Only three seasons before winning the Stanley Cup in 1970, the Boston Bruins had been the laughing stock of the National Hockey League. The beleaguered Bruins had stumbled and bumbled to eight straight seasons of missing the playoffs, and their futility had only been remedied by the addition of players like Gerry Cheevers, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and Ken Hodge to their line-up. In 1967-68, the first year following expansion, Boston climbed to third place in the East Division. A second place finish followed in 1968-69.
|On Mother's Day 1970, Bobby Orr scored forty seconds into overtime to win Boston's first Stanley Cup since
1941. The excited Cheevers almost lost his stick on the way to congratulating his teammate.
In 1969-70, the powerful Chicago Blackhawks completed the regular season tied with Boston at 99 points. The East Division was incredibly tight, with only seven points separating first to fifth place. Chicago was given first place overall on the basis of having won five more games than the Bruins.
Bobby Orr accomplished something that was inconceivable prior to his ascension to hockey stardom the defenseman became the first ever to win a scoring championship, finishing with 33 goals and 87 assists for 120 points, 21 better than second place teammate Phil Esposito. Orr was awarded not only the Art Ross for winning the scoring championship, but was also selected as the Hart Trophy recipient as the NHL's most valuable player.
For the first time in Stanley Cup history, there was no Canadian team in the final competing for hockey's championship. It was Boston's Bruins meeting the St. Louis Blues for Lord Stanley's Cup.
The best-of-seven tournament began May 3, 1970 in St. Louis with a decisive 6-1 Bruins victory. Two nights later, Boston dumped the Blues again, this time 6-2 in St. Louis. The series moved to Boston for game three on May 7. This time, Boston beat St. Louis 4-1.
The stage was set for what could be the deciding game on Mother's Day, May 10, in the Boston Garden. At the end of regulation time, the two teams returned to their dressing rooms deadlocked at three goals apiece.
The teams returned to the ice for overtime, and the fans in the Garden held their breath in anticipation. Before many had even returned to their seats, Bobby Orr had scored what is arguably the most famous goal in NHL history. Firing a pass from Derek Sanderson past Blues netminder Glenn Hall, Orr was upended by St. Louis defenseman Noel Picard and the photos show Orr diving through the air like the Superman many felt he truly was.
|The legendary 'Big, Bad Bruins' -- Stanley Cup champions of 1970. Although they would win another in 1972, the Montreal Canadiens and the World Hockey Association limited them to just two championships.
"I remember when Bobby did score that goal, my thought was, 'This is what it's all about winning the Stanley Cup,'" beams Cheevers. "By the way, he would never have got that goal if it wasn't for me. I let in three terrible goals in that game!"
As the red light was turned on to indicate that Boston had scored, Gerry reacted immediately. "I was at the other end of the ice and I threw my stick up in celebration. Then I turned and thought, 'Gee, I'd like to keep that stick,' and I saw it balancing on the glass behind the net. It did fall back onto the ice and I went to retrieve it. I don't know where it is now. I remember skating up the ice thinking, 'This is the ultimate for hockey players!'"
The Boston Bruins were the first NHL team to win the championship without a captain. That season, the Bruins boasted four co-captains Johnny Bucyk, Phil Esposito, Ed Westfall and Ted Green (who had missed the season due to a serious head injury). Johnny Bucyk accepted the symbolic trophy from NHL president Clarence Campbell. It was the first Stanley Cup won by Boston since 1941.
"If you decide to play pro hockey, your goal should be winning the Stanley Cup," Cheevers states. "When it happens, it's a great feeling. I know it doesn't happen for everyone there are a lot of great hockey players who never did win the Cup, but when you do, that's when you feel the best. I was on a couple of teams that won it."
Although the hockey resume of Gerry Cheevers boasts Stanley Cup wins in 1970 and 1972, Gerry isn't entirely satisfied. "I'm very disappointed that we didn't win more with that team. And I'm very disappointed that we never beat Montreal in a (playoff) series to win the Cup."
Kevin Shea is the author of 'BARILKO-WITHOUT A TRACE,' the tragic story of another Stanley Cup champion.