leo boivin, 1931—2021

Happy to oblige photographer Louis Jaques, captain Leo Boivin smiled for his camera at the end of December, 1963, but the truth is that his Boston Bruins were in a bad patch, losers of five games in a row.

Saddened to hear of Boivin’s death today, at the age of 90. Born in Prescott, Ontario, in August of 1931, he went on to play 19 seasons as an NHL defenceman, serving time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Minnesota North Stars as well as with the Bruins. Appointed Boston’s 17th captain in ’63, he wore the Bruin C for three seasons. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1986. As a coach Leo Boivin steered the St. Louis Blues for parts of two seasons in the 1970s.

That winter of ’63, the Bruins’ five-game spiral included two losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs, starting with a Christmas-Day rout, 5-1, at the Boston Garden in a game in which Frank Mahovlich scored two goals.

In Toronto on the 28th, Johnny Bower shut them out 2-0. Bruins coach Milt Schmidt wasn’t pleased, of course. He was giving speeches behind closed doors and, in the press, looking to players like Johnny Bucyk to step up. “Bucyk is a guy who could do a lot for us, if he puts his mind to it,” Schmidt was saying. “He just has to go out there and punish himself. He has to work harder and quit taking that big skate. A forward has to take it out of himself with stops and starts to get anywhere. There’s no easy way.”

After Toronto, the Bruins went to Detroit where Schmidt moved Boivin from the defence onto Bucyk’s wing in an effort to keep Gordie Howe under wraps. The Bruins lost again. “We’re hitting a lot of posts,” Schmidt said, “but we’re not scoring those goals.” The new year brought some respite: on January 1, back home, they managed a 3-3 tie with the Montreal Canadiens. No goals for Bucyk, and no game for Leo Boivin: he was out of the line-up with strep throat.

(Photo: Louis Jaques, Library and Archives Canada/e002343751)


One thought on “leo boivin, 1931—2021

  1. When I first started following the Bruins in 1961, I started to glom onto players that I liked. There was some agreement among my friends concerning some players but the guy we all loved, a guy we referred to as “Billy”, was Leo Boivin. The gang also loved the “Topper” and Teddy, The fact of the matter is, the Bruins were bad and us young kids knew it, we just didn’t know how to fix it.
    Leo was our guy. He was loved and respected. He seemed both strong and quiet, nothing bothering him. He was always that way except for the night of February 9, 1964 at the Boston Garden. Leo had an altercation with Montreal forward Billy Hicke. Not sure what Leo was mad about but the feud moved from the ice to the penalty box.
    As you know, back in those days, the single penalty box sat players from both teams with a uniformed Boston cop keeping things quiet. However, for some reason, the fight erupted again in the box and I thought I recalled Leo slugging the man in blue while trying to get Hicke. It was a remarkable scene for the time and I was looking forward to telling my school chums the next day about the event.
    However, my tale fell on deaf ears. That previous evening, the Ed Sullivan Show had a group from England appearing on the show for the first time. The Beatles had won over the interest of all the kids. I was left alone to rummage in my mind the exciting time that I had the previous night. Bruins over Beatles, hmmm….Maybe only me.

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