As they went about beating Washington 3-0 last night at the TD Bank Garden, the Boston Bruins took a moment to wish a happy birthday to Milt Schmidt, who turned 96 on Wednesday.
A few stray Schmidt notes to celebrate, belatedly, the day:
• Born in Kitchener, Ontario, he played for his hometown Greenshirts with a couple of local boys by the name of Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart. All three signed with the Bruins in 1935. Schmidt was at centre; when they played for the Providence Reds, coach Battleship Leduc was the one who dubbed them the Kraut Line.
• His adjectives include flashy (1938); big (1946); 37-year-old (hustle-guy, 1956); great (competitor, 1957); most (aggressive, Hockey Hall of Fame); intimidating (Andrew Podnieks, Players) and oft-injured (ibid).
• He was named Bruins captain in 1951, the year he won the Hart Trophy. His Bruins were Stanley Cup champions in 1939 and ’41; in 1940, he led the NHL in scoring. The Bruins retired his number 15, and in 1961 he was elevated to the Hockey Hall of Fame. After his retirement in 1955, he coached the Bruins, and he was the GM, too, when they won the Cup in 1970 and ’72.
• In 1940, Schmidt, Bauer, and Dumart did the warlike thing and joined the Scots Fusiliers of Canada North Waterloo’s Non-Permanent Active Militia unit. They carried on playing for the Bruins until early in 1942, when all three enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Their last game for the wartime Bruins was in February, when they beat Montreal 8-1. The Krauts scored 10 points. At the end of the game, both took to the bluelines while the departing players got their going-away gifts. The New York Times reported:
The management gave them checks for their full season’s salaries, plus a bonus; their teammates presented gold identification bracelets, and Manager Art Ross, who described them as “the most loyal and courageous players in Bruins’ history,” rewarded them with wrist watches.
Players from both teams joined to hoist the three shoulder-high and carry them from the ice.
• They returned to the Bruins’ ranks for the 1945-46 season. As Schmidt later told Kevin Shea at the Hall of Hockey Fame:
“We weren’t too successful when we came back after being away from it for three-and-a-half years. When we went into the service, there was no red line but when we got back, they had introduced the red line. We had a tough time adjusting ourselves to that. … It was by far and away a different hockey game. It didn’t take us long to catch on and once we got our sea legs, we didn’t do too badly after that.”
• Schmidt played another 10 years. In 1952, the Bruins celebrated Schmidt-Dumart Night at the Boston Garden by bringing back Bobby Bauer, who’d retired from the NHL in 1947, for their 4-0 win over Chicago. In the second period, they combined for Schmidt’s 200th NHL goal. Bauer later added a goal of his own. The Globe and Mail:
The Krauts operated as a line for a period and a half. Bauer, lacking the condition of his other two mates, took only a half turn each time, with Ed Kryzanowski replacing him as skated to the bench for a respite. But they were on the ice the line showed flashes of its old brilliance. Bauer made the “moves” as long as his legs held out.
Afterwards, there were presents. This time, Schmidt and Dumart got cash and gifts totaling $20,000, including silverware, movie cameras, and bicycles for their children. Bauer wasn’t forgotten. The sportswriters presented him with a silver pitcher. Boston fans, meanwhile, had pitched in for a portable radio and, for Mrs. Bauer, a clock.