Esso Hockey since 1936Legends Of Hockey
Esso Hockey since 1936
Schmidt, Milt

Schmidt, Milt

Milton Schmidt was frequently called "Uncle Milty" when referred to in the singular, but early in his career he became known as something even more famous - a member of Boston's remarkable Kraut Line.

Like the other members of the line, Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer, Schmidt was a Kitchener native and by rights should have been a Toronto Maple Leaf his whole life. The Leafs had already signed Bauer and sent him to Syracuse, and assistant general manager Frank Selke suggested to Conn Smythe that they sign Bauer's teammates, Dumart and Schmidt, the latter of whom was playing junior at age 14. Smythe wasn't convinced, and when Bauer attended Boston's training camp in Quebec City in the fall of 1935, he brought his friends with him. They never left the Bruins.

Ironically, it was Bauer who was the last to join the team. The trio had played together for the Providence Reds, and it was there that coach Albert Leduc referred to them as "the Krauts" because of their common German heritage. In 1936-37, Schmidt and Dumart were recalled by the Bruins. It wasn't until the last day of that season, however, that Bauer was brought up, and they combined to score their first goal as a line just minutes into the game.

Schmidt was by far the most aggressive and physically imposing of the three. During his career he suffered so many ailments it was hard to keep track: a broken jaw courtesy of Mac Colville; torn cartilage in his ribs; and ligament damage to both knees courtesy, most notably, of Bill Barilko. All were the result of his style of play.

Although he played 16 years in the NHL, Schmidt missed much time during the height of his career when he left the team to join the air force, a stint that lasted three and a half seasons. He always maintained that the night of January 10, 1942, was his biggest thrill in hockey. "That was the last game Bobby Bauer, Pork Dumart and I played before going into the service," he explained. "It was against the Canadiens, and we beat them badly. I don't think I'll ever forget what happened after the game. The players on both teams lifted the three of us on their shoulders and carried us off the ice and the crowd gave us an ovation. A man couldn't ever forget a thing like that."

The only night that could come close for memory's sake was March 18, 1952, when the Kraut Line reformed for one special night toward the end of the 1951-52 season. Bobby Bauer had retired in 1947 to manage his father-in-law's skate business, but when he heard his friends Dumart and Schmidt were being honoured, he agreed to take part in the festivities somehow. In pre-game ceremonies, NHL president Clarence Campbell presented the three with gold watches, silver services and assorted other gifts of thanks. During the game, Schmidt scored his 200th career goal, making the evening all the more precious to the Krauts.

Prior to his departure for the war, Schmidt was key to the Bruins' winning the Stanley Cup twice, once in 1939 in five games over Toronto, and again in 1941 against Detroit. They were Schmidt's only Cup triumphs, even though he played another 10 years after the war. Perhaps his other great prewar highlight came as the 1939-40 season ended and for the first time in league history an entire forward line finished 1-2-3 in the NHL's scoring race, with Schmidt leading the way with 52 points.

Midway through the 1954-55 season, Schmidt retired as a player and took over the head coaching job for the Bruins, a position he held until 1966 with the exception of one season, 1960-61. His coaching record never matched his playing success, however and when Washington entered the NHL in 1974, he became that franchise's general manager and coach during the team's leanest years. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.

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