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A Trip Down Memory Lane: Terry O’Reilly “Taz”


Terry O’Reilly aka “Taz”

While I was growing up, I heard a lot of stories about the Boston Bruins and the Bruins’ Legendary Players, from my Father. In fact, that is why I, myself, am a huge Boston Bruins fan, even though I was born and raised in California.  My Father mostly talked about the Legendary Bobby Orr, however, there is another player that he mentioned more than a few times and that player is Terry O’Reilly. My Pop’s eyes lit up, every single time he told the story about the game where O’Reilly scaled the boards to get to a Rangers’ fan, who was messing with one of O’Reilly’s fellow teammates, but I will get more into that story a little later. Terry O’Reilly and I, have something in common. We are both huge fans of Milan Lucic. It’s funny because, I have always associated Milan Lucic with the character “Happy Gilmore” (played by Adam Sandler) in the movie “Happy Gilmore”.  The very first time I saw Lucic on the ice, I thought to myself…..”That kid is totally the ‘real life version’ of Happy Gilmore”. What’s funny about it to me is,  in the movie, Happy Gilmore admires and aspires to play like Terry O’Reilly. Mind you, I’m not saying that Lucic plays just like O’Reilly. There will never be another O’Reilly and Lucic has his own playing style but I do see some similarities between the two. Similarities that attract me as a fan.

Terry O’Reilly played RW for the Boston Bruins from 1971-1985. O’Reilly brought ‘pain’ to the game. Well, pain for the other team, that is. He was one of the most effective enforcers in NHL History. Terry O’Reilly was like a ‘train’ on skates and I use the term ‘train’, because he’d come at his opponents full speed. He’d crash into them with fists swinging. O’Reilly was one of the most feared players on the ice. His teammate Phil Esposito, gave him the nickname “Taz” (short for Tazmanian Devil), because of his non-stop, come at you, reckless, never give up, relentless,’ beat the opponent down’ type of playing. O’Reilly was also very protective over his teammates. You simply did not mess with any of his teammates. O’Reilly earned the nickname “Bloody O’Reilly”, when he racked up 200 penalty minutes, within 5 consecutive seasons. After all was said and done, he had a total of 2,095 penalty minutes at the end of his professional hockey career.

O’Reilly wasn’t one of the best skaters, but he was faithful and played the hardest he could in every single game he played. He wasn’t too bad at scoring goals, either. Not the best, but definitely not the worst. During practices, Terry O’Reilly was always the first to skate onto the ice and the last to skate off of the ice. He really gave the game and team, his all. His coach at the time, Don Cherry was quoted as saying, “Terry typifies our team. He’s tough, really tough, and that’s the way I like ‘em.” Terry O’Reilly would do anything he could do, to win. O’Reilly was a “True Bruin”, “The Ultimate Bruin”, according to many. If a Bruins’ player gets called a “True Bruin” in today’s day, they take it as a huge compliment and it’s because of Terry O’Reilly.

On December 23, 1979, the Bruins had just beat the New York Rangers 4-3, at Madison Square Garden and as the Bruins fans cheered and Rangers fans booed and complained, Terry O’Reilly scaled the boards in active pursuit of an ‘unruly’ Rangers’ fan. Most of O’Reilly’s teammates followed along after him. According to my Father, it was a sight to see. Honestly, I would give anything to be able to travel back in time to witness it. The story is, this rumble started when Boston Bruins’ Left Winger, Al Secord sucker punched New York Rangers’ Ulf Nilsson, as soon as the buzzer sounded. Al Secord was quoted as saying, “I remember the sucker punch he gave me earlier in the game, so I thought, eye for an eye, and I suckered him.”

As all of this went down, there were a lot of words exchanged back and forth between the players of both teams. In the midst of all of the madness, John Kaptain, a Rangers’ fan hit Boston Bruins’ enforcer Stan Jonathan with a rolled up program, which caused some bleeding under Jonathan’s eye. Stan Jonathan recalled, “He just reached over the glass and whacked me with it. I put up my stick to protect myself, and he just took it, and I can’t be hitting no fan with a stick, really, eh so I just let him take it.”  According to Kaptain, his brother got hit by one of the Bruins (his reasoning for hitting Stan Jonathan), although he wasn’t exactly sure which player the ‘hit’ came from.

O’Reilly, being very protective over his teammates, scaled the boards to go after the person who ‘attacked’ his fellow teammate. Terry O’Reilly was quoted as saying, “There was no way he was going to strike one of my teammates and steal his stick, wield it like a weapon and then disappear into the crowd and go to a local bar with a souvenir and a great story.”

O’Reilly was suspended for 8 games. Fellow teammates Peter McNab and Mike Milbury were suspended for 6 games and all 3 were fined $500.00 each. The rest of the Bruins who participated in the brawl, were fined up to $500.00 each. The Kaptain family filed a lawsuit but didn’t follow through with it, from what I understand. Reflecting back on the incident, O’Reilly was quoted as saying, “Under the same circumstances, I don’t think I’d go through a process of sorting through the rules and regulations and legal consequences. I think I’d jump over the glass and grab the guy again.”     

O’Reilly was captain of the team from 1983 until he retired as a professional hockey player in 1985. At the end of his career with the NHL, he had a total of 204 goals, 402 assists for 606 points with a +212 plus/minus and 2,095 penalty minutes. He came back to coach the Bruins, but ultimately quit after the 1988-1989 season, to be with his son who was sick.

Terry O’Reilly’s #24 Jersey was retired with the Boston Bruins on 10/24/2002. O’Reilly was quoted as saying, “I gave everything I had to the Boston Bruins Organization. This will always be my home.”

I love the attitude that O’Reilly had. He just kept pushing himself, despite not being the best skater or the best goal scorer. He worked with the playing skills that he had. No matter what, when he got on the ice he fought hard to win. Without a doubt, the “Ultimate Bruin”.

Shannon Navarro

I am a Bruinsfanatic from California

Information for the above article, found on the below sites



The New York Times


The Hockey News


Greatest Hockey Legends.com