The three members of Boston's Kraut Line -- Bobby Bauer, Woody Dumart and Milt Schmidt were inseparable. They played together on the Bruins, as they had previously with the Providence Reds of the IAHL and, even earlier, with the junior Kitchener Greenshirts. Off the ice, the linemates shared an apartment. If they knew each other well on the ice, you can imagine how you get to know someone when you live with them!
Prior to the first skirmishes of the Second World War, Bauer, Dumart and Schmidt were dominating the NHL. In 1939-40, for example, the Bruins finished first through the regular season, with Milt Schmidt winning the scoring race with 52 points and linemates Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer second and third respectively with 43 points.
The three, all born and raised in the Kitchener, Ontario area, even decided to enlist for military service together. The three voluntarily joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.
In February 1942, the trio was summoned to report for active duty. On February 11, they played their last NHL game before heading off to Ottawa to await further instructions. That night, in a game against Montreal, the Bruins easily dumped the Canadiens 8-1. The Kraut Line contributed a combined 22 scoring points and absolutely ruled the ice. At the final buzzer, an unusual and highly emotional event took place at the Boston Garden. "In spite of how tough we were playing against one another, after the game was over, both Montreal and Boston players hoisted us on their shoulders and carried us off the ice," reminisced Milt Schmidt, savouring the moment. "The ovation from the crowd was fantastic. It just goes to show that you can have pretty bitter enemies out on that ice, but after the game is over, we're all friends, and I think that has a lot to say about the people who play the game."
That evening certainly proved to be one of the pinnacles in the career of Bobby Bauer, indicative of the esteem in which teammates and opponents, let alone hockey fans everywhere, regarded Bauer and his Kraut Line teammates.
Kevin Shea is the Hockey Hall of Fame's Editor, Publications and On-line Features.