Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Boston Bruins - 1969-72
Spotlight
One on One Turning Point

Turning Point - Boston Bruins - 1969-72
Harry Sinden was promoted to head coach of the Bruins prior to the 1966-67 season.
Harry Sinden was promoted to head coach of the Bruins prior to the 1966-67 season.
(Photo by Paul Bereswill/HHOF)
The Boston Bruins had missed the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons beginning with the 1959-60 campaign. There were few bright spots during those seasons, but life changed for the Bruins at that junction. Bobby Orr joined the team in 1966-67, and although just 18 years old, was the player who the franchise looked at to turn around their woes. He was selected as the National Hockey League's rookie of the year. That same season, Harry Sinden was elevated to head coach of the NHL team after leading their Central Hockey League team, the Oklahoma City Blazers, to a second consecutive Adams Cup championship. And then, in May 1967, general manager Milt Schmidt pulled the trigger on a colossal deal. He sent Gilles Marotte, Pit Martin and Jack Norris to the Chicago Black Hawks, receiving Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield in return.

Phil Esposito was acquired by the Bruins in a colossal trade with the Chicago Black Hawks in May of 1967.
Phil Esposito was acquired by the
Bruins in a colossal trade with the Chicago Black Hawks in May of 1967.
(Photo by Portnoy/HHOF)
The NHL had doubled in size for the 1967-68 season, but it was evident from the start that the Bruins were going to contend. Along with Gerry Cheevers and Ed Johnston in goal, newly-acquired veteran Eddie Shack and rookie Derek Sanderson, who went on to follow Orr as the Calder Trophy winner, the team made an immediate impact. The Bruins finished third in the East Division and secured a playoff spot for the first time since 1958-59.

It was a confluence of talent, secured in various manners, that turned around the fortunes of the Boston Bruins. The team finished second overall in 1968-69, but while the team was getting progressively stronger by the season, it wasn't until 1969-70 that they finally reached hockey nirvana. That spring, on Mother's Day, Bobby Orr took a pass from Derek Sanderson and 40 seconds into overtime, scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal to give the Bruins their first championship since 1941.

Bobby Orr was awarded the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defender eight times during his legendary career
Bobby Orr was awarded the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defender eight times during his legendary career.
(Photo by Portnoy/HHOF)
Montreal spoiled a possible repeat for Boston, but the Bruins roared back and took the Stanley Cup once again in 1971-72.

"We should have won three Cups in a row," shrugged Derek Sanderson. "We were a band of brothers. We had a great time on and off the ice. We felt that no one could beat us. We won the Cup in 1970, but then Montreal beat us in 1971. It was a huge upset. You could score on (Ken) Dryden, but in the seventh and deciding game, he stopped us in our tracks. That should have been our third Stanley Cup win."

The talent secured by the Bruins in the late-1960s proved to be the turning point for Boston. Bobby Orr became the greatest defenseman ever to play the game, winning the Norris Trophy eight times, the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player three times, the Art Ross as the NHL's regular season scoring leader twice and was twice named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoff mvp. Phil Esposito was the scoring champion five times and twice, won the Hart Trophy and twice the Pearson Trophy. They were supported by a stellar cast that included All-Stars Johnny Bucyk, Ted Green, Ken Hodge and Johnny McKenzie.

In 2011, ESPN analyst Barry Melrose ranked the 1969-70 Boston Bruins as his fifth greatest team of all-time. "This team scored a ton of goals, they were in a ton of fights, they had a bunch of free-spirited guys and they loved to play. It was an awesome team to watch."




Boston Bruins Bobby Orr scoring the 1970 Stanley Cup overtime game-winning goal against the St. Louis Blues.
Boston Bruins Bobby Orr scoring the 1970 Stanley Cup overtime game-winning goal against the St. Louis Blues.
(Photo by Ray Lussier/Hockey Hall of Fame)

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