We last spoke of the Bruins’ Pre-Expansion seasons, and briefly the events which lead up to the Post-Expansion, “Big Bad Bruins.”
With Weston Adams repurchasing the team in 1964, he set out to rebuild the Bruins with then-head-coach, Harry Sinden, and started with the abilities of one particular player known all around the world of Hockey.
POWERHOUSE FROM PARRY SOUND
What do you get when you throw a Calder Trophy, eight James Norris Trophies, two Art Ross Trophies, three Hart Memorial Trophies, two Conn Smythe Trophies, a Lester Patrick Trophy, and a couple Stanley Cups together? You get who many argue, including The Great One and Mr. Hockey, to be the greatest Hockey Player of all time, Robert Gordon “Bobby” Orr.
As the cornerstone for the “Big Bad Bruins” of the 1970’s, Bobby Orr revolutionized the Defenceman position by playing Defence like a D-Man, while at the same time moving the puck, scoring, and play-making like a Star forward. With Orr’s deadly combination of offensive and defensive skill, paired with Star players like Phil Esposito, John “Cheif” Bucyk, John McKenzie, Derek Sanderson, and Ken Hodge, the Bruins were able to capture Stanley Cups in 1970 (ending a 29 year Cup drought) and 1972.
It is widely acknowledged that if you were to line up five Orr’s against five Gretzky’s or Howe’s, the Orr’s would win 10 out of 10 games. If you don’t want to take my word for it, just ask the Great One himself. To further back the point, Bobby Orr still holds records for most points held by a Defenceman in a single NHL season, most assists by a Defenceman in a single NHL season, highest plus/minus in a single NHL season, fastest overtime goal to clinch a Stanley Cup, one of only two players to be awarded four major NHL awards in a single season, and tied for most assists in a single NHL game by a Defenceman.
COMPLIMENTS TO THE CORNERSTONE
Despite Bobby Orr being named the greatest ever by The Great One himself, he couldn’t do it alone. In a deal considered as one of the most one-sided in NHL history, the Bruins acquired Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, and Fred Stanfield from Chicago in 1967.
Being one of only four players to be awarded the Art Ross Trophy for four consecutive seasons, Phil Esposito centered a line with Hodge and Wayne Cashman and became the first NHL player to break the 100-Point mark in the 1968-1969 season, all while setting scoring and points records throughout his time as a Bruin. At the time of his retirement in 1981 from the New York Rangers, “Mr. Go” would only trail behind Gordie Howe in career goals and total points, and third in assists behind Howe and Stan Mikita.
After Phil’s retirement, he became known as, “Trader Phil,” due to the numerous transactions he made for the New York Rangers as General Manager and Head Coach. In 1992, he went on to found the Tampa Bay Lightning. Phil Esposito was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984.
One of the few British-born players in the NHL, Ken Hodge was part of the blockbuster deal with Esposito and Stanfield. At 6’2″ and 215lbs, Hodge was called a “grinding policeman,” due to his being a physically larger player of the era. In the 1968-1969 season, Hodge established himself by scoring 45 goals and 45 assists alongside Esposito’s 126 point season. Despite his play falling off significantly the next season, Hodge helped the Bruins along to win the 1970 Stanley Cup. In the 1970-1971 season, Ken would break the record for most points by a right-winger in a single NHL season with 105. The same season, Hodge would finish fourth in points behind Esposito, Orr, and Bucyk, the first time in NHL history having the top four scorers in the league from the same team.
Slowed by injuries in the 1971-1972 season, Ken would recover to help win the 1972 Stanley Cup. In 1973-1974, he scored 50 goals and 105 points for third in the league. For the only other time in NHL history, the top four scorers in the league were from the same team, with Esposito, Orr, and Wayne Cashman. Hodge was reunited with Phil Esposito on the New York Rangers in May 1976, in a trade for Rick Middleton.
Backstopping for the Big Bad Bruins from 1965 to Fall of 1972, and again from 1976 to 1980, was Gerry “Cheesey” Cheevers. His aggressive playing style was a good fit for the Bruins, as any opposing player who got too close or into the goal crease would be met with a quick smack with his stick. Cheevers perfected his “flopping” style of net-tending early on in 1962-1963 with the Rochester Americans, and his record of being undefeated with 32 consecutive wins still stands today.
In the Fall of 1972, Cheesey would depart from the Bruins to play three and a half seasons for the Cleveland Crusaders of the World Hockey Association. While in Cleveland, Gerry would be one of the league’s best goalies and be selected to the First All-Star team in 1973, and the Second All-Star team in 1974 and 1975. With financial disputes in Cleveland, Cheevers would return to the Bruins in 1976, net-tending in tandem with Gilles Gilbert. Gerry Cheevers retired in 1980 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985.
LEGACY OF THE BIG BAD BRUINS
With seven of the league’s top ten scorers (the only occurrence of this kind in NHL history), dozens of scoring and point records, and four 100-Point scorers (Esposito, Orr, Bucyk, and Hodge, never seen before 1969), the 1970-1971 season was arguably the best Bruins’ season on record. So much so, the offensive juggernaut of the Big Bad Bruins would set a new record for most wins in a single season. All four Bruins’ 100-Point scorers would be named First Team All-Stars, an expansion era feat only matched by the 1976-1977 Montreal Canadiens. Despite being most feared Offence in the NHL at the time, the Bruins would hit a speed bump and lose in the Stanley Cup quarterfinals to the Canadiens in seven games. Although not as dominant the next season, the Bruins would return to win the Stanley Cup in 1972, defeating the Rangers in six games.
“Bobby Orr was/didn’t make the difference.” – Former Bruin, and runner-up in Orr’s five-year monopoly for the Norris Trophy, and played defense for the Rangers at the time.
In the 1972-1973 season, Gerry Cheevers, Derek Sanderson, and John McKenzie would leave the Bruins to play in the World Hockey Association. During the same season, the Bruins would be sold by the Adams family (who had owned the Bruins since their establishment in 1924) to Stoner Broadcasting. In the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Bruins would be down on one Phil Esposito due to an injury to his hand and lose in an upset to the Rangers.
The following season in 1973-1974 would see the Bruins return to first place in the regular season, although losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final.
STICK AROUND TO READ ABOUT DON CHERRY’S LUNCH PAIL GANG
Although being the Bruins most successful years in retrospect, some of the most exciting Bruins Hockey came in the form of Don Cherry‘s “Lunch Pail Gang.”
Tune into the next installment to read of players like Terry “Bloody” O’Reilly and Ray Bourque!
Until then, add to the history for other readers to enjoy by dropping anything you’d like to add into the comments!