The Big, Bad Bruins of the 1970s were known as much for the fun they had as they were for the two Stanley Cups they won. But that team and its hard-to-describe popularity had a much more lasting legacy than that. It did not just popularize the sport, which had already had a strong local, it made Boston to hockey what Texas is to football, an actual breeding ground for some of the best players in the world.
Ken Hodge, at the Garden for 1972 Cup team’s 50th anniversary celebration on Thursday, was a member of that team as well as local hockey dad who watched his son, Ken, Jr. climb from St. John’s Prep to Boston College to the NHL.
“We had dinner (Wednesday) night and Dallas Smith, Donnie Marcotte, Johnny Bucyk and I were talking about the era and the legacy that we left in New England with the explosion of hockey and what transpired on college hockey and high school and everything,” said Hodge. “It was just great. It was a great time to be in New England. I was very fortunate. My sons played locally. But it was just a good era to be here and see what took place here in New England.”
That legacy could only be appreciated in the fullness of time, said Hodge.
“I think we took a lot of that for granted because we were so involved in playing the game and we just never knew what was going on around us. We felt it because every time we went out to eat or someplace, we saw what was going on and met the people. But I don’t think we really knew what was going on around us at that time,” said Hodge. “We reflect back on that era and time and what we accomplished. We admire what the guys are doing today and still continue on in the tradition that we started back in that era.”
As for the ’72 Cup win, it not only marked some redemption for that Bruins team but also was the beginning of an end to an era. The B’s 1971 team that had set all sorts of offensive records at the time was stunned by the Montreal Canadiens, still one of the great upsets of all time. And the rumblings of the fledgling World Hockey Association – which would take Gerry Cheevers, Johnny McKenzie and Derek Sanderson – were already being felt. The expansion New York Islanders would also claim Eddie Westfall.
Late in the season, the players got together in a Chicago bar and determined that there would be no repeat of ’71.
“We had a little team meeting and it got pretty activated, but we got the point across that, hey, we’re here to win and we’re going to win it,” said Marcotte. “Because we knew that with the World Hockey coming in the next season, we knew that it could be (the last chance). …Guys were already talking about it and whether they wanted to jump or not.”
While the Habs may still have been a nemesis, the B’s also had a fierce rivalry with the New York Rangers at the time, and that’s the team they beat in the Finals.
“There was the ’70 team and then the ’71 disaster. Basically in ’72, it was almost a comeback. We should have actually had three Stanley Cups, but we had two out of three,” said Hodge. “But basically it was a good time. We made some great trades during the season. Carol Vadnais came over from the Oakland Seals and strengthened our defensive core and we just all came together. And naturally we had Bobby (Orr) and (Phil Esposito). It was a great feeling.
“The only sad thing about it was we had to go to Madison Square Garden to win the Cup. We blew it here in the fifth game. It was just too bad because it would have been nice to win it at home, especially in the old Garden.”
As expected, Trent Frederic was a healthy scratch against the Senators, but coach Bruce Cassidy did not want to place all the blame for the sagging third line on the second-year NHLers shoulders.
“It wasn’t one incident (with Frederic). We talked in Tampa about how his game was slipping a little bit with his details so we were trying to give him a chance to work out of of it,” said Cassidy. “That line in general, their game isn’t where it was a couple of weeks ago. And Charlie (Coyle’s) the guy who drives that line. It’s not on Freddy, to be honest with you. Coyle and (Craig Smith) have been around a long time. They’re the guys who make that line go. Freddy’s a complementary piece on there. So hopefully taking one player out will get them going a little bit and hopefully we get Freddy right back in there. He’s been a good player for us and he’s helped that line.”
Matt Grzelcyk, who missed Tuesday’s game with an upper body injury, was penciled back in the lineup against Ottawa.
David Pastrnak, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Carlo all remained out.
Cassidy lauds York
Cassidy revealed that when he was a 16-year-old hockey player in Ottawa, he was recruited to play for Bowling Green by the just-retired Jerry York.
“He called me and he couldn’t take me the next year because he was taking (future NHLers) Dave Ellett and Garry Galley from Ottawa, but he was offering me a scholarship for the next year if I was willing to wait. I ended up getting drafted in junior with the (Ottawa) 67s so I went that route. But I crossed paths with Jerry a long time ago,” said Cassidy. “It was good to catch up to him here in the hallways when I first got hired and reminisce about those things. I didn’t think he’d remember, but I did and he certainly did. I wish him all the best, him and (wife) Bobbi and all his family. Hopefully he gets to do what he wants and still pokes his head in at BC and gives them some advice, because I’m sure they’d be happy to have it. He’s a real knowledgeable hockey guy. And a great guy.”
Former BC captain Marc McLaughlin, who recently signed with the B’s, said York texted last year’s captains about his plans.
“His passion for the game is off the charts and unmatched in college hockey, whether it’s a practice in September or playing in the Beanpot against BU, it’s the same energy and positivity he brings to the team. There are so many life lessons I’ve learned over the years that I can’t thank him enough,” said McLaughlin.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism