Before there was Tim Thomas, Ray Bourque, Bobby Orr, or Johnny Bucyk, there was Milt Schmidt. Schmidt is the man that all other Bruins are measured against and on Thursday October 28, 2010 prior to the black and gold taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins will honor him with Milt Schmidt Night. A pregame ceremony will honor the 92 year old icon to recognize the beginning of his 75th year as a member of the Boston Bruins organization. The first 10,000 fans entering TD Garden that night will receive a commemorative, limited edition, lithograph of Schmidt presented by TD Garden.
Schmidt arrived in Boston in 1936 from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada and played alongside such stars as, Dit Clapper, Tiny Thompson, and the legendary Eddie Shore. Schmidt, who was an 18 year old rookie center, played in 26 games and scored 2 goals and 8 assists. Very strong numbers for a rookie in those days. It was just the beginning of a legendary career in its own right.
Schmidt was placed on a line with wingers Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer during his rookie season. Since all three players came from German-Canadian lineage, the trio quickly became known as “The Kraut Line.” They had been junior hockey teammates with the Kitchener Greenshirts during the 1934-1935 season. As National Hockey League players, they quickly became one of the most prolific scoring lines in hockey history. The trio from the Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario region led the B’s to their first Stanley Cup Championship in 1938-1939 by defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4 games to 1 in the finals. Schmidt, at just 20 years of age, finished 3rd in team scoring with 15 goals and 17 assists totaling 32 points in 41 games. Bauer and Dumart finished 4th and 5th, respectively, on the Bruins in scoring that season. The following season, 1939-1940, was Schmidt’s break out year as he won the NHL scoring title with 52 points in 48 games and he was named an NHL first team all star for the first time in his career. Dumart and Bauer were not far behind as they finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in league scoring. Although, the team finished in first place, it was not successful in the playoffs as they were eliminated in the semi-finals by eventual champion, New York Rangers. However, the club returned to its Stanley Cup form in 1940-1941 by sweeping the Detroit Red Wings 4 games to 0 in the finals. Schmidt, who finished 10th in league scoring that season, led all playoff performers with 11 points in 11 games.
As fate would have it, the United States and Canada became involved in World War II in December, 1941 and many careers were put on hold in order for men to serve their countries. The same was true for the Kraut Line. They played their final game before leaving to join Canada’s Royal Canadian Air Force on February 11, 1942 against the Montreal Canadiens in Boston Garden. After the B’s soundly defeating the Habs 8-1, the players from both teams hoisted all three members of the Kraut Line onto their shoulders and carried them off the ice to a thunderous ovation from the Boston fans. It was a night Schmidt will never forget.
“…The ovation from the crowd was fantastic.” Schmidt told www.nhl.com. “…it just goes to show you that you can have pretty bitter enemies out on that ice but after the game is over, we’re all friends, and I think that has a lot to say about the people who play the game.”
Schmidt, Dumart, and Bauer, returned to the Bruins for the 1945-1946 season and Schmidt ended the season with 31 points in 48 games. The next season, 1946-1947, was Schmidt’s best season, statistically, as he scored 27 goals to go along with 35 assists to total 62 points. Those numbers made the center, a first team all star in the league for the second time during his career. He would be named a first team all star for the 3rd time after the 1950-1951 season when he scored 22 goals and 39 assists for 61 points. He was also honored with the NHL’s Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s Most Valuable Player. Schmidt would follow that season with a 50 point campaign in 1951-1952 and be named to the National Hockey League’s 2nd all star team.
The illustrious career of Milt Schmidt would come to a close, at the age of 36, on December 25, 1954. Knee injuries had taken their toll on the all star’s body and he was named head coach of the B’s on that day. He coached the team until 1961. During those six and half seasons, Schmidt took the Bruins to the playoffs three times. He was replaced by Phil Watson but brought back for a 2nd stint as head coach in 1962. Unfortunately, he coached teams that lacked talent and did not make the playoffs for the next five seasons. During his coaching tenure, Schmidt received hockey’s highest honor as he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. He was named the team’s general manager in 1967 and orchestrated what is called, “the greatest trade ever made” as he sent journeymen Jack Norris, Gilles Marotte, and Pit Martin to the Chicago Blackhawks for Fred Stanfield, Ken Hodge, and Phil Esposito. That trade, along with the play of a young Bobby Orr, paved the way for Stanley Cup victories in 1970 and 1972.
Milt Schmidt has seen and done it all in hockey. He has been a player, coach, general manager, Stanley Cup Champion, and Hall of Famer. Upon retiring as a player, he ranked 3rd in NHL career points with 575 and 2nd all time in assists with 346. He also scored a total of 229 career goals. He played in four NHL all star games between 1947-1952. His number 15 hangs from the TD Garden rafters as an honored, retired number. Schmidt received the Lester Patrick Award in 1996 for his outstanding service to hockey in the United States and in 1998, he was ranked as the 27th best player in NHL history by The Hockey News.
It is easy to see what Mr. Milt Schmidt means to, not only the Boston Bruins, but to all of Boston. He is being honored Thursday night and should be forever honored as Boston’s Mr. Hockey. Thank you, Mr. Schmidt, for being the quintessential Boston Bruin.
Topics: All Star, Bobby Bauer, Bobby Orr, Boston, Boston Bruins, Boston Garden, Canada, Canadian, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Dit Clapper, Eddie Shore, Fred Stanfield, German, Gilles Marotte, Greenshirts, Hart Memorial Trophy, Hockey Hall Of Fame, Jack Norris, Johnny Bucyk, Ken Hodge, Kitchener, Kraut Line, Lester Patrick Award, Milt Schmidt, Montreal Canadiens, Most Valuable Player, National Hockey League, New York Rangers, NHL, Ontario, Phil Esposito, Pit Martin, Ray Bourque, Royal Canadian Air Force, Stanley Cup, TD Garden, The Hockey News, Tim Thomas, Tiny Thompson, Toronto Maple Leafs, United States, Waterloo, Woody Dumart, World War II