#1. Inspired by friend and hockey historian Stu Hackel’s recently posted gallery of hockey images, here are my bakers dozen. Not many players suffered more for their craft than goalie supreme Terry Sawchuk. Once a Bruin he was traded for fellow Hall of Famer Johnny Bucyk. This image is still genuinely shocking.
#2. Jean Beliveau, the quintessential gentleman of the game whose charisma was more than matched by his big heart and kind nature. Ten cups for Le Gros Bill. He loved the Red Sox too and traveled to Fenway as a boy to see Ted Williams.
#3. Montreal executive Leo Dandurand once spread the false rumor to English speaking journalists that his goalie Georges Vezina not only couldn’t speak English but that he had fathered 22 children in the span of 9 years. Whereas the truth was he fathered 2 sons with Marcel Stanley born on the night the Habs captured the Cup in 1916 hence his middle name in honor of the hallowed trophy. Here is the lad posed in the cup. Prior to his death of tuberculosis at the age of 39 (while still playing for Montreal) Vezina, the beloved”Chicoutimi Cucumber” had led his team to five finals and two Stanley Cups. The NHL goaltending award is named in his honor.
#4. Any male is greater Boston now between the ages of 56 and 72 would have given their all their baseball cards, banana bike, toy burp gun, and comic book collection to have been one of these three gentleman for only a day back in the late sixties or early seventies.
I had the incredible good luck of being placed on their charter to Montreal in March 1969 when the Northeast Airline plane I’d hoped to fly to visit my brother at college in Montreal was full.
It was my first ever flight and I literally walked onto the plane with a book bag with a change of clothes and a tattered copy of The Hockey News no knowing they’d put me on the Bruins plane until I walked several steps past the team, who’d reversed their seats to face each other while playing cards and drinking what I’m sure were beers.
I sat next to writer Roger Barry who was kind enough to introduce me to each of the players who walked past to use the rest room. Included in the group were most of the team that would win the cup the next year as well as personal favorites like Eddie Shack. One of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.
#5. I’ve never known anyone that loved hockey more than my pal Tommy Warner (back row, sixth from right) who played for a damn good Lawrence Academy team in 1975 with the likes of Ben Lord (UVM) Greg Moffett (UNH, drafted by Canadiens), and Jay Gray among others. He went on to Amherst College where he was an instrumental part of the team that won the ECAC college division crown in his freshman year. He patterned his game after hero Derek Sanderson and especially loved killing penalties. He’s wearing number 9 in this team photo. Six months later, my father, a neurosurgeon in Worcester, diagnosed the brain stem tumor that ultimately took his life three years later. After two brain operations Tom still made Dean’s list at Amherst and was caught after hours skating at Orr Arena (against Dr’s orders) as he wanted nothing more than to lace up his Tacks once more for the Lord Jeffs.
One of Tom’s Amherst trademarks was reciting the Cowardly Lion speech from “The Wizard of Oz” in a sort of call and reply routine with goalie Jeff Fine. Soon, those teammates who made great plays or showed on-ice courage were referred to as “Muskers.”
#6. Easton’s Jim Craig seeks his father in Lake Placid after playing the games of his life in the company of the Miracle team.
#7. The Canadian women win in Vancouver in 2010 and showed how they worked and played hard. A team in every sense of the word.
#8. Former Bruins wing Normand Leveille skates with the help of his Bruin brothers at the last game ever at the old Boston Garden on September 30, 1995. Not a dry eye. I was there.
#9. Here is the greatness of the Boston Bruins in a nutshell. The greatest Bruin was Milton Conrad Schmidt, winner of two Stanley Cups as a player and general manager. He also coached two teams to the finals. Funny how he was one of the three Bruins execs that traveled to Ontario to scout some junior players and ended up discovering a 12 year old named Robert Gordon Orr, the greatest player ever (try to imagine Gretzky playing defense).
The greatest Bruin and greatest player on Fenway ice with that indomitable force of nature named Terry O’Reilly.
#10. Has there ever been a stronger hockey player than Bobby Hull or a nicer. more engaging guy? His brother Dennis is also a genuine character and had a slapper nearly as scary as that of his brother.
#11. The first gold medal Miracle in 1960 featured the Cleary brothers of Cambridge, Belmont Hill and Harvard helping lead the way for a team coached by WWII flying ace Jack Riley and captained by fire fighter Jack Kirrane of Whiskey Point in Brookline.
Somebody better be working on a movie script for these guys.
#12. The Red Wings honor their injured brother Vladimir Konstantinov. Hockey is an unshakable brother and sisterhood. No prima donnas as everyone suffers.
#13. The quintessential hockey photo, along with that of the Flying Bobby, and the symbol of all that’s good about this beautiful sport. Two warriors, Bruins goalie “Sugar” Jim Henry and Maurice “Rocket” Richard greet each other after the concussed Richard clambered off the trainer’s table to score the winning goal against the Bruins to conclude a bruising seven game semi-final in 1952.