books that hockey players read: milt schmidt and black beauty

milt and book

Black Beauty isn’t a hockey novel, of course, but that doesn’t mean Anna Sewell’s 1877 horse-rights classic doesn’t offer lessons for hockey players to take to heart. There’s one, in fact, right there in the opening pages, wherein Black B. remembers the pretty meadow where he grew up, with the pond and the shade of trees, and six boistering older colts next door, and Black would run with them and kick and bite and rough-house, and then one day his mother, Duchess, took him aside and told him, listen, son, those are good colts, those colts, but they’re cart-horse colts with no manners, whereas you, you come from excellent stock, with a cup-winning grandfather and a well-respected father, and let me just say about your grandmother, she had the sweetest temper of any horse anywhere and, also, have you ever seen me kick or bite? No. So, she says, “I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and never learn bad ways; do your work with a good will, lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick even in play.”

Great advice, you have to agree, not to mention smart parenting. What I don’t know is whether this is a speech that made it from the original novel into the picture-book version that Boston’s Milt Schmidt has here, above. You’d hope so, if only in truncated form. Pictured at home in 1954, Schmidt and his wife, Marie, are seen with son Con and daughter Nancy. The Bruins captain was playing in the last of his distinguished 16 NHL seasons that year. He retired at Christmas that year, on the advice his aching 36-year-old knees, and was immediately appointed Bruins’ coach, taking over from Lynn Patrick, who was also the Boston GM.

Schmidt coached the team until 1966. He took over as GM in 1967. Later, he steered the Washington Capitals through their stumbling start in the league. Today, aged 97, Schmidt lives in Boston, the oldest living NHLer.