Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - New Westminster Bruins - 1974-78
One on One Turning Point

New Westminster Bruins - 1974-78

19 MARCH 2015
After losing in the 1975 and 1976 Memorial Cup finals the New Westminster Bruins captured the 1977 title with a 6-5 win over the Ottawa 67's in the championship game. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
By the nature of junior hockey and its constant turn-over, it is very, very difficult to create a dynasty, but that is exactly what transpired in the late-1970s with the New Westminster Bruins.

The origin of the franchise goes back to 1946 when the Humboldt Indians of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League moved to Estevan in 1957 and were re-named the Bruins. The franchise became a charter member of the newly-created Western Canada Junior Hockey League in 1966. The team moved to British Columbia in 1971-72 and became the New Westminster Bruins.

The New Westminster Bruins were owned and coached by Ernie 'Punch' McLean, a legend in western Canada, who said, "We like tough, aggressive hockey, and that's what we're going to have to play if we want that national title."

The 1974-75 team finished third, but defeated Medicine Hat, Victoria and Saskatoon to win the league championship and the right to compete for that national title. The Bruins were an equal mix of experience (nine players in their last year of eligibility) and inexperience (nine rookies) and featured future NHL players Barry Beck, Fred Berry, Al Cameron, Steve Clippingdale, Gord Laxton, Mark Lofthouse, Brad Maxwell, Clayton Pachal, Harold Phillipoff, Kevin Schamehorn, Rick Shinske, Barry Smith and Stan Smyl.

1977 Memorial Cup final action between the New Westminster Bruins and the Ottawa 67's. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
New Westminster made the trip to Kitchener, Ontario to challenge the Toronto Marlboros and the Sherbrooke Castors for the Memorial Cup.

After surrendering three goals to Sherbrooke, the Bruins rebounded and defeated the Castors 7-5. "We weren't skating in the first period," said Punch McLean. "We were watching them go by us, and I think when the guys realized they really had to go to work, they did." McLean's Bruins not only won on the scoreboard, but intimidated the Castors, engaging Sherbrooke in fights that resulted in 14 fighting majors.

New Westminster's Barry Beck was chosen as the Memorial Cup most valuable player in 1977 as the Bruins defeated the Ottawa 67's 6-5 in the championship game. (Paul Bereswill/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Bruins then dumped Toronto 6-2, scoring four goals in the third period, to earn a berth in the Memorial Cup final. They faced the Marlboros for a second time, after Toronto decimated Sherbrooke 10-4 on the strength of five goals by Bruce Boudreau.

The Toronto/New Westminster championship final was a bit anticlimactic, with the Marlies romping to a 7-3 victory. "The Marlies got a few lucky bounces at the wrong time for us and that's all you need in junior hockey in a one-shot deal," shrugged Coach McLean. Barry Smith was awarded the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player in the tournament.

Undeterred, the Bruins won the President's Cup again in 1975-76, ousting the Brandon Wheat Kings, the Victoria Cougars and the Saskatoon Blades to earn a second straight trip to the Memorial Cup, this year to be played in Montreal.

New Westminster's Brad Maxwell scored the game-winning goal against the Ottawa 67's during the 1977 Memorial Cup championship game. (Paul Bereswill/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Bruins were even more well-rounded in 1975-76. Pick the style of game you wanted to play and they'd play it. Four players collected more than 100 points -- Fred Berry (146), Rick Shinske (143), Steve Clippingdale (117) and Mark Lofthouse (116), while Barry Beck and Brad Maxwell earned 99 points each from the blueline. The roster also boasted four players with more than 200 minutes in penalties, with Beck leading the pack with 325. Newcomers to the team J.P. Kelly, Kevin Krook, Brian Young and Miles Zaharko all later played in the NHL.

New West took on and defeated the Brandon Wheat Kings, Victoria Cougars and Saskatoon Blades to once again win the WHL championship and with it, the chance to compete for the Memorial Cup. Played in Montreal, the Bruins competed with the OHL champion Hamilton Fincups and the Quebec Remparts, winners of the QMJHL.

The Bruins began the tournament without their starting goaltender, Blaine Peterson, who broke his collarbone against Saskatoon. The team was allowed to replace him with another WHL goaltender, and chose Glen Hanlon from Brandon. In their first game, they doubled Quebec 4-2. "Our game plan was to be aggressive, throw the body," claimed Barry Beck. Twelve fighting majors were called in the fight-filled victory.

During the 1976 Memorial Cup tournament Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender Glen Hanlon replaced New Westminster's starting goaltender Blaine Peterson who broke his collarbone during the league final. (Mecca/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The Hamilton Fincups took advantage of Bruins' penalties, scoring seven powerplay goals on their way to a decisive 8-4 win. "We're not a big team," said Hamilton coach Bert Templeton. "Our style isn't brutality, and we made sure not to play their style of hockey." For the second consecutive game, twelve fighting majors were called in the contest.

The team settled down in their next game and blasted the Remparts 10-3.

The final featured the Bruins against the Fincups. New Westminster was more cautious in their approach after being defeated so soundly by Hamilton earlier, and in straying from their game-plan, lost a 5-2 decision and the Memorial Cup to the Fincups. Rick Shinske was selected as the most sportsmanlike player, and Barry Beck and Harold Phillipoff were named to the tournament All-Star Team.

Several of the Bruins' stars graduated prior to 1976-77, but the team still included two-time league champions Barry Beck, Mark Lofthouse, Brad Maxwell, Stan Smyl as well as J.P. Kelly, Brian Young and Miles Zaharko from the previous year's team. Newly added were Larry Lozinski, John Ogrodnick and Dave Orleski, all of whom would ply their trade later in the NHL. "It's hard to imagine another club, anywhere in Canada, getting this type of talent together at the same time," said Punch McLean

New Westminster's Stan Smyl was chosen at the most valuable player of the 1978 Memorial Cup. (O-Pee-Chee/Hockey Hall of Fame)
New Westminster finished first in the 1976-77 regular season, and then went on to roll over the Victoria Cougars in four straight games, the Portland Winter Hawks in five games and the Brandon Wheat Kings, also in five games.

The Memorial Cup tournament featured New West, the Ottawa 67's, champions of the OHL, and the QMJHL champion Sherbrooke Castors. Games were played in the nearby Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.

The Bruins opened with a 7-6 win over Ottawa. "We played very well offensively, but not nearly as well defensively as we are capable of playing," suggested Punch McLean. "It seemed like every time we made a mistake in our end, Ottawa got a goal. We'll have to go back to our hitting game against Sherbrooke."

1977 Memorial Cup final action between the New Westminster Bruins and the Ottawa 67's. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
The team got an emotional boost when Ray Creasy, who had been in Winnipeg after the death of his father, arrived at the rink an hour before the game and set up four goals. He played in the next game, then returned to Winnipeg for his father's funeral, which was on an off-day for the Bruins.

The next night, the Bruins beat the Castors, 4-2. In the next game for the Bruins, they led the 67's 3-1 late in the third, but surrendered two goals in less than two minutes to send the contest into overtime. Then, Ottawa scored to edge New Westminster, 4-3.

The Bruins earned a berth in the final, their third in three years, by beating Sherbrooke 4-2. They would face Ottawa once again. "In Kitchener (in 1975), we got there because we were young, worked hard and got great goaltending," explained Barry Beck. "Last year, we had a lot of talent and could score goals, but something was missing. Now we've got a bunch of guys who just know how to go out there and work their hardest, hoping the breaks go our way."

The New Westminster Bruins celebrating their 1978 Memorial Cup title after defeating the Peterborough Petes 7-4 in the championship game. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
Brian Kilrea, coach of the 67's, said, "The Bruins are a good club and they will try to run you out of the rink, but we've got lots of ability and if we can move the puck quickly out of our end, we should be all right. If we let them play their game, we're in trouble. New Westminster is big, strong and doesn't quit."

The Bruins looked sure to collect the franchise's first Memorial Cup championship riding a 5-2 lead into the third period, but Ottawa stunned New Westminster by scoring three to tie the game. "I wasn't worried when they got those three goals," said the Bruins' coach. "This team has come from behind all year."

It was Brad Maxwell who was the Bruins' hero, scoring the winning goal on an end-to-end rush that ended when his wristshot beat Pat Riggin, the Ottawa netminder. "I didn't think I could score from that angle cutting off the wing," Maxwell said, beaming. "I just tried to get it on the net and hope we'd get the rebound."

Barry Beck was chosen the Memorial Cup MVP. He was also named to the All-Star Team, along with teammates Mark Lofthouse and Brad Maxwell.

The 6-5 victory was particularly sweet for Punch McLean. "This is an unbelievable experience for not only myself, but for a great bunch of kids who didn't quit when everyone expected them to."

The New Westminster Bruins made their fourth consecutive trip to the Memorial Cup tournament in 1978. The Bruins would defeat the Peterborough Petes 7-4 in the championship game. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
Punch McLean and the New Westminster Bruins made their fourth consecutive appearance in the Memorial Cup tournament in 1978.

The team was radically different from the previous season. Stalwarts Barry Beck, Mark Lofthouse and Brad Maxwell had graduated. Stan Smyl was in his fourth season with the Bruins, joined by three-year man J.P. Kelly as well as sophomores Larry Lozinski, who played just three games through the regular season, John Ogrodnick, who scored 59 goals, and Dave Orleski. Although they all went on to the NHL, the following played minor roles with New Westminster that season: Mike Allison, Glenn Anderson, Ken Berry, Ed Cooper, Jim Dobson, Larry Melnyk and Florent Robidoux.

The Bruins finished in a tie with Victoria for second-place, but the Cougars earned one more win, relegating New West to third. In the playoffs, the Bruins defeated the Portland Winter Hawks, Victoria Cougars, the Billings Bighorns and the Flin Flon Bombers to once again earn the right to compete for the Memorial Cup.

In 1978, the tournament was played in Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, Ontario. There, in northern Ontario, the Bruins would face the OHL's Peterborough Petes and Trois-Rivieres Draveurs of the QMJHL.

Peterborough got out to a 4-0 lead before whipping the Bruins 7-2 in Sudbury in New Westminster's first game.

New Westminster bounced back and defeated Trois-Rivieres 6-4 in Sault Ste. Marie. Stan Smyl collected a hat trick and added two assists in the Bruins' win.

"They are big and they finish off their checks well," Peterborough coach Gary Green reminded his team. With a 3-2 lead in the dying seconds of the game, played in Sault Ste. Marie, the Petes tied the game at 19:57 of the third period. Just 20-seconds into overtime, they added another to win the game 4-3 and collect their spot in the final.

To earn their spot, the Bruins slammed the Draveurs 6-3 in a game played in Sudbury. Punch McLean was overjoyed to earn his fourth consecutive trip to the Memorial Cup championship. "It's always exciting, especially this year when we weren't even supposed to be here. Nobody gave us a hope in hell."

New Westminster had lost twice to Peterborough, their opponent in the final. In Sudbury, the Bruins, led by Scott MacLeod with three goals and an assist and Stan Smyl with a goal and four assists, added an exclamation mark to the tournament with a 7-4 victory.

Smyl was chosen as the tournament's most valuable player. The All-Star Team included Smyl and teammate Brian Young.

The New Westminster Bruins were the fourth team to win back-to-back Memorial Cup championships, following the Oshawa Generals (1939 and 1940), Toronto Marlboros (1955 and 1956) and Montreal Junior Canadiens (1969 and 1970).

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.