribute, as Neely truly ranks with the Bruins all time greats like Eddie Shore, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and Raymond Bourque.

Neely's career lasted 726 games, long enough to earn enshrinement in Hockey's Hall of Fame. In those 726 career games his numbers were staggering - 395 goals, 299 assists and 694 points, not to mention a healthy 1241 penalty minutes. And he carried on his production in the clutch when games mattered most. In 93 Stanley Cup playoff games he scored 57 goals and 89 points. Had he been healthy he possibly could have challenged the 650 goal mark.

As amazing of a goal scorer that he was, lighting the lamp did not define Cam Neely. He was the ultimate power forward of his time. His hands were as soft as a feather when he handled the puck, yet hard as a rock when handled an enemy. Defensemen feared going back into their corner to chase a loose puck knowing Neely was right behind them. As a forechecker he was relentless and imposing. He was an insane body checker and a dangerous fighter. Through his physical play he set the tone of games.

The physical game took it's toll on Neely's body, yet he handled diversity with the utmost of class. He showed courage and perseverance, and a deep love of the game. Cam Neely gave everything he had to the game of hockey - his blood, sweat and tears, his hip, quad and knee, and most of all his heart.


Phil Esposito

One of the game's greatest forwards and one of the game's greatest goalies grew up in the same family home. Phil practiced shooting against brother Tony for hours on end, and by 1970 both had reached the top of the hockey world and we're both named to the First All Star Team.

Tony is best known as a Chicago Blackhawk. It is often forgotten that Phil got his start in the NHL in the Windy City (in 1963-64), though it was a few years before Tony arrived. Phil of course is best known as a Boston Bruin and to a lesser degree as a New York Rangers.

Phil played three seasons as a Blackhawk, and was once touted as Bobby Hull's center of the future. However 3 and 1/2 seasons of averaging around 20 goals and 55 points, Chicago changed their mind on him. They felt he wasn't living up to his potential, and that his skating wasn't quick enough.

Phil joined the Bruins in a six player trade in 1967 from Chicago. Hindsight is always 20/20, but history tells us that this trade was one of the most lopsided in NHL history. Espo, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield were all sent to Boston and would all become key players of one of hockey's most explosive teams in the 1970s. Going to Chicago was Pit Martin, Jack Norris and Gilles Marotte.

Esposito was teamed up with Bobby Orr in Boston, forming one of the most dynamic scoring duos in hockey history. Orr would dance around from his point position with no one knowing how to defend against hockey's first offensively dominant defenseman. Esposito would park himself in the slot, readying himself for a pass, a deflection or a rebound. He was such a master of scoring garbage goals that a common saying in Boston in these days was "Jesus saves, but Espo scores on the rebound." Stan Fischler once dubbed Espo as the "highest paid garbage collector in the United States."

In his very first year in Boston Espo led the entire league in assists. By year two He became the first player to break the 100 point plateau. In fact, he smashed the old record held by Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull. Both of those magnificent Chicago players shared the record with 97 points in a single season. In 1968-69, Phil scored 126 points!! Two years later he would again post mind boggling totals of 76 goals and 76 assists for 152 points, unheard of stats then especially, and even by today's standards absolutely amazing!

Three years after the trade Espo led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup, ending a 29 year drought for the B's. Although Bobby Orr's flying-through-the-air Cup clinching goal against the Blues is best remembered, Esposito had an incredible playoff, scoring 13 goals and 27 points in just 14 games, leading all post season scorers in each category Two years later, the Bruins won another Stanley Cup with Esposito scoring 24 points in 15 games.

During his 8 1/2 years in Boston, Phil won 5 scoring titles and finished second twice. He led the NHL in goal scoring 6 straight seasons from 1969-70 to 1974-75. He was named to either the first or second All Star team each year he wore the black and gold. He was also a two time winner of the Hart Trophy (MVP) and Pearson Trophy (MVP as chosen by the players), as well as the recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy for contribution to hockey in the U.S.

Espo should be known as the greatest offensive force prior to Gretzky and Lemieux, but he was overshadowed by his even more amazing teammate Bobby Orr. And despite all the accolades and awards, Phil somehow never quite got the recognition he deserved. All of his success was credited to the presence of Orr. Despite the fact he was smashing the records of Gordie Howe or Maurice Richard, no one has ever placed him in their stratosphere. This could be because of his lack of graceful style as a hockeyist.

One of Espo's greatest hockey moments occurred in Europe. When Orr missed the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviets with a bad knee, Esposito took charge of the team and was the inspirational leader. He played a level never reached before. While everyone remembers Paul Henderson's game ending heroics, it was Phil's heroic effort was a key factor in the victory and finally won him the accolades he deserved.

Phil had a great charisma, much like a Hollywood actor. He was a fan favorite throughout North America, but also in Russia. While Vladislav Tretiak became adopted by Canadian fans as the hero from the enemy team, Russian people grew to love Espo, even though his style of hockey was not seen in Russia. It largely has to do with the pre-game introductions in the first game in Moscow where Espo tripped over a loose flower and fell on his butt when he was introduced. Ever the showman, Espo got up and did a curtsy much to the delight of the Soviet fans. They rarely had seen a hockey player with such personality.

While Paul Henderson gets much of the heroic credit for his game winning goals, it is well recognized that Phil Esposito was the best player for Canada. Without him, there was no way Canada would have conquered.

Phil Esposito was traded to the New York Rangers during the 1975-76 season and would finish his career on Broadway. The reason behind the trade was that Orr's knees had finally all but given up on him, and the Bruins were looking to regroup by trading a few of their top assets.

The adjustment was at first very difficult for Phil, but he soon learned to like New York and next thing you know it could have been named Espoville - it was his kind of town! He average 30 plus goals and a point a game in his 6 seasons in New York. His Ranger highlite was during the 1978-79 playoffs when he was a great leader in the Rangers spectacular playoff drive that finished just shy of the Stanley Cup.

Phil Esposito retired in 1980-81. Phil Esposito's final statistics are absolutely mind boggling. 1282 games played, 717 goals, 873 assists for 1590 points! At the time of his retirement only Gordie Howe had amassed more points! He added 61 goals and 137 points in 130 playoff games and 30 points in 25 international games. Not bad for a guy who didn't learn to skate until he was a teenager.

Espo's career highlight came after retirement. On Dec. 3, 1987 the Bruins retired their great leader's jersey. Ray Bourque, whose stature is such that he need not defer to anyone, relinquished his No. 7 and from then on wore 77, so that Esposito's jersey could be retired and elevated to the rafters of the Garden.

"I don't care (about being inducted into) the Hall of Fame, to tell you the truth," he said. "My biggest thrill was having my number retired at Boston Garden. That to me is where it's at."

In retirement Phil became a pitchman and a broadcaster, but he also was a successful hockey executive. He became general manager and for a short time head coach of the New York Rangers. Later he was one of the founders of the Tampa Bay Lightning.


Bobby Orr

"He's the perfect hockey player."

Those are the words of Boston coach/GM Harry Sinden, who had the best look at Orr on a nightly basis and insists Orr is the best player ever because he blended extraordinary talent and a brand of toughness that no one else has ever possessed.

"(Gordie) Howe could do everything, but not at top speed. (Bobby) Hull went at top speed but couldn't do everything. The physical aspect is absent from (Wayne) Gretzky's game. Orr would do everything, and do it at top speed."

To make matters even more interesting, Orr was the sport's most dominant player, arguably its perfect player, and he did from the blue line. By doing so Orr revolutionized the game of hockey. His slick passing and playmaking and his end to end rushes were unheard of by a defenseman. Only the very very best forwards would try a solo effort. Orr did it seemingly effortlessly, and so convincingly, therefore forever changing the hockey landscape.

Perhaps the great writer Jack Falla sums it up best:

“Orr had broken scoring records by such huge margins and played with such creativity and abandon as to alter a half century of tactical hockey orthodoxy about the proper role of a defenseman.”

Before Bobby Orr defensemen were counted on primarily for defensive purposes. They would rarely join a rush, never mind lead one. They stayed in front of the net and helped clear the puck out of the defensive zone. Their main job offensively was to get the puck out of their end and create a quick transition game. The best players would almost always be forwards.

But the kid from Parry Sound, Ontario played like a forward, while still delivering sound defense. His display of end to end rushes and his mastery on the point of the power play changed the way offense was generated, and how defenses would cover them. He was simply the most skilled player the NHL has ever seen, even more so than Wayne Gretzky or even Mario Lemieux, both of whom benefit from the game revolutionized by Orr.

Orr won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1967. He would finished second in scoring among defenseman with 13 goals and 41 points, astounding numbers in those days. Harry Howell won the Norris Trophy that year, but was quoted after being named the winner - "I might as well enjoy it (Norris Trophy) now, because I expect it's going to belong to Bobby Orr from now on." He would be proven correct.

By 1969 Orr set an NHL record for defensemen scoring with 64 points including 21 goals. The following season he would nearly double that point total to 120 points based on 33 goals and 87 assists, becoming the first defenseman to score 100 points in a season, and the first (and only) to lead the league in scoring! In three years Orr obliterated scoring records not only for defensemen, but for all players.

The 1970-71 season was Orr's best statistically, as he piled in an amazing 139 points based on 37 goals and 102 assists. No player had ever scored 100 assists in one season before, and only two have since (Gretzky and Lemieux). Remember, this was all before Wayne Gretzky's offensive rewriting of the record books. These numbers were even more mind-boggling than Gretzky's considering Orr was a defenseman, and the era he played in.

1974-75 would rival the 1970-71 season as Orr was on a mission to become the first defenseman to score 50 goals. He came up just short, finishing with 46, but added 89 helpers for 135 points. No defenseman has ever scored 50 goals since, although Paul Coffey bettered Orr's total by 2.

All this time Orr was bothered by knee surgeries. However he managed to play a full schedule for the most part. During his prime he played 75-80 games, with the 1972-73 season being the lone exception. He played in only 63 that year, yet still managed 101 points.

He would end up winning the Norris Trophy as best defenseman for 8 consecutive years. In 1970 he became the first player in history to win down four individual trophies in one season. He won the Norris, Art Ross (Top scorer), Hart (MVP) and Conn Smythe (MVP in playoffs). He ended up with 3 Harts and 2 Smythe Trophies, as well as two Stanley Cup rings.

Speaking of Stanley Cups, Orr may have scored the most famous playoff goal in hockey history. Orr's overtime goal that won the final game of the playoffs and brought the Cup back to Beantown for the first time in 29 years. Just 40 seconds into overtime of game four, Orr took a centering pass from Derek Sanderson right in the slot and shot it past a sprawling St. Louis Blues goaltender, Glenn Hall. As soon as the puck hit the back of the net, Blues defenseman Noel Picard would hook Orr's skate with his stick, sending Orr flying through the air. The picture of Orr celebrating the winning goal in mid-flight will forever be etched in the minds of hockey fans all around the world.

Orr finished his career with 270 goals and 915 points in 657 games, absolutely mind boggling numbers for a defenseman. He remains as the only defenseman to lead the NHL in scoring. He held 12 individual records at the time of his retirement. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1979. Perhaps the greatest accolade given to Orr was the by the fans. The Boston Globe once conducted a poll of New Englanders to determine who was the greatest athlete in Boston history. It was not Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Bob Cousy, Bill Russell or Larry Bird. The winner was Number Four, Bobby Orr.

Often overlooked is Orr's physical attributes. He was a ferocious body checker and an astute shot blocker. People would often tell Bobby not to sacrifice his body, because his knees couldn't handle the punishment, and he was good enough to play without that abuse. Bobby would simply reply "It's the only way I know how to play."

Orr's brilliant career was shortened by bad knees. Had he been able to continue for a few more years, maybe there would be no question as to who is the greatest of all time.

In January 1998, The Hockey News named Orr the second greatest player of all time, behind only Wayne Gretzky. He would finish just 13 polling points out of first, and 13 points ahead of third place Gordie Howe. I think that proves the three stars from different eras are on a level all on their own.

Howe dominated the way hockey was always played, up and down the wing, bash and crash and physically intimidate. Gretzky would dominate the all offense era of fast skating and high scoring. Some how the game had changed between the Howe and Gretzky eras. Bobby Orr was largely instrumental in the revolutionization of hockey. One can only imagine how much more he would have altered the game had he been fortunate enough to stay healthy.


Rick Middleton

This is "Nifty" Rick Middleton. He was part of one of the more one-sided trades in NHL history.

After a spectacular career in junior with the Oshawa Generals, Middleton started his career in New York with the Rangers, who drafted 14th overall in 1973. He had great speed and puckhandling, but he was not well received in The Big Apple. He was often criticized for being lazy and weak defensively.

The Rangers grew impatient with him, and moved him to Boston. The Bruins offered the aging Ken Hodge to the Rangers, who jumped at the chance to reunite him with Phil Esposito. The two were great together early in the 1970s with the Bruins. The Rangers had hope to rekindle the magic in New York.

Ultimately, that never happened thanks mainly to father time. Middleton, meanwhile, exploded in Boston. He became an exciting fan favorite, even though he was not the typical Boston hockey hero. He was not rough and tumble, but rather a fancy pants with incredible stickhandling ability especially in traffic. Add to that his great skating which featured a couple different gears to change it up and he could deke defenders right on to the highlight reel.

Moreover, Middleton rounded out his game into a solid overall game. And he did it all very cleanly, only collecting 157 penalty minutes in over 1000 NHL games. In 1982 he won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1982. 

Middleton, who teamed memorably with Barry Pederson, was Boston's top goal scorer from 1979 through 1984, scoring 38, 40, 44, 51, 49 and 47 goals in respective seasons. Only Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky and Marcel Dionne scored more goals in that time frame.

Despite that company, Middleton was never considered to be in that class. Perhaps he was nicely comparable to Lanny McDonald, who was right behind Middleton in goals in that time frame. Lanny was a more physical player, but Middleton, not McDonald was included on Team Canada 1981 and 1984 (playing with Wayne Gretzky). For whatever reason, McDonald (perhaps because he starred in Canada?) is in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Middleton is not.

Rick Middleton played in 1005 NHL games, scoring 448 goals, 540 goals and 998 points. He just missed the 500 goal and 1000 mark plateaus, which are generally considered as musts to be Hall of Fame material. His career was cut short by a nasty concussion. The helmetless Middleton took a puck to the temple in 1986, ending his season. He did return to play two more seasons, but he continued to suffer headaches that eventually ended his career.


Don Cherry

Don Cherry. He needs no introduction. He was a controversial and more successful coach. Then he became a very controversial and even more successful broadcaster.

But not everyone realizes he was once a NHL player.

Well, once being the key word. He played 16 professional seasons totalling about 1150 pro games, but just one time did he play in the National Hockey League.

"As a kid I prayed to God to make me a professional hockey player. I should have specified in the NHL," the man they call "Grapes" is fond of saying.

Hey, at least it was a Stanley Cup playoff game. And no one was more proud than Don Cherry's mother. She made him a whole bunch of home-made cookies and cakes. The Bruins kidded the rookie pretty good about that after the game. Imagine that - a rookie entering the dressing room carrying bags of cookies and cakes. They may have teased him about it, but they were also sure to help themselves. It's not certain that Cherry ever did get to taste any of those celebratory baked goods.

Had it not been for his reincarnation many years later as a successful coach and boisterous television personality that is probably what would be remembered about Don Cherry's NHL career - his mother's baking.


Gerry Cheevers

The name Gerry Cheevers instantly brings to mind images of his unmistakable goalie mask. A simple white old-school mask, Cheevers had it covered in painted stitches.

"There were different types of masks but they were all white," Cheevers recalled in an interview with the Hockey Hall of Fame. "I hated white. It reminded me of purity, which was not the case the way I played goal. My thought was to get out of practice. One day, the puck came up and hit me. It wouldn't have cut me without my mask, but I fainted, passed out and on the training table. (Coach) Harry (Sinden) came in and said, 'Get out there! You're not hurt.' So I said okay. I turned to Frosty Forristall, our trainer and said, 'Frosty, paint a stitch mark or two on the mask,' so he painted this big gouge over the right eye and it got a laugh. We started to paint stitches every time I got hit. Frosty would calculate where it would have been and how many stitches it would have taken."

Beyond the mask, Cheevers is remembered as one of the greatest goaltenders in history, despite never winning a Vezina or never making a NHL All Star team.

He was an extremely popular figure and among the most entertaining goaltenders in hockey history. "Cheesey" had a style described as "aggressive and instinctive." He loved to skate around the ice and handle the puck, becoming one of the earliest goalies to roam the ice. A standup goalie who charged out of his net to challenge shooters, he was far from the perfect textbook goalie. Instead he relied on great reflexes and anticipation, often making saves look incredibly spectacular.

"Cheevers is the most exciting goalie you'll ever see," said Joe Crozier, a former goalie great and Cheevers minor league coach in Rochester. "He'll have your fans on the edge of their seats all night."

He was also very combative, not afraid to mix it up and take matters into his own hands, much like a later-day Billy Smith or Ron Hextall. The truculent goalie's combined 304 career PIMs between the NHL and WHA were once a major league record.

He was also recognized as one of hockey's true clutch goaltenders. He backstopped the Bruins to two Stanley Cup championships, in 1970 and 1972, and helped them reach the finals in 1976-77 and 1977-78. Harry Sinden said: "Certainly we had Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, but I'm sure we couldn't have won the Cups without Gerry Cheevers." Cheevers was one of the all time best "money" goalies. When the games were big, Cheevers was at his best.

Born in the "Garden City" of St. Catherines, Ontario on December 7, 1940, Gerry Cheevers grew up with hockey in his blood. His father was a part-time scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the local arena manager, and he was very active in the young goalie's upbringing.

His father encouraged his son to play junior hockey in the Leafs system with the St. Mikes Majors, although it was a no-brainer for the impressionable youngster who had always cheered on Turk Broda and the Leafs. He played well with St. Mikes, backstopping them to a Memorial Cup championship in 1961, his final year of junior hockey.

Cheevers actually played part of that final junior season as a forward.

"In my last year of junior, I played a month of forward," Cheevers recalled in an interview with the Hockey Hall of Fame. "They needed a goaltender for the next year, and Dave Dryden was available, but he could only come to the team if he could play ten or twelve games that year. Father David Bauer made a deal with him and put me at forward to satisfy both Dave Dryden and to show me what it was like to play forward. I played ten or twelve games at forward that year. I was never so happy to get back in goal! A lot of guys were trying to get even for wayward sticks in the crease! I could always skate. I was just missing the instinct of knowing what to do with the puck."

In 1961-62 Cheevers turned pro and bounced around with three minor league teams in two different leagues. But on December 2, 1961, just 5 days before his 21st birthday, he was called up by the Leafs to play two games due to injuries to Johnny Bower and Don Simmons.

"It was a great thrill — no mask, Bobby Hull, scared to death. Billy Harris got three goals (the Leafs won 6-4). Then we got on the train and played the next night in Detroit. We got beat 3-1. I'll never forget that night. Gordie Howe came down, shot what I thought was a routine wrist shot and knocked the stick right out of my hands! I thought, 'Oooh....They're a little bit bigger and stronger up here!"

That would prove to be the extent of his career with the Leafs. Those were the days of the Original Six, and goaltending jobs were hard to come by, and the Leafs were a powerhouse backed by Bower. Cheevers was moved on to the Bruins organization, but did not find regular employment until 1967-68, the first season of NHL expansion.

Cheevers confessed he wasn't all that excited about the Bruins, who at the time were a weak team.

I really wasn't crazy about sticking with the Bruins. But when Bobby Orr showed up (in 1966-67), they got a different perspective. You knew that it as just a matter of time before the team turned around. And then (in May 1967), they made the big trade with Chicago for Phil (Esposito), Kenny Hodge and Freddy Stanfield. It looked like things were going to be pretty good. I thought, 'I've gotta be on that team.'"

Powered by Cheevers, Orr and Esposito, the Bruins quickly evolved into a championship team, going from last place in 1966-67 to winning the Stanley Cup in 1970 and again in 1972.

Shockingly, Cheevers defected from the Bruins to sign with the upstart World Hockey Association. Citing unhappiness with the Bruins contract offers, he signed with the Cleveland Crusaders for 7 seasons and a whopping total, back then anyways, of $1.4 million.

"I had wonderful days in Cleveland. I would never trade them in."

Cheevers would play with the Crusaders for the next 4 seasons, but would return to the Bruins in 1976. He would play four more years with the Bruins before retiring in 1980.

Cheevers was one of the few goaltenders to become a successful coach. He took over as the Bruins coach in 1980-81, lasting until 1985. In that time he had an impressive record of 204 wins, 126 losses and 46 ties, though the Bruins could never go far in the playoffs.


Derek Sanderson

Derek Sanderson had it all - fame, fortune and adulation. Sadly he lost it all too.

Sanderson made quite the impression on the Bruins faithful before he actually played with the Bs. In 1966 with the Bruins mired in cellar of the NHL, Bruin management held an exhibition match between their top 2 Junior teams, the Niagara Falls Flyers, led by Derek Sanderson, and the Oshawa Generals led by Bobby Orr. The game was to give Bruins fans a look at the future in Orr, but Sanderson had his own agenda. He was determined to get into a fight with Orr in that game. He was just making sure the fans would remember the name Derek Sanderson as much as they remembered Orr's. Despite his attack on the "franchise," Sanderson actually gained a lot of respect from fans and management for his style of play that game. Sanderson would go on to be a quintessential Boston Bruin.

Sanderson debuted with the Boston Bruins in the 1967-68 season. He registered 24 goals and 25 assists on his way to capturing the Calder Trophy. The honor gave Boston back-to-back Rookies of the Year, as Bobby Orr won the award in 1967.

The Calder trophy wasn't the crowning jewel in Sanderson's trophy room though. The two Stanley Cup championships, 1970 and 1972 were, but for the man they called "Turk," the first one had to be sweeter, simply because of the circumstances surrounding the 1970 Cup winner.

The 1970 Cup of course was won courtesy of perhaps the most famous goal in NHL history. Bobby Orr took a pass from the corner and put the puck past St. Louis goaltender Glenn Hall. As the puck went in St. Louis defenseman Noel Picard tripped Orr as he jumped, causing Orr to fly in a superman-like fashion.

But who made that perfect pass to Orr on that goal? Derek Sanderson.

"I made the kid famous," jokes Sanderson.

"Turk" shocked the sports world when he signed the richest contract in sports history in the summer of 1972. The Bruins were fresh off of their second Stanley Cup championship and three years and they were rocked by the news that the upstart WHA Philadelphia Blazers signed their star center to a 2.6 million dollar contract. This was the largest contract in pro sports at the time. In fact it was even larger than the one that Bobby Hull signed with the Winnipeg Jets. For Sanderson it allowed him to step out of the shadows of teammates like Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito.

When the season started Sanderson had a season to forget. He only appeared in 8 games because of injuries and by February the Blazers shocked the sports world again. The owners of the Blazers became impatient with Sanderson and decided the best thing for Sanderson would be to return to the NHL. Sanderson was given 1 million dollars to leave the team and go back to the Bruins. Sanderson, who was as surprised as everyone, was very upset. Though he was never sure why they gave up on him so quickly, he thinks it must have been his free-living, heavy drinking lifestyle.

His early years in Boston were the best years of his career. He was a Boston Gardens favorite, a celebrity and soon to be very rich. Sanderson seemed to be on top of the world, yet in the background his world was falling apart as he became addicted to alcohol. It started out as a way to calm himself down before a team flight as he was terrified of flying. It would soon become a bad habit which would come close to claiming his life. In the meantime it was interfering with his performance on the ice. Once the highest paid athlete in North America, Sanderson went on to bounce around the NHL with New York Ranger, Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins. None of his stops were very long.

Sanderson really hit rock bottom after leaving the structured life of hockey. Reports had him on the streets of Chicago and New York. One article suggests he literally waited for a homeless man to fall asleep on a park bench so that he could steel his bottle of alcohol.

In September 1980, he checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic in St. Catherines, Ont. Sanderson cleaned himself up and remains sober. He became a long time sidekick of legendary Bruins play by play man Fred Cusick, but left his position in 1997 when Cusick retired. Sanderson, the former playboy, went into money management for professional athletes. He was well versed in the dangers of landing too much money in too short of a time period, and he advises his clients on how to best handle and invest the windfall.

Turk was as tough as nails, a tremendous forechecker and faceoff specialist and, with Ed Westfall, the top penalty killer of his era. He was the perfect team player and a huge part of the Bruins success in the early 1970s. Its too bad alcohol interfered in his life as I think Sanderson would have been a Hall of Famer had he remained sober. He was just that good.


Willie O'Ree

In 1958 Willie O'Ree made his debut in the National Hockey League. He was with the Boston Bruins for two games. In 1961, after two more years in the minors, O'Ree returned for a longer stay with the Bruins--41 games. O'Ree never played another game in the NHL. He only scored 4 goals and 10 assists.

This certainly doesn't seem particularly significant at first glance, but O'Ree was different from every other NHL player who had come before him during the league's first 50 years. He was the first black player in NHL history. And there wouldn't be another black player in the NHL for 15 years.

He is considered to be the "Jackie Robinson of hockey." So what was it like to break hockey's color barrier?

"Guys would take cheap shots at me, just to see if I would retaliate," he says. "They thought I didn't belong there. When I got the chance, I'd run right back at them. I was prepared for it because I knew it would happen. I wasn't a great slugger, but I did my share of fighting. I was determined that I wasn't going to be run out of the rink."

It wasn't just opposing players he had to contend with.

"Racist remarks from fans were much worse in the U.S. cities than in Toronto and Montreal. I particularly remember a few incidents in Chicago. The fans would yell, 'Go back to the south' and 'How come you're not picking cotton.' Things like that. It didn't bother me. Hell, I'd been called names most of my life. I just wanted to be a hockey player, and if they couldn't accept that fact, that was their problem, not mine."

Was the hockey world racist? Racism didn't exist to the same extent in Canada, which helped to eliminate charges of racism in the hockey world. Fact that few children out of the tiny black population in Canada played hockey until recent years helps to suggest the NHL was better than MLB. Certainly charges of racism have been kept well under the carpet, although their record is undoubtedly less than perfectly clean..

O'Ree never has accused the NHL of being racist. However he did have his suspicions:

"There were blacks in the minor leagues and good ones too. The Quebec Aces had a history of having black players. Before my time, they had an all-black line with the Carnegie bothers, Herbie and Ossie, and Manny McIntyre. You talk about three players who were good, stick handling, passing, shooting--you name it, they could do it. But they never got a chance. Not one of them was ever called up."

O'Ree got called up because he had such great speed. He was a speedster in the minors as well as a good goal scorer. Milt Schmidt once said that Willie "was one of the fastest skaters in the NHL."

So why didn't he get a longer shake at NHL employment?

"If I hadn't gotten that eye injury," he says regretfully. "To this day a lot of people don't realize that I played my entire 20-year pro career with one eye."

During the 1955/1956 hockey season, Willie played for the Kitchener-Waterloo Canucks, a junior league team. During a game he was struck with a puck in the right eye. The injury was so serious that he permanently lost 95% of the vision in that eye. A doctor advised him to stop playing, but that was inconceivable to Willie. In eight weeks he was back on the ice.

O'Ree had to keep this injury quiet. The NHL had (and still has a rule) that won't allow a player with only one eye to play for fear of something else happening to the good eye.

Willie's most bitter memory of his hockey days came in 1961. He had just come off of his first and only full NHL season. He was feeling really good about his future with the Boston Bruins until he learned he had been traded to talented Montreal Canadiens.

"Considering the talent Montreal had, I knew I had no chance of making their squad. So I wasn't surprised when I was assigned to their Hull-Ottawa minor league affiliate."

What irks O'Ree the most though is the Bruins never informed him of the trade. O'Ree found out weeks after the trade when a reporter caught up to O'Ree.

"I never did get any information from the Bruins on why the move was made."

Two months later, Willie was again traded to the Los Angeles Blades of the Western Hockey League. He would later join the San Diego Gulls. In total he played 14 years in California, where he is somewhat of a hockey legend.

Despite his status as a star hockey player on the west coast, and the NHL expansion into Los Angeles in 1967, O'Ree never did get another shot at the NHL. The reason wasn't so much because of race, more because the NHL found out about his eye injury. While there was never any official ruling that O'Ree couldn't play because of his eye, it kept all NHL teams away from hi as they knew it certainly would become an issue.

O'Ree fell in love with San Diego, and continues to reside there. After working much of his post-hockey life in the security business, he was named as the NHL's Director of Youth Development for the NHL/USA Hockey Diversity Task Force.

"I feel good about being in the position I'm in, meeting people I played with and against and talking to the players in the league now," he told "Many of them know the name Willie O'Ree. What a pleasure it's been to meet players like Mike Grier and Anson Carter who have told me I opened a door and made it possible for them. They know they are role models for younger boys and girls playing now. These kids are now setting goals for themselves because it is possible to break that barrier. You can do what you want if you believe you can and if you think you can, you will."


Brad Park

Brad Park was a highly efficient defender, combining size and clean but dogged tenacity with an uncanny awareness of the game. A noted hip-checker, Park was brash and unintimidated. But with the puck he became a natural chessmaster on the ice. more-than-likely make a perfect pinpoint pass to clear the puck out of the zone and start the attack. With a short burst of speed he would often jump to join the rush as a fourth attacker, and was a true power play quarterback. Park, not unlike Ray Bourque years later, was a consistently steady defender with often brilliant offensive instincts.

In almost any other time period Brad Park would have been considered the best defenseman of his time. But Park played in the enormous shadows of Bobby Orr in Boston and Denis Potvin on Long Island. The only thing that kept the spotlight on them as opposed to Park was their team success and a combined 6 Stanley Cup championships to Park's zero.

That's right, Brad Park never had the chance to sip champagne from the Stanley Cup, despite participating in the playoffs each of his 17 NHL seasons. Along with the likes of Marcel Dionne, Gilbert Perreault, and Mike Gartner, Park may be the best player ever not to have tasted Stanley Cup victory.

Park went from unbridled prodigy to popular sensation in New York, ranking him as perhaps the greatest defenseman in the long history of the Blueshirts.

"Park reminds me of Pierre Pilote," once said Chicago coach Bill Reay. "Both were relatively compact men who could accelerate better than most forwards."

Though it was popular with Manhattan fans, Park was brash off the ice as well. He penned the book Play The Man in 1971 where he was very forthcoming in his thoughts, notably badmouthing Boston fans, calling them animals and players, calling them thugs.

The Bruins fans hated Park and their natural rivals from New York, which made the feud all the more ironic when Park would be part of a blockbuster trade with the Boston Bruins. Perhaps the biggest the trade to that date, Park was the centerpiece of a Ranger/Bruin swap that saw the legendary Phil Esposito leave Beantown. Looking to find a fill-in for the often injured Orr, the Bruins also sent Carol Vadnais to New York and also received veteran Ranger Jean Ratelle.

The trade was uncomfortable for Park, who openly cried and considered not reporting. The two teams were bitter rivals. The only thing that could have been worse is if the Red Sox traded for a Yankee's starting pitcher.

But Park's cerebral play would quickly win over the fans. But the Bruins got a different, more mature Park than the one who so often dominated games against them. Park's play in Boston tamed down somewhat, mostly due to necessity. By the time he was 28 he had undergone five major knee surgeries and four arthroscopic surgeries. But his play remained sterling, in some ways better than ever under the Bruins tight checking system.

"My wheels aren't as good, but my brain is better," Park said at the time. "When I was younger and quicker I was capable of controlling a whole game over the whole rink. Now I've got to be content to control our zone. Basically I'm prepared to do less and do it well rather than try doing what I used to do and do it badly."

Park served another seven and a half seasons with the Bruins. He would finish his career in 1985 after 2 seasons in Detroit.

In a total of 1,113 NHL games, Park netted 213 goals and assisted on another 683 for 896 points, while accumulating 1,429 penalty minutes. He also posted 125 points (35 goals, 90 assists) in 161 playoff contests.

Park was a First Team All-Star in 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976 and 1978 and second team in 1971 and 1973. He would be shutout from Norris trophy nods as the game's best defenseman, but finished 2nd place a heartbreaking six times. He was awarded the Bill Masterton Trophy in 1984 and was also a valuable member of the Team Canada defense corps in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviets.


Ray Bourque

From Eddie Shore to Bobby Orr to Zdeno Chara, the Boston Bruins have always had one of the NHL's top rearguards patrolling their blue line. And while no one will dispute Orr as the greatest defenseman ever, Ray Bourque is not far behind.

When asked which of the two defenseman he would want on the ice in the final minute of player, long time Boston coach/general manager Harry Sinden said "I'll take Orr if I'm down by a goal, but I'd take Bourque if I'm defending a one goal lead."

Though he too ranks as one of the greatest offensive defensemen ever, it was Bourque's defensive genius that set him aside from his peers. While his offensive game grabbed more headlines, Bourque's tremendous defensive instincts that rivaled anyone in the game's history. In a split second he could dissect the oncoming play and more often than not positioned himself perfectly to defend. Though not big, his incredible balance made him tough to play against. Therefore Bourque was not afraid to play the physical game when he had to.

Skating was the key to Bourque's game. Overshadowed by the puck rushing exploits of Orr and Paul Coffey, Bourque too could skate like the wind. More importantly, perhaps he was better than Orr, Coffey or just about any other defenseman in terms of lateral movement, balance and agility. He would often jump into the offense as a 4th forward, or breakout of his own zone to lead the attack.

More often than not he would use incredible passing skills to kick start the offense. Though he was often zeroed in on by opposing team forecheckers, Bourque was rarely rattled, and always made a great first pass out of the zone to headman the transition offense. He had that rare touch and vision of a creative center on the back end. He had the uncanny ability to control the play, both with and without the puck. He was extremely methodical in his approach as a hockeyist.

He had an arsenal of lethal shots to unleash on goalies. He could shoot as hard as practically anyone, but more often than not he changed his shot up in order to get the puck to the goal crease. No matter how closely he was checked from his point position or how crowded the shooting lanes were, Bourque seemingly always landed the puck on net. He would often stray from the point position and jump into the slot for dangerous scoring chances. He was so deadly accurate with the puck that he won or shared the all star game's shooting accuracy competition 8 times between the competition's inception in 1990 and 2001. And he shot often. Only Wayne Gretzky regularly finished ahead of Bourque as the season's shots on goal leader.

Perhaps the most complete defenseman this side of Doug Harvey, Bourque retired as the career leader in practically every offensive category for a defenseman. He retired with 410 goals and 1169 assists for 1579 points! These totals also rank him as the highest scoring player in Boston Bruins history. A quiet and humble person, he seemed happy to live in the shadows of Coffey and especially Orr.

Believe it or not, Ray Bourque was the 8th player chosen overall and the 4th defenseman in the 1979 NHL entry draft. He joined the Bruins directly, scoring a goal and an assist and being named first star in his very first NHL game. He set a NHL record (since surpassed) for first year blue liners with 65 points in 80 games, as well as recording a +52, earning him the Calder Trophy. He was also named to the NHL's First All Star team, the first of 18 All Star nods.

By 1983-84 Bourque became only the sixth defenseman in NHL history to score over 30 goals in a single season campaign. He also finished with 96 points. But it wasn't until 1986-87 that the annual all star was finally given recognition as the NHL's best defenseman. Too often overlooked because of Paul Coffey's high scoring totals in Edmonton, Bourque won his first of five Norris Trophies over the next seven years.

Wearing jersey number 7 through his first eight seasons with Boston, Bourque surrendered that number in December 1987 when the Bruins honoured Phil Esposito. At center ice in front of Esposito and the hockey world, Bourque unexpectedly removed his jersey to reveal a second Bruins' sweater - this one numbered 77. Esposito's 7 would be forever retired, while Bourque quickly established his own unique identity in Boston. It was perhaps Bourque's most indelible moment in Beantown.

Boston loves Ray Bourque, but not quite as much as Bourque loves Boston. He cultivated many relationships in his adopted town, and lives there in retirement. He only has one regret in Boston:

"That's probably my biggest regret, not winning a Cup in Boston. That, for me, was tough,” said Bourque to

In 1987-88 the Bruins went to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in a decade. Though they were swept by the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers powerhouse, Bourque tied for 7th spot in playoff scoring with 21 points in 23 games. The Bruins went back to the Stanley Cup finals in 1989-90. The Bruins, huge underdogs, again lost to the Oilers in the finals.

Bourque continued his excellent play throughout the 1990s, even though the Bruins began a slow and steady decline. Bourque never complained, and continued to be the NHL's best example of elite consistency and proficiency.

Late in his career, the long time Bruins captain made the tough decision to leave his beloved Bruins in search for the Stanley Cup. He agreed to a trade that landed him in Colorado. He would play parts of two seasons with the Avalanche, retiring in 2001 after hoisting the silver chalice above his head.


Sugar Jim Henry

After Dave Kerr, one of the true Rangers greats, retired after the 1940-41 season, the Rangers needed a new goaler. They signed the acrobatic Jim Henry out of Western Canada. Universally known as "Sugar Jim" because of his childhood love of brown sugar, The proud Winnipeger was a star with the junior Brandon Elks and then the Allan Cup winning senior Regina Rangers.

The next season he made the jump to the Big Apple, and made quite the impression. He played all 48 games that season, winning a league high 29 games en route to leading the Rangers to first place.

Henry's career, like that of many NHLers, was put on hold due to World War II. He enlisted in the Canadian military and later transferred to the navy. Based in Canada, he continued to play hockey with the Allan Cup winning Ottawa Commandos in 1942-43, and later in Red Deer and Calgary.

Henry returned to the Rangers for 1945-46, but found the Rangers had secured the great Chuck Rayner while he was away. But coach Frank Boucher knew Henry was a good goalie too and kept Henry around. Boucher, years ahead of his time, formed the first two-goalie rotation in NHL history. Rayner and Henry, who quickly became best friends and later business partners, would alternate games and even periods, and reportedly would even alternate shift to shift on a few occasions.

The two-goalie system eventually proved cumbersome, and after four seasons with the Rangers, Boucher traded Henry to Chicago for Emile Francis and Alex Kaleta just prior to the 1948-49 season.

Henry toiled valiantly for the weak Blackhawks, but the most he could do was lift them out of the cellar. When the great Frank Brimsek became available to the Blackhawks, they bought him and Henry was demoted to Kansas City of the minor leagues. Brimsek couldn't lead the Blackhawks out of the doldrums either, so desperate for a quality netminder, Chicago made a big trade with Detroit involving Henry and others going to Detroit in exchange for Harry Lumley. Henry wasn't going to beat out Terry Sawchuk in Detroit by any means, so he was farmed out again, to the Indianapolis team of the USHL.

Unable to come to contract terms with Frank Brimsek's successor Jack Gelineau, the Boston Bruins bought Henry from Detroit just before the 1951-52 season. Henry almost never made it to Boston. Henry, in partnership with Rayner, opened a hunting and fishing camp in Kenora, Ontario. Henry was severely burned in a shed fire.

Lucky to be alive, Henry refused to listen to doctors who said he would never play goal again. The badly scarred goalie made it to Boston in time for NHL training camp, and would play the next 210 games in succession.

Henry had a fine first year, recording 7 shutouts and leading Boston to the playoffs, losing to the Montreal Canadiens in a memorable first round series. In those 1952 playoffs Henry is remembered in one of the most dramatic hockey photos of all time. The image showed Henry, right eye blackened, shaking hands in the ultimate sign of respect with Maurice "Rocket" Richard, the man who scored the over time winning goal in game seven.

Henry continued on in Boston with strong regular seasons, but he tended to get injured in the playoffs. In 1953 he hurt is ankle and was not able to play all games as the Bruins bowed to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup final. In the 1955 playoffs Henry suffered a broken jaw, an injury which would force him to retire from the NHL.

He returned to Manitoba where he could live a life based around his love of fishing and hunting. He did don the pads on occasion for senior league games.

In 406 NHL games he recorded 27 shutouts, had a 2.87 career goals-against-average and was a Second Team All-Star in 1952-52. He passed away in 2004.


Adam Oates

Growing up in Weston, Ontario, Adam Oates lived every Canadian boy's fantasy. He grew up playing hockey on the ice and in the streets, dreaming of playing in the National Hockey League.

Only Adam Oates' role model was not Montreal's Guy Lafleur or Toronto's Dave Keon like so many Canadian kids. He grew up idolizing his dad's favorite English soccer star - Stanley Matthews. Known as the Wizard of Dribble, Matthews is considered to be the most beautiful passer who rarely scored himself. When Oates started playing hockey and lacrosse as a child, his father insisted that he "be like Stanley - unselfish."

Oates' father's insistence on passing and setting up teammates obviously paid big dividends. Oates’ puck handling and distributing skills, as well as his sure hands, have made him the second-best passer of his time and the player most commonly compared with the best, Wayne Gretzky. Like other on-ice visionaries, Oates changed speeds and used subtle shifts in movement and positioning to put defenders off balance. He became an NHL star because of his impeccable passing skills, uncanny ability to anticipate plays and outstanding on-ice vision.

He was at times unselfish almost to a fault. But he was far from a one dimensional player. In fact, he was an underrated defensive center and was particularly utilized on the penalty kill or when there was a defensive zone face-off late in the game. His defensive awareness made him invaluable as it would allow his coaches to go head to head with the other team's big line without fear.

Hull And Oates

"As far as I'm concerned, he's the second best playmaking center behind Wayne Gretzky in hockey," said Brett Hull.

Hull should know. Considered to be one of the greatest goal scorers in the history of the game, Hull enjoyed his finest years in the three seasons Hull and Oates made fine music in St. Louis. Hull scored 72, 86 and 70 goals in those three seasons, an unthinkable total of 228 goals in 231 games.

Hull may be Oates' most famous recipient, but not his only. Oates is the only player to center three 50-goal scorers - Peter Bondra, Cam Neely and Hull. He is also the only one to center two players , Neely and Hull, who scored 50 goals in 50 games. Coincidence? No way.

Oates ranks 6th all time in career assists, with 1079 in 1337 games, trailing Paul Coffey, Ray Bourque, Mark Messier Ron Francis, and Wayne Gretzky, all of who played more games. His career assists per game ratio of 0.85 is only outdone by Bobby Orr (0.98), Mario Lemieux (1.13) and Gretzky (1.32).

Never Drafted

Not bad for a kid who was never drafted. Oates flew under the scouts radar, as he never intended to play junior hockey, instead hoping to catch on with an American university. In the fall of 1982 he accepted a full scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnical Institue (RPI) where he earned a degree in management. Even then he was never considered to be a top NHL prospect. His own coach, Mike Addesa, once affectionately called “a stumpy, heavy-footed, poor-skating, no-shooting kid.” Addesa was not too critical of Oates though. Oates set all school scoring records and led the RPI Engineers to an unexpected NCAA championship in 1985.

The NHL finally took notice and the Detroit Red Wings took a chance on the kid by offering him one of the richest rookie free agent contracts. Playing behind Steve Yzerman, Oates quietly solidified his reputation as an elite NHL playmaker with the Red Wings, earning close to an assist per game by his final season in 1989.

The summer of 1989 brought a surprise trade. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues along with Paul MacLean in exchange Tony McKegney and Bernie Federko, the long time face of the Blues.

Though initially devastated by the trade, Oates quickly prospered in St. Louis, where he teamed up Brett Hull. Hull would become the unquestioned goal scoring king and league MVP, with many thanks to the quiet play of Oates. Oates, too, was spectacular, particularly in 1990-91 when he had 90 assists and 115 points in only 61 games and was named to the NHL Second Team All-Star.

Despite the Blues rise and the dominance of Hull and Oates, the Blues curiously opted to play contractual hardball with Oates. The Blues handed over the keys to Hull, and were cursed around the league for what some irresponsibly high contracts to free agents like Scott Stevens and Brendan Shanahan. When it was Oates' turn to cash in, however, the Blues opted not to, and during the 1991-92 season he was traded to the Boston Bruins in return for Craig Janney and Stephane Quintal.

His Own Man

Oates had perhaps his best seasons yet in 1992-93, as he scored a career-high 45 goals, 97 assists and 142 points to finish third overall in regular season scoring behind Mario Lemieux and Pat LaFontaine. Oates credited his higher goal totals to the fact he played down low on the power play, as opposed to on the point as in St. Louis. Oates' 97 assists were the best of his career, and even more amazing since he didn't have a true superstar to play with, as sniper Cam Neely was injured for all but 13 games during the season.

The next season, Oates again finished third with 32 goals, 80 assists, and 112 points, behind only Wayne Gretzky and Sergei Federov. This time Oates and Neely teamed up for their most spectacular season together. Neely's leg injuries would persist, and he would only get in for 49 games. But in that time Neely scored 50 goals, most of which were set up by Oates.

Oates played with Boston until the 1996-97 NHL season, when a blockbuster trade took him, Bill Ranford and Rick Tocchet to the Washington Capitals for Jim Carey, Anson Carter, Jason Allison and a draft choice at the 1997 trading deadline. Oates helped lead the Capitals to the Stanley Cup finals the next season, but failed to win as the Capitals lost to the Red Wings. Oates continued to have productive seasons with the Caps, leading the league in assists in 2000-01 and 2001-02, despite nearing 40 years old.

In 2002-03, Oates returned to the Stanley Cup Finals, this time with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, but again his team was beat out, this time in seven games by the New Jersey Devils. Though his offensive production was down this late in his career, and his skating was poorer than ever, he remained a power play expert and a face-off specialist extraordinaire.

Adam Oates retired in 2004. It will be interesting to see if history is as unfair to him as contemporary times. He was one of the true greats, but was somehow always overlooked. Just the way Adam Oates likes it to be.


Stan Jonathan

To understand how Stan Jonathan inherited his second-to-none work ethic, you just have to look at his childhood.

Jonathan was raised as the sixth child in a family of 14 on the Six Nations' Reserve in Ontario. Life was hard although his dad - one of his biggest boosters - earned a good living on "the high steel". Stan himself actually worked on the high steel, as a rigger, building apartment and office towers in the U.S. and Canada. This of course was a very hazardous job.

"I did it for four summers from the time I was 16. I was scared the first couple of times I went up. But soon I learned it wasn't all that dangerous if you followed the safety precautions. But it's just like hockey: Get careless and you can get hurt," Stan said.

Stan worked hard, and always got the job done, whether it was at the construction site or on the ice. And he received high praise.

"Stanley reminded me of my pet dog, Blue, a bull terrier. They were both relatively small but enormously tough. I liked Stanley so much that I took a beautiful painting of Blue from home and had it hung directly above Jonathan's locker."

These words come from Don Cherry's autobiography "Grapes". And in the book he continues:

"One day Stanley's father was visiting Boston and was introduced to me in my office. 'You've got a great son there, Mr. Jonathan,' I said. 'He reminds me of my dog, Blue.' Old man Jonathan was aghast. Comparing his son to a dog. Well, this big Indian stared at me until I thought I was going to get scalped. I had a lot of fast explaining there or I would have gone the way of General Custer. If I had had the time I would have explained to Mr. Jonathan that Blue was not only my pet, but also my alter-ego."

It's easy to understand Cherry's fondness for this little fireplug who some consider to be the best pound for pound fighter of all time. Just 5'8" 175lbs, this full-blooded Tuscarora Indian played the game like a human bowling ball. He loved to hit anything in sight and loved to get hit as well. Stan was a strong aggressive checker and a streaky scorer. He went after rebounds with reckless abandon. He wasn't fancy but he worked very hard and made things happen all the time when he was on the ice.

When Stan played junior hockey for the Peterborough Petes (QMJHL) between 1972-75 he showed a lot of scoring potential, collecting 176 pts (69 goals and 107 assists) in 204 games. Stan's big break came when Don Cherry and Bruins general manager Harry Sinden went to Oshawa late in 1975 to check up on Boston's No.1 draft pick Doug Halward. As it turned out Halward was injured in the game that they went to see. Instead, as the game progressed Cherry noticed a feisty little player named Stan Jonathan.

"I couldn't help noticing this rugged little Indian. He didn't play an exceptional game, but there was something about him that made me take notice," Cherry said, and continued. "I didn't say much about Jonathan to Harry, but I filed his name in the back of my mind for future reference and at draft time I called Harry aside and said: "Do you think you could get me one hockey player?"

"Harry was not as impressed as I was and bypassed Jonathan on the first, second, and third picks. We finally got him the fourth time (in the 5th round) around and sent him to Dayton Gems of IHL. A year later he made our team. Of all my discoveries, Jonathan is the one in which I take the most pride."

In Dayton (1975-76) Stan played for a $8,000 salary and did it very well. He led all playoff scorers with 13 goals and 21 points in 15 games. The following season Stan managed to crack the Bruins lineup and immediately became a crowd favorite in Boston. In his first NHL fight he completely destroyed Chicago's defenseman Keith Magnuson who was a big, willing 2nd tier fighter. Some of his other victims included Dave "The Hammer" Schultz and Andre "Moose" Dupont.

But Stan didn't just fight. In his first year he led the NHL in shooting percentage (23.9 %) as he scored an impressive 17 goals on 71 shots.

Late in his rookie season Stan was placed on Jean Ratelle's left flank. Ratelle, a future Hall of Famer, was a textbook player who used to feather his passes over to his wings.

"Who wouldn't want to play for a centerman like Jean Ratelle?," Stan said as a rookie. "Ratelle just has some fantastic moves. There's one Jean makes coming in on the defense. Really it puzzles the defenseman. If they move at him one way, he dumps a pass to me or to the right side. If the defense plays wide for the pass, well then Jean just keeps going in on the goalkeeper. Incredible!" Stan said admiringly.

In his sophomore season (1977-78) Stan had a 22.3 shooting % (among top 10 in NHL) scoring a career high 27 goals and 52 points in 68 games.

Stan is however mostly remembered for his classic and brutal fight on May 21, 1978. It was game 4 of the Stanley Cup final between Boston and their archrival Montreal. Right from the start of the game Canadiens coach Scotty Bowman wanted to deliver a "non-nonsense" message. So he sent out a bunch of big fellows: Pierre Bouchard (6'2", 205 Ibs), Gilles Lupien (6'6", 210 Ibs) and Rick Chartraw (6'2", 210 Ibs) among others. Cherry countered with Terry O'Reilly, John Wensink and Stan Jonathan.

At the 6 minute mark of the first period it was obvious that all hell would break lose. Stan and Pierre Bouchard were side by side. Stan gave Pierre a "gentle" shot. After that they dropped the gloves and started swinging. At the same time Lupien and Wensink squared off. At first it looked like the much bigger Bouchard was going to win the fight as he connected with the first blows. But Stan shook them off like water and took Bouchard's best shots without blinking. The guys traded punches at a tremendous pace. Stan who was leading with his right then suddenly switched to his left and caught Bouchard off guard. Stan carved into Bouchard's face with a series of lefts until the helpless Canadien crumpled to the ice, his nose and cheekbone broken, his face a bloody mess. Bouchard's reputation and career was never the same after that brutal fight.

Stan's junior coach Roger Neilson was in the stands that night.

"Jonathan is a little like boxer Joe Frazier," Neilson said that night. "He'll take two punches to get in one of his own - and the one is a dandy."

Hall of Famer George Armstrong, also a Native Canadian, liked Jonathan.

"Hey, I've known Stanley and his folks for years. Stan will fight, yes, but he doesn't look for trouble. He won't back away when it comes, either. He's a good, tough hockey player. And he'll score his share of goals, too. Besides, you just can't beat us Indians."

It seemed that Stan thrived during the games against Montreal. In one of his finest efforts he scored a hat trick against Ken Dryden during game six of the 1979 semi-finals. Stan's fearless style of play gave him some injuries as well. In 1978-79 he missed 47 games due to a fractured wrist and shoulder injury.

Stan lasted six full seasons in Beantown before getting traded to Pittsburgh on November 8, 1982. He played 19 games for Pittsburgh and finished the rest of the season in Baltimore (AHL). Then in April 1983 the Penguins returned the rights to Boston. Stan never played for Boston again and opted to retire instead, only 28 years old.

Stan always thrived on hard work. Something he learned from an early age.

"With a family as large as mine, we had to have rules. And hard work was one of them. If you wanted something badly enough, you had to work for it," Stan said. He sure did, earning every minute of his playing time.

A player like Stan Jonathan today would have fan clubs and be one of the most popular players around. Enforcers today would swallow a lot of blood from the fists of this Tuscarora Indian.


Wayne Cashman

When Wayne Cashman dies, it would be only too fitting that he be buried in the corner of the cemetary.

"Cash" was a fierce cornerman for 18 NHL seasons, all with the Boston Bruins. Often playing on a line with Ken Hodge and Phil Esposito, his job was to go into the corners and battle for the loose pucks. Using his size and feared reputation, more often than not he would come out of the corner with the puck and set up either Hodge or Espo with a good scoring opportunity. Though he put up decent offensive numbers himself, Cash's performance over the years could never be measured by statistics.

Opponents thought twice about getting into the corners with Wayne.

Wayne's teammate Derek Sanderson remembered the battles in the corners.

"You could see a guy go into a corner after the puck, and just before he got to it, he stopped and flinched a bit when he saw Cash. That's when you knew you got him on the ropes," Sanderson said.

The Cashman-Hodge-Esposito line scored an incredible 140 goals and 336 points in 1969-70. That was an NHL record at that time. Combined they weighed well over 600 pounds together, which made them tough to play against.

A veteran Boston hockey writer observed:

"Early in the game, the other side is bouncy and fresh. But by the second and third periods they're so tired of trying to wrestle these fellows around that they just don't have the strength to hold them off. Which is one big reason the line came up with 336 points in 1969-70."

A good playmaker, Wayne also served as the Bruins policeman. In the age of "Big Bad Bruins," Wayne was the biggest and baddest. If the opposition even looked at Esposito or Bobby Orr the wrong way, "Cash" would be the first to intervene.

After Espo and Orr left Boston it was Wayne who took over the role of a leader.

"Back in the days of Orr and Esposito," said Bruins GM Harry Sinden late in Cashman's career, "Cash was a follower. Now he's a helluva leader on the ice and back in the room."

Goalie Ron Grahame agreed with Sinden.

"Cash is a real team player. On the ice he's leading by example and off the ice he's more vocal than anyone else, yapping at us to keep it going."

While he is best known for his physical dominance in the corners and in fights, Wayne was also a very good player. He scored 20 or more goals on eight occasions. His tenacious forechecking was an integral part of the Boston offense and it's safe to say that the scoring exploits of Espo or Orr wouldn't have been as impressive if they didn't have a guy named "Cash" doing their dirty work for them.

Wayne played all 1,027 games with Boston between 1964 and 1983. He never changed his game - playing every one of his 1,027 games with tremendous desire. Wayne had injuries which would have sidelined most players for weeks and even months. For most of his NHL career Wayne was bothered by a bad back. He once played almost an entire season with a ruptured disc in his back.

Some players even tried to take advantage of that and go for Wayne's back.

"A few guys went overboard. I don't mind them taking good, legitimate shots at me, but I didn't appreciate the ones who went for my back. There's no point in naming them. They know who they are anyway, and some day their time will come," Cash said in 1973 when the cheap shots at him were at an all time high.

And Wayne usually got even with those players.

He was actually the last player from the "original six" era to retire. He was a member of two Stanley Cup champions in 1970 and 1972, and was in the finals five times.

Wayne also played in the classic Summit Series 1972, even if it only was for two games. Before one of the games, he made a little impromptu speech in the locker room.

"Tonight you guys just concentrate on playing your own games," he said, "and I'll play the Big, Bad Bruin."

"When someone clobbered Clarke, I clobbered him right back," Cash said. "When someone speared Henderson, I speared him right back - even though I didn't like the idea of spearing. I didn't know if these people understood English or not, but I'm sure they got the message. I just let them know if they were going to play that way, I was going to dish it back."

Classic Wayne Cashman.

Following his playing career, Wayne turned to coaching. He served as an assistant coach for a long time before finally getting a chance to be a head coach in 1997 (Philadelphia). However only 61 games into his rookie season he was replaced by Roger Neilson. Always the team man, Wayne agreed to stay on as an assistant coach in order to help Neilson prepare for the playoff run.

Wayne's humility after being fired by the Flyers sums up Cashman the man - a great person who would do anything it takes to help out his team. Wayne did that for 18 NHL seasons and he continued to do that long after his playing days.

- Special thanks to Pat Houda


Eddie Shore

The Boston Bruins have had a long tradition of having the greatest defenseman in the game of hockey. Ray Bourque, Bobby Orr, Brad Park, to name a few. But the whole trend started with Eddie Shore.

He was born (November 25,1902) and grew up in the farming community of Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan, and didn't pick up hockey until a relatively late age (18 or so) His father was a strict (but fair) man who laid ground for Shore's toughness later on in his life. Eddie Shore's first sporting loves was baseball and soccer. His brother, Aubrey, was the family hockey player, and it wasn't until Eddie had enrolled at Manitoba Agricultural College in Winnipeg and had been told by his big brother, 'You'll never make a hockey player,'' that he began to take the game seriously.

Shore joined the Boston Bruins in 1926 and went on to personify the most vigorous aspects of the rough and fast game of hockey. His explosive temper was only matched by his incredible talent. While setting up offensive plays he would literally knock down any opponent that got in his way. This of course led to many hard fought and legendary battles. American Hockey League president Maurice Podoloff once observed, ''Eddie Shore did not walk; he stalked'

Hockey of course always has been and always will be a religion in Canada. When the all-Canadian National Hockey League decided to expand to the American cities of New York, Boston, Detroit and Chicago, there was doubt as to its ultimate fate.

"In order to succeed," said Frank Boucher, a star in his own right with the New York Rangers, "the league needed a superstar of extraordinary dimensions."

Eddie Shore was the right man, and at the right time. The "Edmonton Express" put professional hockey on the American map almost single handedly.

Absolutely fearless and unbelievably talented, Shore was indestructible. Perhaps the best way to describe him would be to say he was an early day Gordie Howe who played on the blueline. It certainly wouldn't be a stretch to say that. No one who hit as hard as he did was ever hit harder - or more often - in return. In his heyday, opponents seemed to save all their energy
in order to deal with Eddie Shore. ''He was bruised, head to toe, after every game,'' recalled Hall of Famer Milt Schmidt, a four-year teammate.' Everybody was after him. They figured if they could stop Eddie Shore, they could stop the Bruins.''

Shore's style was all his own. Pugnacious and downright mean, he was also very skilled. '' Most people of the day would skate down the side,'' said Schmidt. ''But Eddie always went down the middle of the ice. People bounced off him like tenpins"

Almost as amazing was his ability to play the entire game! He would average 50-55 minutes a contest. Well, at least in games when he wasn't spending that much time in the penalty box!

Not only was Shore a mean and fearless player but he was also a hard-nosed and savvy negotiator who held out on several occasions for more money. He knew what he was worth and that he was the number one attraction in the league. Bruins coach and GM Art Ross always had mixed feelings about Shore because of the hard times he would give him as a negotiator.

Ross who was a genius always had a show-biz flair, and Shore was a willing accomplice. One year he actually had the other Bruins take the ice first before bringing Shore out last to the accompaniment of ''Hail to the Chief.'' Shore would skate onto the ice in a matador's cloak, which would then be removed, Gorgeous George-style, by a valet.

With Shore, it was always business first, and in 1939, he startled everyone by purchasing the AHL Springfield Indians while he was still playing for the Bruins. What he did was that he played for both Springfield and Boston. This move of course infuriated Art Ross who couldn't stop Shore from doing that so the only way to get rid of the "problem" was to trade Shore. So on January 24,1940 Shore was sold to the NY Americans. A typical week for Shore was a game in Springfield on a Saturday, the Americans on a Sunday, Springfield on Tuesday and Wednesday, and New York on Thursday.

He played against his old Bruins teammates for the first time on March 9,1940. It was his fifth game in six days, despite that he played 35 minutes as the Americans won 4-2 The guy was 38 years old !

Eddie Shore removed himself from the playing ranks after that season, but went on to become a successful (and many times hated) owner in the AHL:

Turner Sports vice president Kevin O'Malley, a Springfield native whose father was the Springfield Indians' PA man for many years, got to see things most Springfield folks never saw. ''After many a practice had ended,'' O'Malley said, ''Eddie Shore would get out there and give his entire team skating lessons. He would critique the form of every player.''

That was a typical Eddie Shore thing.

Even the great Milt Schmidt recognized this. ''He tried to change my style when I was a rookie,'' Schmidt explained. ''He was very much a stand-up skater, and he hated it that I was a stooped-over skater. But he had a theory about everything.''

Shore's business attitude was the stuff of legend. When you worked for Shore, you worked for Shore. ''It's true that when the ice show was coming in [to the Eastern States Exposition] he would have players blow up balloons,'' said Schmidt.

''He always made the players change the light bulbs in the rink,'' added O'Malley. ''I can still see them out there on those giant circus ladders.''

Anyone who crossed him paid the price. O'Malley especially remembered one occasion. ''There was a concessions guy named Lee Morse. He was in his mid-30s, and he weighed about 220,''
He said something to Eddie one day, and Eddie just knocked him cold.''

Another typical Eddie Shore story.

And if one of the local high schools booked the rink to practice from, say, 5 to 6, that did not mean 4:59 to 6:01. You got in the locker room at 5 and you were done with all your business by 6. ''Otherwise,'' chuckled O'Malley, ''it was water off, lights out, and he was out the door.''

There are hundreds of Eddie Shore stories to tell and they are all part of his legend. His toughness was almost legendary even before he had played in the NHL. One time when he played for the Edmonton Eskimos his leg was cut deeply by a skate that required 14 stitches. He was told by the doctor to stay off the leg, yeah right, the next game Shore played full-out and popped all the stitches ending up with his hockey pants soaked in blood.

Or when he played for the Melville Millionaires against Winnipeg in a championship game, his coach told him to not take a penalty no matter what happened. Shore was targeted for the entire game and lost six teeth, suffered a broken nose and a broken jaw and got knocked out a couple of times. After having played a full 50 minutes he was knocked out a third time and was helped off the ice unconscious. He never did draw a penalty...

In the NHL it started right away with his knockdown-dragout fight with teammate Billy Coutu and how he found his own doctor to sew his ear back on. Or when he missed the team train to Montreal, hired a cab to take him there, took over the wheel when he decided the driver wasn't making good enough time, crashed the cab, hiked to a farm house, persuaded the farmer to hitch a sleigh to take him to the nearest train, arrived in Montreal 22 hours after he left Boston, and scored the game's only goal.

And then there is the unofficial record that Eddie holds that is sure never to be beaten - most fighting majors in a single game.

On November 23, 1929 the Boston Bruins were playing the Montreal Maroons. Eddie Shore got five fighting majors in that game, something that has never been equaled to this day, and since a player automatically gets tossed out from the game after three fights, this record seems to stand eternally.

Shore, who's reputation was the only thing more feared than his fists, got into a fight with the Maroons' Buck Boucher. At the completion of the fight he picked up his stick and proceeded to butt end Dave Trottier, who just happened to be the nearest Maroon. Understandably, the Maroon's spent the rest of the night trying to even the score with Shore. Even though he was extremely fatigued and bruised, Shore never once backed down.

The game had to be stopped in the third period so all the blood could be scraped up. Trottier, Siebert and Shore all ended up in the hospital. Eddie Shore had a broken nose, lost four teeth, had two black eyes a gashed cheekbone, cuts over both eyes and a concussion.

By the way, Boston won the game 4-3.

The All-Star game is played today, in a roundabout way, thanks to Eddie Shore, even though the circumstances leading to it weren't all that pleasant.

On December 12, 1933 at the Boston Garden, Boston played against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Eddie Shore was tripped by Francis "King" Clancy in the Toronto zone. As he was skating back, he mistakenly checked Toronto's Irvine "Ace" Bailey from behind, it was a devastating body check intended for Clancy as a retaliation for the trip earlier. Bailey fell and hit his head on the ice and fractured his skull, he lay twisted and twitching in a seizure-like state Bailey had two brain operations and hovered between life and death for 10 days. Bailey eventually recovered but his hockey career was finished. Shore didn't show much remorse. He wasn't exactly the touchy-feely type. He was a hockey player's hockey player, perfectly willing to
endure pain if it meant he could inflict his fair share, although the Bailey hit was an accident.
At that time Shore received a record 16 game suspension for the incident.

The injury resulted in the NHL creating an all star squad to play the Toronto Maple Leafs in a benefit game for Bailey and his family. The game was played in Toronto in 1947. The Leafs, wearing jerseys that said "ACE" across them, would end up losing to the NHL All Stars. It would become the annual mid-season All Star Game.

The hit would plague Shore's reputation as a goon and perhaps hindered him from the true acclaim he deserves. The Hockey News recently named him the 10th best player of all time.

He is the only defenseman to ever win the Hart Trophy on 4 occasions. He also was on an NHL all star team 8 times, and was part of two Stanley Cup winning teams in 1929 and 1939.

When the topic of greatest defenseman is brought up, almost everybody says Bobby Orr, a worthy recipient of such acclaim It is such a shame that most people today did not get to see Eddie Shore play. If we had, then perhaps we would all unanimously agree that Shore was the greatest defenseman of all time. Regardless, he is one of the all time Legends of Hockey.

He was a legend as a player and a legend as an owner, and no other individual in the sport's history can make that statement

We could go on mentioning a lot more of the hilarious stories that Shore was involved in as a player and coach, but that could make an entire book. His 978 stitches, 4 broken noses and 5 broken jaws gives us a pretty good picture of his playing style and toughness.


Terry O'Reilly

Boston sports fans love their sports heroes unlike any other city. Larry Bird. Bobby Orr. Ted Williams. Carl Yastremski. Bob Cousy. Terry O'Reilly.

Terry O'Reilly?

Terry O'Reilly wasn't the best skater, or the best scorer, or the best playmaker. In the storied history of the Boston Bruins he is far from the best player to ever wear the black and gold, but no one played harder or endeared himself more to the Boston faithful.

His Irish heritage certainly didn't hurt either.

A less-talented version of Cam Neely, O'Reilly was the heart and soul of the Bruins. He out-hustled every opponent, crashed and banged with reckless abandon, and played every shift as if it was game seven of the Stanley Cup finals.

Don Cherry said "Terry typifies our team. He's tough, really tough, and that's the way I like em'. I know a coach isn't supposed to like one player more than another, but I can't help it in regard to Terry O'Reilly."

He is the first person who comes to mind when someone uses the phrase 'a true Bruin'," says Harry Sinden. "He was the model of a Bruins player to his teammates and fans alike and that phrase is a high compliment because of Terry."

Terry started out as a goalkeeper until he was 13. Perhaps that explains his plodding skating style that everyone said would prevent him from ever turning pro. As a junior Terry had problems initially sticking with the Oshawa Generals. He turned down a scholarship offer with St. Louis University in order to prove the Generals wrong. Soon enough his desire and leadership qualities were so strong that he not only became a regular, but also the team captain and best player.

The Bruins selected him with their 2nd choice and 14th overall in the 1971 draft. Throughout his career it was always Terry that was the first player on the ice when his team practiced and the last off. This devotion and dedication paid off later on in his career when he became the captain for the Bruins.

Terry played mostly on checking lines the first couple of seasons and scored 27, 35 and 35 points before getting 23 goals and 50 points in 1975-76.

In 1976-77 O'Reilly discovered a solid chemistry with center Peter McNab. The line, often featuring Al Secord on left wing, became a serious offensive threat. O'Reilly would crash and bang in the corners and more often than not would come out with the puck. He showed nice hands and hockey sense, setting up 41 goals, often by McNab, and collecting 55 points. The following season saw O'Reilly set career highs as he led the Bruins with 61 assists and 90 points. His hard work earned him two trips to the All-Star games in 1975 and 1978.

His strong offensive play continued through the end of the decade, but it is his abrasive physical game that was always his meal ticket. To his credit, Terry never forgot that, although injuries finally caught up with him in the early 1980s.

"Taz" had a great sense of humour and was always quick to offer a joke on himself, downplaying his talents and often pointing attention to his skating ability or lack thereof. When traveling between the games you seldom found Terry without a book in his hand. He was always reading something, best sellers, fiction or non-fiction. He was also a serious chess player and an avid antique collector who liked to scour through many of the antique shops around New England. While playing he continued his education part time at Boston University and the University of Toronto.

Terry quit after the 1984-85 season to the dismay of the Boston fans who had taken the "Irishman" to their hearts during his career in Beantown. Injuries, most notably a knee injury that cost him much of the the 1982-83 season. He later coached the Bruins but quit to spend time with his children.

O'Reilly had a total of 606 points (204 goals and 402 assists) in 891 games and an excellent career +/- rating of +212. He not surprisingly remains the Bruins all time leader in penalties with 2095 minutes served. Terry is the prototypical NHL player who was successful because of passion, grit and a lot of hard work more so than talent.

How important was he to the Bruins? Take a look up in the rafters. Hanging by the retired jerseys of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, and Eddie Shore is O'Reilly's number 24. There is no greater honor in the city of Boston.


Jean Ratelle

Jean Ratelle is about as perfect a hockey player as there as we have ever seen. His professionalism and sportsmanship are as rare as his elite puck handling and skating skills.

While his road to the NHL wasn't the smoothest, but once he got there he quickly established himself as smooth operator. He split the first four pro seasons between the New York Rangers and the minor leagues. At one point while enduring a contract dispute he almost quit hockey to try out with the Milwaukee Braves baseball team.

"Management in New York put a lot of pressure on me. They wanted me to play a more aggressive brand of hockey. But that just wasn't the way I played the game. So pretty soon I found myself down in the minors again."

Ratelle finally got his chance to stay in 1964-65 when an injury to Phil Goyette allowed Ratelle the opportunity he needed. Immediately he was reunited with childhood friend and junior teammate Rod Gilbert. Ratelle scored 21 times and had finally proved he was an NHLer to stay.

Ratelle - a lanky centermen from Quebec - instantly was compared to Jean Beliveau. But he was quick to dismiss that notion.

"A lot of people saw my style as similar to Jean Beliveau's" Jean said in the book Heroes & History. "He was one of my heroes, but everyone is an individual. I don't think you can really copy anyone even if you try. You might pick up a little mannerism when you're a kid, but I didn't do that."

In another book, Rangers Fever by Marv Albert, Jean said "In a sense I was flattered. But I was realistic about it and I knew that part of the reason was for publicity. I never patterned my style after Beliveau's. So I as far as I was concerned, any comparisons were just to give the publicists something to do."

Beliveau however did acknowledge that their playing styles were very similar.

"Sure our styles are similar. We both play very cleanly, we're pretty quiet fellows, and we both have a long skating stride and a long reach," he said.

"The way I see it, Jean Ratelle is the quiet leader of the Rangers. It's a mistake to think that a player has to be noisy in order to command respect and lead a hockey club. Jean inspires by his behavior - on and off the ice. He's a fine family man and an inspiration to the other players, especially the younger ones. He reminds me of my self in the sense that neither of us were flashy or noisy or were quoted saying anything controversial, and because of that it took longer to get recognized."

Ratelle would get recognition though, thanks in large part to one of hockey's greatest line combinations in history. Ratelle and Gilbert's reunion was the turning point in both players' magnificent careers. Rugged Vic Hadfield was added to the right wing to form one of the most dangerous offensive trios in the late 1960s and the 1970s. The trio was dubbed the GAG line - Goal A Game line.

"The New York Rangers "GAG" line that I centered between Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield played together for 9 or 10 years, possibly the longest any line stayed together in the history of the NHL. Rod and Vic were great players, so it was fun and we had a lot of success together"

In 1971-72 Ratelle produced 109 points based on 46 goals and 63 assists. It was the first time a New York Ranger broke the century mark of NHL scoring. He actually broke his ankle with 16 games to play so his totals could have been even more impressive. Hadfield managed to get 50 goals, while Gilbert fell just short of 50 as he too got injured near the end of the year. Had Ratelle and Gilbert remained healthy, it would have been a good bet that all three linemates would have topped 50 goals that one season!

By this time Ratelle had cemented himself among the league's elite, but he had already been known as the league's nicest gentleman and most respected players.

"Jean commands so much respect because of his ability and his style, it's impossible to get yourself mad enough at him to try any dirty stuff," once said Derek Sanderson. Sanderson was one of the NHL's top checkers. It was his job to get a top player like Ratelle off of his game by any means necessary, including by breaking the rules.
Brad Park was a long time teammate of Ratelle, and an admirer.

"Ratty (Ratelle) is without a doubt the model hockey player, totally dedicated to the sport and the team. He plays hockey according to the rule book and would never even think of elbowing or smashing a guy or doing anything physical. He's just a beautiful player."

Ratelle was part of perhaps the biggest trade in NHL history in 1975-76 when he and Brad Park were the key components for a Boston Bruin package which featured Phil Esposito.

"There were indications that something was going to happen with the Rangers early in the 1975-76 season, but like most players I never thought it would affect me. I had been with New York since 1960 so my trade to Boston came as a shock. I'm sure it was even more surprising for Phil Esposito to be traded to New York."

While Espo initially struggled, Ratelle continued his excellence in his new surroundings, breaking the 100 point mark for a second time in 1976. He also played important roles in the Bruins Stanley Cup runs in 1977 and 1978. He would continue his scoring prowess until his retirement in 1981.

"As it turned out, it was a great move (going to Boston) for me and my family, because I was able to play six more years in Boston. If Bobby Orr hadn't been injured, we probably would have also won a Stanley Cup or two."

Like pretty much everyone else in the hockey world, Ratelle was a big fan of Bobby's, but rarely got to play with him.

"Unfortunately, I played only 10 games with Bobby. I sat beside him in the dressing room, and he assisted on my first goal with the Bruins. He's still the best ever, as far as I'm concerned," he said.

Always a clean and gentlemanly player, Ratelle won the Lady Byng twice and the Bill Masterton Trophy once. He was also presented with the Lester Pearson Trophy for his strong season in 1971-72. However he was never able to win hockey's greatest trophy - the Stanley Cup.

"In the NHL, my team worked hard every year and in every playoff series, but I never won the Stanley Cup. For that reason, I can't look back and say that any one year was really satisfying. In the end, we lost."

If there was one year, it might have been his dream year 1971-72. Not only was he dominant in the NHL, but he was also named to the Summit Series for Team Canada where he scored 1 goal and 4 points against the Russians.


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