Boston Bruins NHL Hockey

The history of the Boston Bruins began with their first game on December 1, 1924, in the old Boston Garden. As the first NHL team located in the U.S., they won only six out of 30 games their first year; however, they went on to win their first of five Stanley Cup championships in 1929, when they defeated the New York Rangers. In the 1930’s, with Tiny Thompson, as goalie, and Eddie Shore, as captain and defenseman, the black and gold were a strong team, making it all the way to the playoffs, but falling just short of capturing the championship. Although Thompson was sold to the Detroit Red Wings in 1939, the Bruins managed to win their 2nd Stanley Cup in 1941.

During WWII, the Bruins lost several strong players in their offensive line, known as the “Kraut Line,” to the war effort including Milt Schmidt, Bobby Bauer, and Woody Dumart. With the return of these key players after the war, the Bruins were once again a serious competitor in the NHL. By 1950, Schmidt was named MVP and the Bruins continued to advance to the playoffs, only to be defeated repeatedly by the Montreal Canadiens.

Milt Schmidt retired as a player in 1954 to become the Bruins’ coach and later their general manager. A significant trade with Chicago, along with the discovery of Bobby Orr, changed history for the black and the gold once again. In their golden age, the 60’s and the 70’s, the phenomenal “Big Bad Bruins” team of Esposito, Orr, Hodge, and Stanfield, added two more Stanley Cups to their record. More great defensemen came along for the Bruins with Ray Bourque from Montreal in 1979, who retired after a successful 21-year career. There is an interesting history to Bourque’s retirement number. At the time of his retirement, Bourque had shared the number 7 with Phil Esposito. However, as the number was being raised to the roof of the TD Banknorth Garden to join the eight other retired Bruins, he added another 7 to retire as number 77, in a formal tribute to Esposito.

There are few people, if any, who don’t think of the Boston Bruins without associating them with Bobby Orr, number 4, a hockey legend, and perhaps the best of them all. 1961 saw the signing on of 14-year old Bobby Orr from Montreal. Collecting trophies and setting records right and left, Orr was spectacular. As an 18-year old, Orr was named NHL Rookie of the Year, receiving the Calder Trophy in the 1966-67 season. Although he had suffered a knee injury early in his career that eventually would lead to his retirement, Bobby Orr was a persistent and skillful skater, with incredible balance and strength, unsurpassed in the hockey arena. During the next seven years, he was first choice for the NHL All-star team and winner of the Norris Trophy for best defenseman, bringing the Bruins back each time to the playoffs. This remarkable player won three Hart Memorial Trophies for MVP and the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP. Orr is best remembered today, however, for the overtime goal he scored in the May 1970 season game against St. Louis to take another Stanley Cup championship for the Bruins. Although he signed on with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1976 as a free agent, Orr’s spectacular career was practically over, as he played only 26 games in three seasons. As a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, he is honored as the number 2 NHL player of all time, just behind Wayne Gretzsky of the Los Angeles Kings.

Opening game at the Garden in 2002 featured the retirement of number 24, Terry O’Reilly. As the captain and top scorer for the Bruins in the 80’s, and later their coach, he was a favorite among his team mates. Highly respected for his complete dedication and love of the sport, to many hockey fans he represented the ideal Bruin.

Number 8, Cam Neely, was the powerful forward and the Bruins’ all-time top playoff scorer. In 1993 — 1994, he was only one of eight players to score 50 goals in 50 games, a perfect record. Neely’s outstanding career was cut short due to an injury, but he continued to contribute a great deal to the Boston community. After retirement and induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, he formed the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Cure, 1995, in memory of both his parents who died from cancer. Harry Sinden, the Bruins president, has said of Neely, “Cam’s contributions to Boston have gone far beyond what he accomplished on the ice.”

The Boston Bruins have not fully recaptured their earlier years of glory, but in the eyes of Boston and New England, they are a long-standing tradition. They are a source of pride as they fondly recall some of the great Bruins of the past from Eddie Shore, their first star player, to Milt Schmidt of the 40’s and 50’s, to the unforgettable Bobby Orr of the 60’s and 70’s. Bruins who are recognized in the Hockey Hall of Fame include Milt Schmidt, Ray Bourque, Bobby Orr, Brad Park, Cam Neely, Bernie Parent, and Johnny Bucyk. Among the formally retired numbers at the TD Banknorth Garden are Bucyk #9, Bourque #77, Orr #4, Neely #8, Clapper #5, Esposito #7, Shore #2, Hitchman #3, and O’Reilly #24

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