When you think of the Boston Bruins, what comes to mind? Is it the iconic black and gold jerseys? The deafening cheers at the TD Garden? Or perhaps the long-standing rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens? While these elements are undoubtedly a part of the Bruins’ legacy, there is one thing that truly defines this storied franchise – its legendary players.
Throughout its nearly 100 years of existence, the Bruins have had numerous players who have left an indelible mark on the team’s history. From Hall of Famers to fan favorites, these players have not only shaped the Bruins’ success on the ice but also solidified their place in the hearts of Boston hockey fans. In this article, we will delve into the impact of these iconic players on the Boston Bruins’ franchise and how they continue to be celebrated to this day.
The Early Years: Eddie Shore and Milt Schmidt
One cannot talk about the Boston Bruins without mentioning Eddie Shore and Milt Schmidt. These two players were instrumental in the team’s success during its early years and are often referred to as the cornerstones of the franchise.
Eddie Shore, a defenseman known for his physical style of play, joined the Bruins in 1926 and became a crucial player for the team. He played an astounding 14 seasons with the Bruins and was a two-time Hart Trophy winner – the NHL’s most valuable player award. Shore’s impact extended beyond his on-ice performance as he was also known for his leadership and determination, becoming the team’s captain in 1932. His number 2 jersey was retired in 1947, making him the first Bruins player to receive this honor.
Milt Schmidt, on the other hand, joined the Bruins in 1936 and quickly established himself as one of the franchise’s top players. He played 16 seasons with the Bruins and was named captain in 1951. Schmidt was a three-time Hart Trophy winner and won the Art Ross Trophy – awarded to the league’s top scorer – twice. Additionally, he was part of the famous Kraut Line, along with Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer, which was one of the top scoring lines in NHL history. After his retirement, Schmidt remained with the Bruins organization, serving as a coach and general manager. His number 15 jersey was retired in 1980, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.
The Big Bad Bruins: Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito
As the 1960s and 1970s rolled in, two more iconic players joined the Boston Bruins – Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. These two superstars were instrumental in bringing success and a new style of play to the team, earning the moniker The Big Bad Bruins.
Bobby Orr, a defenseman known for his incredible skating ability and offensive skills, joined the Bruins in 1966 and quickly made a name for himself in the NHL. In his first season, he was named Rookie of the Year and went on to win eight consecutive Norris Trophies – given to the league’s top defenseman. In 1970, Orr secured his place in hockey history by scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime against the St. Louis Blues, bringing the Bruins their first championship in 29 years. Orr’s time with the Bruins was unfortunately cut short due to injuries, but his impact on the team and the game of hockey will forever be remembered. His number 4 jersey was retired in 1979, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979.
Phil Esposito, a center known for his goal-scoring prowess, joined the Bruins in 1967 and was an immediate offensive force for the team. In his first season with the Bruins, he scored an astounding 49 goals, breaking the NHL record at the time. He went on to lead the league in goals and points for six consecutive seasons and was an integral part of the Bruins’ success in the 1970s. In 1972, he became the first player in NHL history to score 100 points in a season. Esposito’s time with the Bruins was marked by his intense rivalry with his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks, which only added to his popularity amongst Boston fans. His number 7 jersey was retired in 1987, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984.
The Modern Era: Ray Bourque and Cam Neely
As we move into the modern era, two more iconic players solidified their place in Boston Bruins history – Ray Bourque and Cam Neely.
Ray Bourque, a defenseman known for his offensive skills and leadership, joined the Bruins in 1979 and quickly became one of the team’s top players. He spent 21 seasons with the Bruins, amassing an impressive 1,506 career points and earning the nickname the quarterback for his role in the team’s powerplay. Bourque’s leadership on the ice earned him the captaincy in 1985, a position he held until his trade to the Colorado Avalanche in 2000. Despite never winning a Stanley Cup with the Bruins, Bourque’s contributions to the team were immensely impactful, and his legacy as one of the greatest defensemen in NHL history remains undisputed. His number 77 jersey was retired in 2001, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.
Cam Neely, a power forward known for his scoring ability and physical play, joined the Bruins in 1986 and quickly became a fan favorite. His time with the Bruins was marked by his intense rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens and his trademark move, the Neely Breakaway, where he would cut towards the center of the ice and overpower the goaltender with his powerful shot. In 1988, Neely became the first player in NHL history to record 50 goals in fewer than 50 games, and he would go on to score 50 goals in three consecutive seasons. His contributions to the Bruins extended beyond his on-ice performance as he played a vital role in the team’s success during his tenure. Neely’s number 8 jersey was retired in 2004, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005.
Celebrating Bruins Franchise Legends
While these are just a few of the iconic players that have made an impact on the Boston Bruins franchise, there are countless others who have contributed to the team’s legacy. And to this day, the Bruins continue to honor their legends by retiring their jerseys and celebrating their achievements.
The Bruins also pay tribute to their legendary players with the creation of the Bruins Legends program, which recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the team’s development and success. This program not only celebrates past players but also serves as an inspiration for future generations of Bruins players.
The impact of iconic players on the Boston Bruins’ franchise is immeasurable. These players not only brought success and excitement to the team but also brought the city of Boston together. Their legacies continue to live on, and their names will forever be synonymous with the Boston Bruins.