WESTWOOD, Mass. — Brainstorm a hockey amateur built-in in the 16 months amid John F. Kennedy and Ted Williams, who impacted his bold as abundant as JFK adapted backroom or Teddy Ballgame baffled hitting.
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Imagine a centermost who won two Stanley Cups in three years as allotment of a band with the cringeworthy moniker the “Kraut Line” afore confined his country adjoin Germany in Apple War II.
Imagine a coach, accepted administrator and aggregation agent whose affiliation with the Boston Bruins began in the bosom of the Abundant Depression and continues in 2016.
Imagine four Stanley Cups as amateur and GM and a fifth as his team’s Elder Active Legend.
As you may accept guessed, we’re talking about the aforementioned hockey player, center, coach, accepted administrator and aggregation ambassador.
His name is Milt Schmidt, and he is the NHL’s oldest active aloft player. Schmidt turns 98 on Saturday, built-in on March 5, 1918. He is a bald four months adolescent than the NHL itself. The aloft Boston Bruins centermost has been a affiliate of the Hockey Hall of Fame for 55 years.
Schmidt played at 6’0″, 180 pounds. He stands abundant taller in the annual of the NHL.
Don’t booty our chat for it.
Ask Bobby Orr.
“He was a angry coach. He was a angry accepted manager. He was a angry player. He didn’t change his ways. He’s actual consistent,” Orr tells Bleacher Report. “He’s one of the guys who set it up for us. And fabricated it bigger for us, and the guys who followed. His contributions to the bold were enormous, as a player, a coach, a GM, and he continues to be huge fan. He meant a abundant accord to our game.”
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman and Boston built-in Noah Hanifin was the youngest amateur in the NHL at the alpha of the season. Hanifin was built-in on Jan. 25, 1997. That puts him a bald 28,816 canicule abaft Schmidt aback it comes to authoritative hockey history.
The retired No. 15 exhausted by Schmidt hangs in annual aloft the ice at TD Garden, as it did at the old Boston Garden.
Boston’s Patrice Bergeron says Schmidt will consistently represent what actuality a “Bruin agency and is.”
“He came about the locker allowance beforehand this year to ambition us acceptable luck. He’s a accurate gentleman. He’s a actuality anybody respects a lot, myself included,” Bergeron tells Bleacher Report.
And while “Gods do not acknowledgment letters,” Schmidt still picks up his buzz aback you alarm him at his home.
Recently, Schmidt sat for a diffuse annual with Bleacher Report. He offered a glimpse into his nine-decade affiliation with hockey, the changes he’s apparent in his lifetime and his thoughts on the bold today.
To get a admeasurement of the admiration aloof for Schmidt, Orr alleged this biographer aback afterwards an interview—unsolicited—to reiterate his appraisal on Schmidt’s character. “He is the ultimate gentleman. The best alarming admirer I’ve anytime known.”
Whatever you may anticipate of the “Big Bad” Boston Bruins in their purest anatomy can be anon angry to Schmidt. The team’s birth of blue-collar accuracy runs about ceaseless from old-time hockey greats such as Eddie Shore, who played with Schmidt for genitalia of four seasons, through Schmidt, to Johnny Bucyk, Orr and Phil Esposito, Wayne Cashman, Terry O’Reilly, Ray Bourque and, finally, Zdeno Chara and Bergeron.
Schmidt “made the big accord with Chicago that got things going,” Orr says. On May 15, 1967, Schmidt brought Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield to the Bruins in barter for Gilles Marotte, centermost Pit Martin and goalie Jack Norris. It angry out to be one of the best askew deals in NHL history.
“The Bruins alignment is what it is—the Big Bad Bruins—because of guys like Milt Schmidt,” adds ancient Bruins apache Lyndon Byers, who is currently a morning drive-time co-host on Boston’s WAAF radio. “You’re up there in the alumni box, and he’s still bottomward F-bombs, and calling bodies ‘p—ies’ and yelling, ‘How does that kid not bang that added kid’s ass?’ or ‘I would accept labeled that guy with my stick.’ That affectionate of passion. It’s still there whenever he goes to a game.”
Orr action afterwards audition that appraisal and agrees.
“He’s not abashed to accord his opinion,” Orr deadpans. “When he speaks, he’s knows what he’s talking about. We allocution a lot about hockey, abnormally about the Bruins. Aback we talk, it’s like two experts, suggesting changes, criticizing assertive plays.”
“That’s the affectionate of guy he is,” adds Ray Bourque.
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Bourque, addition NHL Hall of Fame defenseman, played his aboriginal 21 seasons in Boston afore closing his career with the 2001 Stanley Cup best Colorado Avalanche.
“He was somebody that you absolutely looked up to. The bodies that appear afore you, that’s what the Bruins are all about. Bodies like Milt, Terry O’Reilly, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito. They set the table and you try to hunt them. You approved not to abort them in acceding of what they accustomed in acceding of tradition,” Bourque tells Bleacher Report.
Bourque aboriginal met Schmidt aback he was an 18-year-old amateur with Boston in 1979. “He’s done it all as a player, drillmaster and accepted manager. Added than that, he is an absurd capital man. Aback I aboriginal met him, he would consistently accept time for me. He’s never afflicted about his affection and ability of the bold and how he cares about it.”
As Boston’s coach, Schmidt led the academician assurance that aboriginal noticed a “toe-head” defenseman alleged Bobby Orr during a aloof cruise to Ontario in 1961. Orr would eventually assurance with the aggregation a year later.
“They were there to see addition else,” Orr says. “We aloof happened to be adverse that aggregation in the playoffs. [Bruins scout] Wren Blair, I’m abiding at Milt’s instructions, camped out in Parry Complete for a while and eventually assertive my mother to let me sign.”
Any acknowledgment of Orr brings Schmidt to the bend of his seat. Orr’s Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 1970 and ’72, aback Schmidt was aggregation accepted manager.
The two abide in approved contact.
“There’s cipher like Bobby Orr. If it hadn’t been for Bobby Orr, I don’t anticipate we would accept won any Stanley Cups,” Schmidt says with a billow of acuteness in his voice. “There’s annihilation that would stop him from assertive now, either. There’s cipher who could backpack the bogie like Bobby Orr. It’s activity to booty absolutely a while afore you see somebody on the ice backpack the bogie like Bobby did. He was arch and heels over everybody and still is. There are bigger players today, but there’s cipher bigger than Bobby Orr. He was the greatest.”
Orr’s aptitude was apparent that aboriginal day.
“He was advanced of everybody else. He wasn’t difficult to watch. We went up there to attending at two added players and we forgot the two added players. The alone affair bad about it was the drillmaster of the opposition…we blanket Orr out from beneath his nose. He bent hell for that, and I anticipate it amount him his job. There were bristles of us in agreement, and we said: ‘We’ll booty that toe-head on the bench.’”
Once a approved afterimage at Bruins amateur as both a aloft amateur and administrator of the Boston Garden’s Blades and Board Club, Schmidt has dealt with bloom issues of backward involving his ribs and larboard leg. He needs the abetment of a ambler to get about his home but charcoal abundantly accommodating and quick-witted aback talking about the bold that has been a allotment of his activity for added than 90 years.
So what makes hockey so appropriate for Schmidt afterwards about a aeon on the earth?
“You accept to be in abundant action to comedy the game. You accept to be able to bear a acceptable analysis aback you get it not necessarily adjoin the boards. It is a bold that the bodies like and which they should. It’s the greatest bold in the world, as far as the National Hockey Alliance is concerned. I don’t affliction what anyone says about the National Hockey League, and active as continued as I have, they accept advised me great,” Schmidt says.
As a boy, Schmidt formed at the ice amphitheatre abreast his Kitchener, Ontario, home, absolved through albino fields for pond-ice time and wasn’t abashed to put bottomward his skates and action the kids who played for a adjacent battling academy aback he was headed home.
“We played outside. In my time, we had a pond, or alfresco surface, to skate on,” Schmidt says. “We didn’t accept an central rink. We acclimated the next-best affair and skated wherever we could acquisition a allotment of ice.”
He began arena inferior hockey at 14. Schmidt alone an action to assurance with the Bruins for $2,000 in 1935. Boston active him for the baronial sum of $3,500 in the abatement of 1936. Schmidt abutting adolescent Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, citizenry Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart in Providence, Rhode Island. By aboriginal 1937, all three were calm in Boston. The three formed what was accepted as the Kraut Line, alleged because of the Germanic ancestry of abounding in Kitchener.
This was afore political definiteness and in amid two wars adjoin Germany.
Led by Schmidt, Bauer and Dumart, that Bruins aggregation won four beeline regular-season championships starting in 1938. Schmidt would accession the Stanley Cup in 1939 and ’41. During the 1939-40 season, Schmidt’s band led the alliance scoring, as he won the scoring appellation with 52 points.
“The adulation of the bold had added to do with it than annihilation else,” Schmidt said of the trio’s success. “We played together. It didn’t amount to us who denticulate and who didn’t score.”
The NHL had eight teams in Schmidt’s aboriginal years (the alleged Original Six, additional a additional aggregation in Montreal and one in Brooklyn, which bankrupt in 1942). Teams catholic mainly by train, with the agenda congenital about geography. Top amateur salaries averaged about $10,000. The per diem for players was a bald $6.
The affair of Schmidt’s bacon as a amateur with the Bruins is one accountable that brings an bend and added aggregate to the conversation.
“I don’t anticipate that’s anyone’s business for the simple acumen is that I’m abashed of what my bacon was compared to others in the aforementioned class (as a center). I begin what they got, after, and what I got. It’s embarrassing.”
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The Bruins were in the aboriginal stages their own Decade of Dominance aback Pearl Harbor was attacked. There was annihilation for Schmidt and his adolescent band associates to be ashamed about aback they larboard the Bruins to serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force during Apple War II.
Schmidt’s final bold afore abrogation for the aggressive is the actuality of NHL folklore. It would no agnosticism today be the array of accident that would aphorism Twitter and Instagram, trend aloft YouTube and boss advantage beyond the media spectrum afore catastrophe up as an ESPN 30 for 30 film.
Boston exhausted Montreal 8-1 on Feb. 10, 1942 in advanced of a absonant sellout army of 10,400 at Boston Garden. The line figured in bristles goals and accumulated for 11 points. Afterwards the game, with “Auld Lang Syne” arena on the amphitheater organ, “The three Krauts were hoisted assimilate accommodating amateur of both Bruins and Canadiens players and agitated to the Bruins’ bathrobe room,” according to an annual in the afterward day’s (Feb. 11, 1942) Boston Globe.
“It aloof goes to appearance you that the abhorrence is not agitated on. The adulation of the bold is agitated on. The Montreal players showed that by accustomed us off the ice surface. I anticipate that’s an adumbration of the adulation of the game,” Schmidt recalls.
Schmidt, Bauer and Dumart were abutting in account by Boston’s American-born Hall of Fame goalie Frank Brimsek. He was a Coast Guardsman eventually stationed in the South Pacific.
Like so abounding others who served in Apple War II, Schmidt says little about his time in the war. Schmidt, Bauer and Dumart spent their aboriginal time the war arena for Ottawa’s RCAF aggregation in Canada afore branch to England. Schmidt afresh told a ancestors acquaintance about a abreast absence involving a German bombing arrest while stationed beyond but wouldn’t busy to B/R.
“We were appreciative of what we did. We’re consistently there aback we were alleged upon,” Schmidt says. “We were blessed to do it. And that’s all I’ll say. We achievement there isn’t addition war aback adolescent bodies accept to prove themselves.”
Like hundreds of others in the war who played pro sports, Schmidt and his linemates ancient during the prime of their careers to serve. Seventy-four years later, that cede has not gone unnoticed.
“You’d accept to be a complete f–king assh–e amateur in 2016 if you can’t blanket your arch about how crazily affectionate and adventuresome that was. The sacrifices. I get goosebumps cerebration about those guys authoritative that accommodation at that time to do what they did,” Byers says. “They’re the Greatest Generation for a reason. Guys like Milt, the others of his age, were the cat’s acclamation of their day. And they put everything—their sticks, their bats, their affray gloves and their sneakers—down and they volunteered to action for their country. They put their lives on the line. There’s no way to apperceive how that felt.”
Schmidt’s aboriginal bold aback with Boston came in December 1945. The Bruins enjoyed post-war success, extensive the Stanley Cup Final in 1957 and ’58. Boston would not win addition Stanley Cup until Orr and Company swept the St. Louis Blues in 1970 during Schmidt’s administration as accepted manager.
As a player, Schmidt accumulated the puck-handling abilities of today’s top skaters and scorers with the atrocity of today’s best barbarous “enforcers.” While he was listed as a center, he generally begin himself aback on aegis because teams usually alone agitated four defensemen during his era.
“From what the guys acquaint me, he’d stick his adenoids in anywhere. He was fearless,” Orr says. “He’d advance the net. He’d hunt the bogie into the corner. He’d fight. He’d never aback down. Who could that be? Would it be a [Cam] Neely blazon player? I don’t know. Cam in the corner? Milty in the corner? Guys didn’t like to comedy adjoin him. They knew it would be hard.”
That concrete and barbaric appearance led to a about connected beck of injuries. Schmidt began his NHL career with a burst jaw. Eventually, he would breach his shoulder, collarbone, and abate and abort his knees. He missed five accumulated weeks due to broken knee ligaments during the 1947-48 season.
“I anticipate Milt could accept played goalie if he had to,” Bourque says. “He was actual competitive. And he played the abounding 185 anxiety aback in the Old Garden. The absolute ice. Those are the blazon of guys you’d adulation to comedy with. And that’s the blazon of amateur you appetite to be.”
Schmidt fought both for the bogie and adjoin added players his absolute NHL career. He was affianced in abiding battle with Toronto Maple Leafs centermost Ted Kennedy. Hostilities amid the two ailing on Jan. 1, 1953 aback Schmidt airtight Kennedy to the ice during a six-player brawl. The appulse afar Kennedy’s shoulder, larboard him with a blow and agape him out for the butt of the season.
Concussion protocols were absent six decades ago. And, Schmidt says, concussions occurred far beneath frequently than today because players were added afraid to active opponents head-first into the boards.
“We didn’t accept annihilation like that. We had the anatomy checks adjoin the boards. Annihilation like they do today. They appetite to comedy that blazon of game, they ache for it. They’re absolutely able of arena absolute acceptable and complete hockey or [commit] the charging. They allegation added today than we anytime did. We weren’t accustomed to do it. I don’t apperceive why they accumulate on accomplishing it today? They accept added concussions today than ever. We played a fast bold aback we played and played any affectionate of a bold whatsoever. We played the blazon of bold the admirers loved—an absolute cast of hockey we were actual appreciative of,” Schmidt says.
Schmidt was a four-time NHL All-Star and won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 1951. Chief amid his abounding Hall of Fame opponents was the Detroit Red Wings’ Gordie Howe. “He knew what to do with the bogie and what not to do with it. He was one amateur who you couldn’t fool about with,” Schmidt says.
He alleged it quits as a amateur on Christmas Day 1954 during a alley cruise in Chicago. His affection still capital to comedy but his knees had accustomed up. “I had two bad knees at that time and I had to be taped up every day or I couldn’t play. Aback I fell, I had a boxy time accepting up. I was 36 years of age,” he told the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002.
Schmidt accomplished the Bruins from 1955-62 and 1963-66. He again became the team’s accepted manager.
The NHL, meantime, broadcast geographically, enjoyed dynasties in Montreal and Toronto, and broadened its admirers acknowledgment to television. Slowly, amateur salaries became added adequate with aggregation revenues. The additional attack of the players to anatomy a abutment ashore in 1967 aback the NHL Players’ Affiliation was created.
Although he was a player, drillmaster and executive, Schmidt identifies himself as a retired player.
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Schmidt says he’s blessed modern-day NHL players adore abundance he and his aeon could not brainstorm in the average of the aftermost century. He’s additionally determined they apprehend what he and his aeon did to advice them acquire it.
“It’s a helluva lot bigger now,” he says. “It’s too bad we didn’t accept [the union] apery us during our National Hockey Alliance play. … The alone botheration now is the players alive how to administer their own money [so that] they accept it afterwards they’re accomplished arena hockey. I achievement that they all accept their money and they’re not bottomward the bank assuming their anatomy off to the girls or article like that. I achievement they accept their money because they don’t apperceive absolutely what we went through in adjustment for them to get this money.”
After acceptable GM, Schmidt accomplished the barter that brought Esposito and accompany to Boston. As Orr blazed beyond arenas throughout the NHL, a absolutism appeared to be alpha on the border east of Causeway Street.
Under Schmidt’s aphorism as GM, the Bruins won two Stanley Cups in three years (1970, ’72), aloof as they did aback he was a amateur (1939 and ’41). They would not win addition championship until 2011.
Schmidt’s administration as Boston accepted administrator concluded in adverse fashion. It larboard Schmidt and abounding Bruins admirers embittered.
After the 1972 Stanley Cup was anchored in May, the Bruins bound absent Gerry Cheevers, John McKenzie and Derek Sanderson to the ablaze lights and big money of the WHA. Schmidt would be the abatement guy for the banking abstemiousness of buyer Weston Adams Jr.
In September 1972, Schmidt was pushed out of the GM’s armchair in Boston, alleged “executive director” and was replaced by Harry Sinden. His 37-year run aural the aforementioned alignment would anon be over.
The afterward April, Schmidt took the job as drillmaster and GM of the amplification Washington Capitals. They began comedy in 1974.
What went amiss in Boston?
“I’m not activity to say. I don’t accept annihilation to say about it. I could say how bargain they were against my bacon and the blow of the team. But I won’t,” Schmidt says. He says he charcoal accompany with Sinden to this day but appears to accept not yet forgiven Adams for the adjustment and address of his avenue in Boston.
“I don’t affliction what anyone says about the National Hockey League, and active as continued as I have, they accept advised me great. A helluva lot bigger than the Boston Bruins anytime anticipation about alleviative me,” he says with a adumbration of 40 years of acrimony in his voice. “They aria to me article terrible. I could go on and on about Harry Sinden coming. He and I are abundant accompany and consistently will be. There’s added than I can say about Weston Adams Jr. It’s a helluva affair to say to addition that you can’t acquaint the aberration amid a basketball and a hockey puck. That’s all I’m activity to say about that.”
Schmidt had little luck and aught success with the adolescent and amateur Capitals. The aggregation accomplished 8-67-5 in its aboriginal season, activity 1-39 on the road. “One of those things I anticipation it would be advantageous to alpha a franchise. But aloof aerial academy kids is all I had,” Schmidt says. “NHL President Clarence Campbell, he gets the best blame. He told us [as an amplification team], we were declared to accept aboriginal best of any amateur beatific bottomward to the minors. That wasn’t so. We didn’t get the players we were declared to get.”
Campbell died in 1984.
Schmidt told ESPN.com’s Joe McDonald in December that Bergeron is his accepted admired player. Beyond that, “everybody looks alike. They’re advantageous to be arena in the National Hockey Alliance today. And (in) the way they’re actuality advised by the NHL,” Schmidt says.
The aboriginal affection he seeks in a amateur aback watching a bold in 2016 is the aforementioned as it was in 1936.
“Skating. You’ve got to be able to skate. We all could do a job. We did what they were told to do. You don’t see as abundant forechecking today as you did then,” he says. “The players today are not alone bigger but they’re faster. They’re bigger skaters. Although we stood up for our rights (in added words, everybody fought), you ability say. We could attending out afterwards ourselves. It’s an altogether altered game. We skated actual able-bodied but not as fast.”
And area the adolescent Milt Schmidt already absolved beyond snow-covered fields in Kitchener aloof to get arena time on a adjacent pond, boys and girls today in places like Tampa, San Jose and Phoenix are apprenticed to calm rinks in their parents’ SUVs to convenance year-round.
The NHL All-Star Bold was held in Nashville this year. That burghal didn’t acceptable the NHL until 60 years afterwards Schmidt aboriginal wore a Bruins uniform.
The bold of hockey, like the blow of the world, has accomplished a millennium’s account of change in the accomplished century.
Schmidt charcoal the oldest man standing.
“I never accord that a anticipation and don’t anticipate I anytime will. It’s an honor, no doubt. But there were a lot of honest hockey players abounding years ago that were as every bit as abiding as I am.”
But actual few who accept fabricated added of a difference.
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Bill Speros is an award-winning announcer who aboriginal covered the Bruins in 1987. He can be accomplished on Twitter @RealOBF or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Adrian Dater of Bleacher Address contributed to this report.
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