Jarome Iginla the newest Bruin elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame

IginlaHHOF

(Image courtesy of the Boston Bruins)

The Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2020 was announced today and to no one’s surprise Jarome Iginla was one of the inductees as a first-ballot entry.

The one-time Boston Bruins 30-goal scoring forward and member of the 2013-14 President’s Trophy-winning squad joins Marian Hossa Doug Wilson, Kevin Lowe, Kim St-Pierre and Ken Holland as the individuals whose selections were announced today.

Iginla, who spent the bulk of his storied career with the Calgary Flames, could have been a Bruin for a little longer, as he was apparently traded to the team just before the 2013 trade deadline, but reportedly nixed the deal until the Pittsburgh Penguins put together an offer that he accepted. It was a bit of a crazy story, and the reality will always be known only to the primary players- Peter Chiarelli as then-B’s GM, Flames GM Jay Feaster and Iginla himself.

As you know, the Iginla-less 2013 Bruins instead acquired Jaromir Jagr from Dallas at the deadline and went on a run to the Stanley Cup final, coming up short in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks. Ironically enough, Iginla, whose trade to the Penguins at the time was widely hailed as the move that was sure to put the Pittsburgh offensive powerhouse of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin over the top, watched as the B’s swept the Penguins in four games of the Eastern Conference final. His output in the series…to quote the incomparable Dean Wormer from Animal House…Zero. Point. Zero.

A few months later, Iginla was wearing similar colors but traded the Penguin in for a spoked-B when he signed as a free agent.

I won’t lie- I was floored by the move. He was the one unrestricted free agent I was confident the B’s wouldn’t pursue after the trade fiasco, but Chiarelli and Co. torpedoed my ego and got him on a fun-now/pay-later contract that had a low base but easily attainable bonuses.

Iginla went out and hit just about every one of them, boosting his team-friendly deal of $1.8M in 2013-14 to another $4.2M in bonuses applied to Boston’s 2014-15 cap number for a total of $6M for his 30 goals and 61 points at age 36.  The B’s could only watch helplessly as they landed in cap hell and Iginla signed an un-matchable $15.9M three-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche in 2014. His production steadily declined in all three years, and he finished out his NHL career with a late-season trade to the L.A. Kings in 2017.

“Iggy” is deserving of his place in the HHOF. He was a power forward who was among a new generation of players that took the mantle from Cam Neely, retired just one month before Iginla began his NHL career with the Flames as a 19-year-old rookie.

Originally drafted by the Dallas Stars in the first round (11th overall) of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft out of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers after winning the 1994 and 1995 Memorial Cups. He had a dominant season in 1995-96, racking up 136 points, but was dealt to the Flames mid-season in a trade that sent former multiple 50-goal guy Joe Nieuwendyk to Big D. It was the proverbial trade that helps both teams- Nieuwendyk was a member of the Stars’ 1999 Stanley Cup championship team, and Iginla became Calgary’s franchise player.

Iginla was a member of Canada’s Olympic teams in 2002, 2006 and 2010, winning gold medals in 2002 and 2010.

The closest Iginla came to an NHL championship was in his prime during the 2004 playoffs when the Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning battled to the seventh game of a hard-fought series, but fell short. After a 41-goal season (he shared a second Richard Trophy with Ilya Kovalchuk and Rick Nash), Iginla tallied 13 goals and 22 points in 26 playoff games that spring. He would not get out of the first round for the remaining four playoffs of his Flames career.

In 1554 career games, Iginla scored 625 goals and 1300 points. He was one of the faces of the NHL during his tenure. When he won the Art Ross and Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy in 2002, he was the first black player to win those major awards in the NHL.

Iginla was one of the very best in the game, and he was extremely popular during his one season in Boston. If only GM Harry Sinden had a crystal ball in his possession, the B’s could have drafted Iginla with the 9th selection in 1995 over defenseman Kyle McLaren, but at least fans can claim him as one of their own, albeit for a short period of time.

As the old saying goes, better late than never.

Congratulations Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla– HHOF Class of 2020.

Boston Bruins cult heroes: Dean Chynoweth

With summer about to arrive, we’re still weeks away from the return of NHL training camps, so it’s time for another entry in the Bruins cult hero series with defenseman Dean Chynoweth, former 1st-round pick and depth defenseman who played just 94 career games with the B’s out of 241 career NHL contests, but was known for his toughness and willingness to pay the price for the team. He’s held numerous coaching jobs in junior and pro hockey, and is currently one of Rod Brind’Amour’s assistants with the Carolina Hurricanes. Much of this piece is lifted from an interview I conducted with Chynoweth in 2001, when he was head coach of the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, and we had a chance meeting at the NHL draft in Sunrise, FL.- KL

When you think of the Boston Bruins, Dean Chynoweth’s name won’t be on the tip of your tongue.

The hard-nosed defenseman only played a total of 94 games with the team, scoring 2 goals and 10 points while totaling 259 minutes in penalties.  However, in his short time with the club, Chynoweth fit the traditional Bruin stereotype of a hockey player who battled hard for his team any given night, and while perhaps not the most talented, played the sport with toughness, tenacity and honesty.

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Friday Flashback: All the President’s Men: the 1990 Boston Bruins Pt. 1

Wrote this about 20 years ago for the 10-year anniversary of the 1989-90 President’s Trophy Boston Bruins team that came up short in their quest to bring the first Stanley Cup back to the Hub in 18 years. It would take the B’s another 21 years, but at the time, it was just another promising group that did everything but win the championship. I originally wrote the piece in 2000 to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the team’s only (at the time) regular season championship, but have updated it in the years since with a new intro today and thanks to later access to players who were a part of the club to insert quotes and memories of that team.  Given that it is a complete season recap including playoffs, the word count comes in at around 9,000 words, so we’ll break this up into 3 parts over the next few days.- KL

Bourque1990

The Boston Bruins are one of the National Hockey League’s more storied franchises, yet they’ve also been somewhat star-crossed in their near century of existence, coming up short in numerous opportunities to capture more than the six Stanley Cup championships in team history. Most recently, the B’s and their fans saw heartbreak in 2019, losing a decisive game 7 at home to the St. Louis Blues.

30 years ago, another Boston hockey club took their fans on a dizzying ride and tantalized the region with an unforgettable run that had more than its share of peaks and valleys after a terrific regular season. It almost ended before it began with a near-upset at the hands of a younger, upstart Hartford Whalers team, followed by another memorable matchup against an archrival and an extended run through the Stanley Cup playoffs.

This is their story.

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May 15, 1967: Schmidt, Bruins pull off the “most lopsided trade in NHL history”

Espo Hodge

As the 1966-67 season concluded, significant change was about to happen in the National Hockey League, as it prepared to double in size from six teams to twelve. Expansion meant the end of the NHL’s Original Six era, but at the same time, something special was brewing in Boston.

After years of waiting in eager anticipation, the sad-sack Bruins and the club’s fans were rewarded with the 18-year-old hockey prodigy Robert Gordon “Bobby” Orr. The precocious blueliner arrived to remarkable fanfare in an age well before the proliferation of the internet and social media, more than living up to the hype that followed him down from Canada. Having been touted as a player who could help reverse Boston’s fortunes on ice, the rookie Orr took no time to establish himself in the NHL, going on to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best first-year player. However, superb as Orr’s performance was, hockey is a team game, and he was just one man. His presence alone was not enough to secure a finish better than fifth for the first time since 1959.

The Bruins had been moribund for the entire decade of the 1960’s, finishing sixth, or last in the field five of seven years before Orr suited up for his first professional game. Prior to that, the B’s had not won a Stanley Cup championship since 1941, the season before the league’s Original Six era began in 1942-43. Long gone were the championships authored by stalwarts like Eddie Shore, Aubrey ‘Dit’ Clapper, Cecil ‘Tiny’ Thompson, Lionel Hitchman, Milt Schmidt and Frank ‘Mr. Zero’ Brimsek. An entire generation had grown up in Boston without a championship in hockey, and the pressure was on to make the team competitive again. Or, at the very least, get out of the shadow of a powerhouse they shared the Boston Garden with.

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Boston Bruins 1979 Draft Flashback: Ray-sing the Stakes

Bourque

As the decade of the 1970s drew to a close, the United States struggled through a sluggish economy, long gas lines, and growing tensions in the Middle East with ominous warning clouds gathering over Iran and Afghanistan. 1979 also marked the year in which the Boston Bruins held the most important and impactful draft in the team’s history.

            Even if the fruits of the ’79 entry draft (the first year of the name change after having previously been known as the NHL amateur draft since 1963) did not result in a Stanley Cup championship in Boston, each of the seven players the B’s drafted saw NHL action. In fact, the elements of that wildly successful class of players ensured that the B’s remained contenders throughout the entire decade of the 1980s and first half of the 1990s, with a pair of Stanley Cup final appearances in 1988 and 1990, as well as three more trips to the conference final series between 1983-1992.

            The fact that the 1979 NHL draft class as a whole is considered to be the greatest of all (though 2003 will challenge that assertion when all is said and done) underscores the importance of Bruins GM Harry Sinden and his scouting staff’s tremendous haul, the centerpiece of which was a defenseman who would go on to be a first-ballot Hockey Hall of Fame player and one of the greatest offensive producers in NHL history with 1,579 points in 1,612 career games with the Bruins and Colorado Avalanche: Raymond Bourque.

            The Bruins could have called it a day alone with the selection of Bourque, but they went on to add a pair of 200+ NHL goal scorers in Keith Crowder and Mike Krushelnyski, while landing one of the powerhouse Brandon Wheat Kings’ biggest stars in Brad McCrimmon, who would go on to be one of the top stay-at-home defensemen, with more than 1,200 career big league games under his belt.

            Although this group was unable to secure hockey’s ultimate prize for Boston, the B’s Class of ’79 is rivaled only by the 1980 and 2006 team drafts as the most critical in franchise history.

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Boston Bruins Cult Heroes: Dave Poulin

Sorry, folks- been on a bit of a hiatus preparing for the USHL Draft and then all of the things we do afterwards. We’re back with a re-post of a Where Are They Now? story I did on Dave Poulin for New England Hockey Journal about 20 years ago when the former B’s standout and Selke Trophy winner with the Philadelphia Flyers was still coaching his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. He always was and is a class act, calling giving me his personal cell phone to call him back when he wasn’t in his office at the time he had set up our interview. He missed it, but called me and had me call him at home that night so I didn’t miss my deadline. Enjoy.- KL

Poulin

Dave Poulin spent 165 games as a member of the Boston Bruins from 1990-1993 providing the kind of leadership and veteran savvy that helped the team rise to the top of the National Hockey League’s standings and remain there throughout his tenure.

Poulin’s ability as a defensive forward, as well as his maturity, provided the Bruins the kind of depth around which championships are built.  Although none of his teams reached that elusive prize called the Stanley Cup, Poulin’s name is synonymous with words like heart, character, desire and skill.  Seven years after walking away from his playing career, Poulin still cherishes the time he spent in Boston as a member of its storied hockey franchise.

            “What I remember about playing for the Bruins was that it was two distinctly different teams,” Poulin, 42, told the New England Hockey Journal.  “The first team I was on featured Craig Janney, while the second had Adam Oates.  The first also had Cam Neely, while the second did not.”

            Poulin was the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers when B’s GM  Harry Sinden made the move to acquire the 1987 Selke Trophy winner as the league’s top defensive forward, in exchange for Ken Linseman on January 16, 1990.  At the time, the Bruins were making serious noise as a Stanley Cup contender and in Poulin, Sinden no doubt recognized the value of one of the league’s most renowned leaders and the benefits that would have both on the ice and in the locker room.

            “I enjoyed my time in Boston immensely,” said Poulin.  “I loved that town and we had a great bunch of guys on those teams.”

            Poulin was a free agent signee with the Flyers after a great career with the University of Notre Dame and a stint in Sweden.  He helped lead Philadelphia to a pair of Stanley Cup finals appearances in 1985 and 1987, falling short in both instances to the Edmonton Oilers.  In his first season with the Bruins under head coach Mike Milbury, his new team reached the finals only to succumb once again to Edmonton in five games.  However, looking back on that 1989-90 Boston Bruins hockey club, Poulin says that they certainly had a shot to win it all, and a lot of the credit for that should go to Milbury.

            “Mike was terrific for us,” he said.  “He was the perfect coach for a veteran team.  He didn’t try to bring in a lot of systems, but he realized that there was so much leadership inside that locker room and he pretty much left it up to us to go out and win hockey games.  It was a great situation for the team given our talent level and veteran presence.

            Perhaps Poulin’s greatest moment as a Boston Bruin took place on April 11, 1990, in Game Four of the Adams Division Semi-Final Series against the Hartford Whalers.  With the favored Bruins trailing in the series two-games-to-one, and with team’s captain and defensive stalwart Ray Bourque sidelined with an injury, Poulin led one of the greatest comebacks in Boston Bruins history.

With the team down 5-2 after two periods, he scored a pair of third period goals en route to a 6-5 victory that stunned the Whalers, ultimately dooming them to defeat in that series.  Poulin’s heroics began in between periods of that contest, when he asserted his leadership skills, exhorting his teammates to make amends for such a poor showing in the game’s first 40 minutes.

            “I was very emotional that night,” Poulin recalled of his sentiments in the dressing room before the final period of play.  “At that time, I had only been on the team a few months, but I realized that one of the things I brought with me was my leadership and when you’re in a situation like that, something just comes over you.

            “I knew we had a better team than we had showed to that point.  We needed everyone in that locker room to beat Hartford that night and I told them that much.  I think some guys were surprised at some of the things I said, but when the third period started, and I scored on the very first shift from Glen Wesley to make it 5-3, I think they were kind of like, ‘Wow- it’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing to actually do something about it.’  Then, Bobby Beers got one, and Dave Christian scored a great goal to tie it.  When we won the game, I knew that we were going to win that series.”

            According to Poulin, those Boston Bruins teams were full of leaders, none more important than the captain himself.

         “Raymond’s leadership is so underestimated,” he said.  “He was a very vocal leader, but I think that he encouraged the perception that he was quiet off the ice.  As far as being a team leader however, he acted quite differently in the locker room.  I think he was happy when I came to the team because he knew that I had been a captain in Philadelphia and that my experiences in a leadership role would take some of the responsibilities off of him to be the team’s focal point.”

            Poulin left the Bruins in the summer of 1993 to sign with the Washington Capitals, where he spent two seasons before retiring from hockey with a year left on his contract to pursue the head coaching position at his alma mater. Since retiring, he has led the CCHA’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish to an 81-124-30 record in seven seasons.

            Although Poulin’s time with Boston Bruins was far too short, fans who were privileged enough to see him play for the team will always acknowledge his key contributions to those clubs that reached one final, and two conference final series while he was an alternate captain.  Poulin’s class, skill and leadership make him a fan favorite to this day.

Bruins Cult Heroes: Shoe and Moe’s Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em 1988 Playoffs

This is a new series where we’ll recount some of our favorite underappreciated, cult favorite players in Boston Bruins lore. Kirk kicks it off with the Boys of Spring- Bruce Shoebottom and Moe Lemay, who helped jumpstart a magical run in 32 years ago. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but against Adams Division archrivals Buffalo and Montreal. those two made an unforgettable impression on the high school sophomore from Hudson, N.H. Enjoy! -KL

SHOOOOE! SHOOOOOE! SHOOOOOOE!

The chants rang down from the Boston Garden rafters during the Boston Bruins Adams Division semifinal series against the Buffalo Sabres in the spring of 1988.

The B’s were up 2-0 after capturing both home games to open the seven-game set and in Game 2 on April 7, defenseman Bruce Shoebottom  swooped in from the point and fired home the winning goal in a 4-1 victory.

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Nifty’s nifty night in Boston

Middleton retirement

(Image courtesy of NHL.com)

It took a shootout and winning goal on the fourth iteration from rookie Ryan Donato to secure a 2-1 victory for the Bruins against the NY Islanders (Brad Marchand tallied Boston’s lone regulation goal) but the home team closed out a special night in which one of the franchise’s greats had his number 16 officially retired.

Richard D. “Rick” Middleton, known around the Boston Garden as “Nifty” from 1976-88, saw his digits raised to the rafters in a nice pre-game ceremony. The former Oshawa Generals great and first-round draft pick of the NY Rangers was acquired in one of longtime B’s GM Harry Sinden’s heists, sending veteran Ken Hodge to Broadway to rejoin his pal Phil Esposito for the electrifying but inconsistent Middleton, who was still figuring out how to be a pro hockey player in the Big Apple.

It didn’t take Middleton long to figure it out, and he became one of Boston’s true hockey stars in the late 70’s and 80’s. Although often lost in the mix when it comes to Bruins greats over the years, Nifty would end up making three trips to the Stanley Cup finals during his Bruins tenure, and he was a member of the 1979 B’s squad that experienced devastation and heartbreak in Montreal in the infamous “too many men on the ice” game 7. He’s the most recent Bruin to win a Lady Byng Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s most gentlemanly player, earned after the 1981-82 season.

In the early 80’s Middleton was the linchpin at forward for some very good Bruins teams, but they unfortunately ran into the NY Islanders dynasty.

What could have been a storybook ending for Middleton’s NHL career ended in a sweep by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1988 Stanley Cup final, but on the way, Nifty exorcised some Canadiens demons by being on the first B’s team to beat the Habs since World War Two was ongoing. Middleton’s breakaway game-winning goal in Game 3 at the Garden may be one of his most iconic moments in Boston; although he wore a Jofa helmet and no longer had the long golden locks that flowed behind his helmetless head when he got up to speed for so many seasons, the “old man” still had it and scored one of the most symbolic goals of his career.

Middleton didn’t make it into the Hockey Hall of Fame and in all honesty- he likely never will. But, for a lad growing up watching the Bruins, there was something magical about him. People can grumble about the team retiring his number if they want, but for those of us who saw him in his prime, elevating his play year after year in the midst of the Firewagon Hockey era of the late 70’s and 80’s, Nifty belongs in the rafters.

Thanks to Tuukka Rask’s excellent play in net, and Donato’s slick deke and tuck of the puck inside the post for the winning score- a move that no doubt made Mr. Middleton smile- one nifty, nifty night (to coin a phrase from Jack Edwards) ended the way it should have: 2 more points in the bank and one of Boston’s classiest and more unappreciated stars honored the right way.

81-82 Rick Middleton Home Sandow Mesh 004

Here’s the Middleton retirement ceremony highlight video- published on YouTube by the NHL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOCyB2wj6b4

 

 

 

 

 

On Rick Middleton’s No. 16 going to the rafters

81-82 Rick Middleton Home Sandow Mesh 004

The Boston Bruins announced Tuesday that Richard D. Middleton aka Rick Middleton aka ‘Nifty’ the right wing who starred for the team from 1976-88, will have his number 16 retired in a game later this November (29th- vs the NY Islanders). The longtime New Hampshire resident and Bruins Alumni fixture is deeply touched by the gesture, which comes three decades after he skated off into the sunset (more on that later).

The former Oshawa Generals star broke into the NHL with the NY Rangers, who selected him in the 1st round, 14th overall, in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft. Middleton was also picked by the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the rival WHA that same year, going in the second round, 21st overall.

The trade is right up there with Cam Neely as one of former Bruins GM Harry Sinden’s best heists, sending the over-the-hill Ken Hodge to Broadway for the 22-year-old, who put up 90 points in two seasons with the Rangers. The catalyst for the deal was believed to be Phil Esposito, who was dealt to the Rangers the season before in a blockbuster, which sent Brad Park and Jean Ratelle to the B’s. Espo wanted his old (no pun intended) reliable right wing back, and Middleton was rumored to be a bit of a wild card off the ice…his -38 in 1975-76 certainly didn’t help.

So, Middleton headed off the Boston and after a couple of solid, if unspectacular years (by the standards of the 1970’s), he took off, posting 38, 40, 44, and 51-goal seasons from 1978-82. He peaked in 1984 with a 47-goal, 105-point year (finishing second to Barry Pederson’s 116 points) but the Boston offensive juggernaut was silenced in the opening round of the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens and Steve Penney, who sent them out with a whimper in 3 games (no points for Nifty). The year before, Middleton had posted a playoff season for the ages (33 points in 17 games), leading the Bruins past two rounds of the playoffs including the memorable 7-game affair against Buffalo where he registered a team-record (for one series) 19 points. Unfortunately, the B’s ran into the NY Islanders dynasty in the spring of 1983. Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Billy Smith & Company dispatched them from the Wales Conference final in a series that never seemed that close, en route to a fourth consecutive Stanley Cup, leaving so many B’s fans to wonder…what if?

Middleton’s production steadily declined after that career 105-point campaign, due in part to age and injury, but he did preside over the historic defeat of the Montreal Canadiens in 1988, a first for any Bruins team since 1943. Middleton’s breakaway game-winner in Game 3 (2-0), to put the B’s up 2-1 in the series after splitting the games in Montreal was a fitting coda for a man who had been a part of so many heart-breaking losses to the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge during his entire Bruins tenure. He split the captaincy with Ray Bourque that year, wearing the ‘C’ for home games, until his retirement after the B’s were swept by Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers (their 4th NHL title since 1984) giving way to Bourque’s sole leadership from 1988 until his trade to Colorado in the spring of 2000.

As a child of the 70’s and 80’s, Nifty was an ubiquitous presence in my budding love of hockey and the Bruins. Although not a pure burner, his golden locks (later shiny pate as his hair thinned and ultimately gave way to a Jofa helmet late in his career) looked like they were on fire as he would bob and weave through the neutral and offensive zones, often putting on a display of stickhandling prowess at impossible angles and contortions, ending with pucks in the back of the net or sublime back-door feeds for gift-wrapped tap-ins for his lucky linemates. The Mike Krushelnyski-Pederson-Middleton line racked up 111 goals in 1983-84…a number that seems awe-inspiring some 35 years later.

Although Middleton’s scoring numbers paled in comparison to Gretzky’s (The Great One scored 100 more points than Middleton’s 105 in 83-84 just for perspective), or Mario Lemieux or Bossy to name a few, he was a veritable King Midas for the B’s, creating magic from the mundane and turning pucks into goals. But don’t take my word for it- Channel 38 once paid tribute to him with a highlight reel video now on YouTube to America’s “You Can Do Magic” and I had it recorded on VHS and must’ve watched it 1000 times…

Ignored by the Hockey Hall of Fame, 30 years after he retired, taking his number out of circulation is a welcome move for those who watched him (and maybe a good percentage of fans who didn’t, but who appreciate history). Sure- there are some who may be opposed to the honor (it is the 11th so number retired by the B’s) but that’s just a curmudgeonly nature of New Englanders at work- deep down, even the grumblers get it. After all- we’ve seen Peter Douris, Jozef Stumpel, Randy Robitaille, Ken Belanger, Marco Sturm and most recently, Kaspars Daugavins (in 2012-13), wear the digits in the intervening years. None hold the distinction and cachet Middleton did, and in the end- it’s just a number. It’s time to admit that he wore it well…better than anyone in the Black and Gold. As his 402 goals as a Bruin can attest, he could finish plays off just as easily as he set the table, and was the heir to Espo as the next pure scoring forward to put on the spoked B.

If the Bruins can take the time to honor for a player who grew up and matured in Boston as a model of consistency and was the face of the franchise at least up front for the better part of a decade, then why not?

It’s about time.

 

Throwback Thursday: Andy Moog

Andy Moog's signature Bruins mask, made by Middleton, Mass. mask maker Dom Malerba of Pro's Choice (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Andy Moog’s signature Bruins mask, made by Middleton, Mass. mask maker Dom Malerba of Pro’s Choice (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Here’s another old gem I wrote for the New England Hockey Journal a decade+ ago, but the information former Bruins goalie Andy Moog relayed to me is still relevant in 2015. It was interesting hearing him talk about how in his day, goalie mistakes could be overcome with a prolific offense, but not so much anymore. It’s also great to read about how Rejean “Reggie” Lemelin was a mentor to him, helping Moog take his game to another level while he was with the Bruins.

This is why talk of trading Tuukka Rask is silly…even if you don’t like his cap hit, unless you are certain that one of Malcolm Subban, Zane McIntyre, Jeremy Smith or Daniel Vladar is going to give you that top-level game that Rask does, he’s not going anywhere. And- to point out that he’s never won the “big one” is disingenuous- the NHL has plenty of elite goalies who have not won Stanley Cups (say hey there, Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne)

When I was a kid growing up in the 80’s, I liked Moog during his Edmonton days, and it was a thrill for me at age 16 when he was traded to Boston after the 1988 Olympics. He was traded to the Dallas Stars in 1993 (along with Gord Murphy) for Jon Casey– not one of Harry Sinden’s better moves. Not that Moog could have stemmed the slide of the B’s into mediocrity in the mid-90’s, but it might have been an easier pill for the team to swallow in lieu of the revolving door of goalies until Byron Dafoe (briefly) stabilized the position from 1997-02.

Getting a chance to meet and talk to Moog on a professional level was a lot of fun for this old story in particular. He has since held NHL goaltending coach jobs and is now working in the Dallas-area media with Fox Sports Southwest during Dallas Stars home broadcasts. Enjoy the article.

***

For nearly six seasons between 1988-1993, if you were in attendance at the Boston Garden and number 35, Andy Moog, was between the pipes for the Boston Bruins, you might have joined in the signature “Mooooooooooog!” cheers that resounded through the confines of the blessed old barn each time the Penticton, British Columbia native made a save for the Black and Gold.

For much of Moog’s career as a Boston Bruin, he shared the netminding duties with veteran Rejean Lemelin, and for a time, the two formed arguably the best goaltending tandem in the National Hockey League, a claim they backed up by winning the 1990 Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) who allow the fewest goals in the regular season. Moog appeared in 261 games as a Bruin, winning 136 and ranks second only to Gerry Cheevers in franchise history for playoff games played and victories, with 70 and 36 respectively.

Since his trade to the Dallas Stars on June 20, 1993, and subsequent retirement from the NHL in 1998 after one season with the Montreal Canadiens. Moog has stayed in the professional hockey business by serving as a goaltending consultant for the Atlanta Thrashers and Vancouver Canucks, while also holding the position of Owner and President of the Fort Worth Brahmas of the Western Professional Hockey League.

Moog came to the Bruins on March 7, 1988 after leaving the Stanley Cup Champion Edmonton Oilers the previous summer for the Canadian Olympic Program and a better opportunity to start. Boston General Manager Harry Sinden traded Geoff Courtnall, who had scored 32 goals in 62 games with the Bruins that season, adding young goaltender Bill Ranford and a draft pick to seal the deal that brought the player considered to be the best outside of the NHL in Moog. Moog was 28-years old at the time of the trade and had grown tired of being the backup behind teammate Grant Fuhr in Edmonton.

“My leaving (the Oilers) was all about opportunity,” Moog told the New England Hockey Journal. “I felt that I could be a starter elsewhere, and after three championships in Edmonton, I believed that the time was right for me to become the player and leader I knew I could be. With the goaltending situation in Edmonton being what it was, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen for me there.”

The Moog acquisition caught a lot of people by surprise because it had been rumored that the Pittsburgh Penguins and GM Eddie Johnston were all but locked up in a deal to secure Moog’s rights to help get them into the postseason. In the end, the price Oiler GM Glen Sather wanted for the diminutive but skilled goaltender was too high and Johnston backed out, allowing Sinden and the Bruins to acquire the player they felt could be an outstanding presence in the Boston nets for a long time.

Although it took some time for Moog to firmly grasp the starters’ reins from Lemelin in Boston, the older and more experienced Lemelin added some longevity to Moog’s career while the two shared the goaltending duties for the Bruins. By serving as a mentor to the younger Moog, Lemelin imparted veteran wisdom and goaltending techniques that his teammate absorbed and used effectively throughout his career in Boston, Dallas and Montreal.

“When I arrived in Boston, I had yet to take my game to another level,” Moog said. “I was a goaltender who relied on my quickness and agility to get the job done, but I lacked the consistency in my game that I strived for. From watching Reggie (Lemelin) play, I learned a great deal of the strategy and technical side of goaltending. It wasn’t the kind of relationship where he was teaching me how to play the position, but I credit him with showing me how to play consistent hockey and perform at a higher level than when I first arrived in Boston.”

Moog and Lemelin were indeed a formidable duo in net that gave the Boston Bruins superb netminding at critical times from 1988-1992. While Moog spent much of Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals in the spring of 1988 as a spectator watching Lemelin steal games from the Canadiens and New Jersey Devils, he rebounded in spectacular fashion two years later while spearheading the Bruins’ charge to the finals, turning in stellar outings against the Hartford Whalers, Canadiens, and Washington Capitals. Although Moog’s Bruins came up short in both finals appearances against the Edmonton Oilers, it was the superb goaltending that got the team that far in both the 1988 and 1990 postseason campaigns.

Perhaps it was Moog’s tremendous individual performances against the longtime Boston nemesis, the Montreal Canadiens that won the hearts of so many of the Bruins faithful during his tenure. Although Moog had a history of playing well against the Canadiens before even coming to Boston, it was while he was wearing the Black and Gold that his most memorable moments against the Habs occurred.

“I was well-accustomed to hockey rivalries because of the Oilers-Flames wars I saw firsthand before my trade to Boston,” Moog said. “That Alberta rivalry we had while I was in Edmonton prepared me well for the pressure that you feel when you go into those kinds of games. One of the first things I heard about when I became a Bruin was how much the Boston teams had struggled against Montreal over the years. To be able to win several playoff series in Boston against the Canadiens was a great feeling because I knew how important it was for the Bruins fans to savor those moments that had been so long in the making.”

Moog also has the interesting perspective of seeing things from the other angle after he signed with the Canadiens as a free agent in the summer of 1997 and spent one season wearing the bleu, blanc, et rouge and going up against the Bruins in 3 games going 1-2 with a GAA of 2.53.

Said Moog, “To experience the Boston-Montreal rivalry from both sides was a very enriching experience for me. Having the chance to play in two tremendous hockey cities with the kinds of passionate and knowledgeable fans there is definitely something I cherish, especially now when I reflect back upon my career and realize how fortunate I was to play for such quality teams.”

In the 1990, 1991 and 1992 postseasons, Moog shut down the high-powered Canadiens’ offense, backstopping the Bruins to victories in five, seven and four games in their best-of-seven series. According to him, the 1990 playoff drive was the most memorable of his career.

“We had put it all together,” Moog said of that magical night that the Bruins closed out the Habs on home ice with a late Glen Wesley goal and Cam Neely empty-netter in Game 5 of the Adams Division Final. “We had a talented offense, and tremendous defense. We won the Jennings Trophy and Ray Bourque was arguably the best player in the league. We were a great team and we should have gone all the way. You know, the one true regret I had about my career was not winning that final series in 1990. I wanted nothing more than to help bring the Stanley Cup to the people of Boston and Bruins fans everywhere.”

Moog’s 1990 playoff run earned him the starting nod in Boston for the next three seasons until his draft day trade to Dallas for Jon Casey in 1993. For Moog, the trade came as a bit of a surprise, but he understands why the Bruins made the deal. “Harry (Sinden) had a couple of reasons for being mad at me,” said Moog. “For one, I was the (NHLPA) player rep for the Bruins, but another reason for his displeasure was my performance in the 1993 playoffs.”

Moog’s struggles in the 1993 postseason were magnified because at the other end of the ice, his opponent in goal was none other than Grant Fuhr, the player whose shadow he sought to get out from in Edmonton six years before. Despite Boston’s ability to generate offense, Buffalo was able to score almost at will. Brad May’s overtime goal in Game Four, when he beat both Bourque and Moog to knock the Bruins out of the playoffs, was the low point of Moog’s career in Boston, and on June 20, Sinden sent him packing to Dallas, where he would stay until the end of the 1996-97 season before signing with Montreal for his 18th NHL campaign. When Moog finally called it quits, he was able to step back and take a good look at what separated the goaltending position in the 80’s, a time when scoring was up, as opposed to 1998, where goaltending dominance had become a major issue in the NHL.

“If there was one thing that truly affected goalies back in the 80’s when I first started playing, it was the fact that you were allowed to make a mistake because the offense was there to bail you out,” Moog said. “Today, goalies can’t make the same kind of mistakes because scoring is down all over the league. Right now, the offense is just not there, so when you can sustain a high level of performance stopping pucks, you deserve the accolades that come with it.”

Since retirement, Moog has remained close to the game by working with NHL netminders as a goaltending consultant, while also serving as the Owner and President of the WPHL’s Fort Worth Brahmas franchise. Although life is much different for him now than it was when he was a player, in the four seasons since Moog last put the pads on in Montreal, he has come to appreciate his hockey playing experiences more than he ever thought he would. For him, knowing that he was able to emerge as the starter in Boston and play the game at such a high level while wearing the spoked B is to this day, an honor.

“In hindsight, the most enjoyable part of playing for the Bruins was how the fans treated me,” said Moog. “The people of Boston and Bruins fans everywhere as well as my teammates over the years- they all combined to make my time there a special one. I only hope that the fans appreciated what I was able to do on the ice as much as I appreciated the opportunity to be a Boston Bruin. It was a great ride.”

During his relatively short time in Boston, Moog established himself as one of the top money goaltenders in the game, and despite never having backstopped his Bruins teams to the ultimate prize in two finals and two semi-finals appearances over his five full seasons and one partial campaign, Andy Moog remains to this day, one of the most beloved figures in recent Boston Bruins history.

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Andy Moog's 1990 Stanley Cup Final series home jersey (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Andy Moog’s 1990 Stanley Cup Final series home jersey (Kirk Luedeke photo)