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Boston Bruins History

Founded: 1924, as the NHL’s first attempt at establishing a team in the United States
Home Arena: FleetCenter
Jersey Colors: Yellow, Black
Logo Design: Black letter ‘B’ with yellow spokes emanating from it to a surrounding black circle
Seasons: 80
Division Titles: 21
Playoff Appearances: 62
Stanley Cup Final Appearances: 17
Stanley Cups: 5 (1929, 1939, 1941, 1970, 1972)
All Time Record: 5376 games, 2564 wins, 1997 losses, 781 ties, 34 overtime losses

As one of the NHL’s “Original Six,” the Bruins were established in 1924 by Boston grocery magnate Charles Adams as the first American team in a league which had previously been made up exclusively of squads from Ontario and Quebec. Led by their legendary coach-GM Art Ross, for whom the trophy for the NHL’s leading scorer is still named, the Bruins were less than a success on the ice initially, winning just six of thirty games in their first season and seventeen of thirty-six in their second, the team was certainly a success off it, garnering excellent fan support and bringing about further expansion into the United States.

In just their third season the Bruins made it to the Stanley Cup Final and, led by goaltender Cecil “Tiny” Thompson, superstar defenseman Eddie Shore, and forwards Aubrey “Dit” Clapper and Ralph “Cooney” Weiland, won the Cup in 1929, their first season after moving into the historic Boston Garden. The Bruins ruled the 1929-30 regular season, winning 38 of 44 games on the strength of 43- and 41-goal seasons from Weiland and Clapper, respectively, but were upset by Montreal in the playoffs. Despite the continued presence of Shore, Thompson, and Clapper, playoff success eluded the Bruins for the better part of a decade, though the team did manage several more first place finishes in the American Division and had just two losing seasons. In 1938-39, with the NHL down to seven teams from ten a decade earlier (the league would shrink to six three years later), the Bruins sold Thompson to Detroit, installed young Frankie Brimsek in goal, and handed the reigns to their offense to the famed “Kraut Line,” three young men (Milt Schmidt, Woody Dumart, and Bobby Bauer) who grew up together in the German settlement of Kitchener in Ontario. The Bruins won the 1939 Stanley Cup, then finished first in the 1939-40 regular season despite trading Shore to the Rangers, but fell short in the 1940 playoffs. Forward Bill Cowley led the league in points and the Bruins won the Cup again in 1941, once again on the strength of Brimsek’s goaltending and a superior offense. However, it would be the last Stanley Cup Boston would see for nearly thirty years.

The 1941-42 season looked good for Boston, but before it ended, the entire Kraut Line had left the team to fight in World War II, and would be gone for three years; Brimsek joined the armed forces as well after the season was over. Before their return in 1945-46, Art Ross, who had at three separate times since the teams inception stepped away from coaching, only to return after no more than two seasons, retired from coaching for good, installing longtime Bruin Dit Clapper as the team’s coach. Clapper was replaced in 1949-50 by Buck Boucher, who gave way the next season to Lynn Patrick; when Ross retired from his general manager’s position in the 1953-54 season, Patrick replaced him, and remained in that position until 1965. The team also saw numerous changes on the ice, as Bauer retired in 1947, Brimsek was traded to Chicago in 1949, and the rest of the Kraut Line, Schmidt and Dumart, joined Bauer in retirement in 1954-55. Schmidt became the team’s head coach the following season, but after two straight Finals appearances in 1957 and 1958, Schmidt presided over a long period of mediocrity, despite the fact that 1958 was the first year in Boston for Johnny Bucyk, who went on to play over 1400 games in a Bruin uniform. The team missed the playoffs for eight straight years from 1960 to 1967, a streak which included six last place finishes. All told, during the Bruins 29-year Cup drought from 1941-70, the team would make the finals five times but would also miss the playoffs eleven times. By the mid-1960’s, however, things began to turn around for the Bruins, as the team slowly began to assemble a core of players who would carry them through much of the next decade. Gerry Cheevers made his debut as a Bruin in 1965-66; however, while the team was still floundering on the ice, the talk in Boston at the time was about a kid whose rights the Bruins had who was currently playing junior in Ontario. His name was Bobby Orr.

In 1966-67, Schmidt moved from coach to general manager and hired a young man named Harry Sinden to coach. The team still finished last in the NHL, but Orr took home the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie, though he was still just nineteen. When the NHL expands to twelve teams the next season, the Bruins were a squad on the rise; in easily the best trade of his tenure as GM, Schmidt dealt three veterans to Chicago for Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, and Fred Stanfield in the summer of ‘67. Esposito went on to lead the team in points with 84 in 74 games, Stanfield and Hodge finished third and fourth behind Bucyk and John McKenzie, Cheevers played 47 games in goal, Orr played just 46 games but won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, a trophy which he would claim each of the next seven seasons, and the Bruins made the 1968 playoffs. Esposito became the first player to score more than 100 points the next season, and Orr set records for goals and points by a defenseman, records he would shatter later in his career. The next season, Orr led the league in points with 120, simply unbelievable numbers for a defenseman, and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP as well as the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP; Esposito set records for playoff goals, with 13, and assists, with 14, as the Bruins won the Cup by sweeping St. Louis. Sinden then gave way as coach to former Canadiens and Bruins defenseman Tom Johnson; the next season Johnson’s Bruins set 37 individual and team NHL records, destroying the rest of the NHL with 399 goals in their 78 games and compiling a record of 57-14-7, with Orr winning the Hart once more and Esposito leading the league with an unprecedented 76 goals and 152 points. The Bruins were upset in the first round, however, by arch-rival and eventual Cup champion Montreal. In 1971-72 the Bruins would finish atop the regular season standings once more, but this time they would not be denied in the playoffs. Orr once again won the Smythe after winning his third consecutive Hart in the regular season as the Bruins defeated Toronto, St. Louis, and New York to capture the Cup.

Sinden returned to the Bruins the next season, this time as general manager, replacing Milt Schmidt. Cheevers left in the summer for the upstart World Hockey Association, Johnson was fired midseason, and although Esposito finished atop the league’s scoring charts for the third season in a row and Orr once again topped 100 points, this time in just 63 games, the Bruins were upset in the first round of the playoffs. The B’s dominated the 1973-74 season once again, with Esposito and Orr finishing atop the scoring lists, and the team made the 1974 Cup Finals with Bep Guidolin behind the bench and Gilles Gilbert in goal, but lost to Philadelphia in six games. Don Cherry then began a five-year stint as coach, but even though the team continued to have regular season success the Stanley Cup eluded them, as they lost to Montreal in the finals in 1977 and 78 and in the third round in 1979. After eight very prolific seasons, Esposito was dealt in 1975 to New York for Jean Ratelle and Brad Park. Bucyk finally retired in 1978 after 21 seasons as a Bruin. And in one of hockey’s most disheartening episodes, Bobby Orr’s knees began to seriously break down. In 1975-76 Orr played just ten games; that off-season he was dealt to Chicago, where he would play just 26 games in three seasons amid numerous knee operations. Sadly, Orr, whom many consider to be the best player the NHL has ever seen, retired early in 1979 at just 30 years of age.

Although 1968 began a run in which Boston would make the playoffs twenty-eight consecutive seasons and Sinden’s stint as GM from 1972 to 2000 gave the front office stability not seen since the days of Art Ross, the early 1980’s continued a pattern of excellence in the regular season, but no playoff success for Boston. Park, Ratelle and, in 1976, Rick Middleton joined a core that included Bruin heroes Terry O’Reilly, Wayne Cashman, and Gilbert; Cheevers had rejoined the team in 1976, and by 1981 was the team’s head coach. In 1979-80, Boston had once again added a young defenseman who won the Calder Trophy in his first season at just 19; his name was Ray Bourque. The old guard began to retire, and though the team continued to make the playoffs, they would not find an offensive star to match Bourque’s on defense until 1986, when they acquired Cam Neely. However, the Bruins would not make it as far as the Stanley Cup Finals again until 1988, when they featured O’Reilly behind the bench. The Bruins lose in the second round in 1989, but with another former Bruin, Mike Milbury, as coach in 1990, the Bruins once again made the Cup Final, once again losing to the Edmonton Oilers. Bourque continued to excel, winning the Norris Trophy in 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, and 1994, but Neely’s reckless style of play begins to take its toll on his body. From the 1991-92 season through 1995-96, Neely would play just 162 of a possible 378 games, eventually retiring in 1996 at just 31. After Milbury was replaced in 1991 behind the bench, the Bruins ran through three coaches in five years, a period which culminated with the team missing the playoffs for the first time in 28 years in 1997 under former Bruin Steve Kaspar. The FleetCenter opened in 1995; Bourque continued to be rock-solid on defence, but the Bruins continued to be unable to build a team around him solid enough to win a Stanley Cup, particularly when it came to goaltending. With new head coach Pat Burns and new promise after the drafting of projected stars Sergei Samsonov and Joe Thornton in 1997, things seemed bright in Boston, particularly with center Jason Allison emerging as one of the league’s top scorers. By 1999-2000, however, the Bruins were once again on the verge of missing the playoffs, and with Bourque nearing retirement but never having won a Stanley Cup, the team dealt him to Colorado. 2000 was truly the end of an era in Boston with Bourque’s departure and the semi-retirement of Harry Sinden, who relinquished his GM duties to assistant Mike O’Connell and concentrated solely on his role as team president.

With Burns’ firing early in 2000-01, the Bruins head coaching position became a revolving door, with five men holding the spot behind the bench in four seasons, including Burns, Mike Keenan, Robbie Ftorek, O’Connell, and finally current head coach Mike Sullivan. During that time the Bruins missed the playoffs once and were eliminated in the first round each of the next three years, despite finishing first in their division twice and first in the conference once during that time span. The Bruins continued to have problems finding a number one goaltender, though last season’s rookie of the year Andrew Raycroft seems likely to lay claim to the job for some time to come. While the Bruins became notorious for their tight-fisted ways under Sinden, ways which have continued with O’Connell at the helm and which have led to the coming and going of a number of high-profile names, including Allison, Bill Guerin, Byron Dafoe, Kyle McLaren, Bryan Berard, and Brian Rolston, Samsonov’s development into a dependable point-producer and Thornton’s eventual rise to the status of one of the league’s best centers has given Bruin fans some hope. Along with a stable of young players such as Raycroft, defenseman Nick Boynton, and forward Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins seem to have a solid core to move forward with.

Greatest Players

Goaltenders: Cecil “Tiny” Thompson (1928-39), Frankie “Mr. Zero” Brimsek (1938-42, 1945-49)
Eddie Shore (1926-40), Ray Bourque (1979-2000), Aubrey “Dit” Clapper (1927-47), Bobby Orr (1966-76)
Phil Esposito (1967-1975), Milt Schmidt (1937-42, 1945-55), Cam Neely (1986-1996), Johnny Bucyk (1957-78), Terry O’Reilly (1972-1985), Rick Middleton (1976-1988)

Major Award Winners

Eddie Shore (Hart Trophy, 1933, 1935, 1936, 1938)
Ralph “Cooney” Weiland (Art Ross Trophy, 1930)
Bill Cowley (Hart Trophy, 1941, 1943; Art Ross Trophy, 1941)
Milt Schmidt (Hart Trophy, 1951
Art Ross Trophy, 1940)
Phil Esposito (Hart Trophy, 1969, 1974
Art Ross Trophy, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974)
Bobby Orr (Hart Trophy, 1970, 1971, 1972; Art Ross Trophy, 1970, 1975; James Norris Trophy, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975; Conn Smythe Trophy, 1970, 1972; Frank Calder Trophy, 1967)
Herb Cain (Art Ross Trophy, 1944)
Ray Bourque (James Norris Trophy, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1994; Frank Calder Trophy, 1980)
Frank Brimsek (Georges Vezina Trophy, 1939, 1942; Frank Calder Trophy, 1939)
Jack Gelineau (Frank Calder Trophy, 1950)
Larry Regain (Frank Calder Trophy, 1957)
Derek Sanderson (Frank Calder Trophy, 1968)
Sergei Samsonov (Frank Calder Trophy, 1998)
Cecil “Tiny” Thompson (Georges Vezina Trophy, 1930, 1933, 1936, 1938)
Pete Peeters (Georges Vezina Trophy, 1983)
Bobby Bauer (Lady Byng Trophy, 1940, 1941, 1947)
Don McKenney (Lady Byng Trophy, 1960)
John Bucyk (Lady Byng Trophy, 1971, 1974)
Jean Ratelle (Lady Byng Trophy, 1976)
Rick Middleton (Lady Byng Trophy, 1982)
Steve Kasper (Frank Selke Trophy, 1982)
Don Cherry (Jack Adams Trophy, 1976)
Pat Burns (Jack Adams Trophy, 1998)

(All information compiled by Brian Pike, MOP Squad Sports Hockey Editor)