“He always looked like he had no chance to stop the puck,” was Tony Gallagher’s (sort of unkind) appraisal a couple of years ago, writing in the Vancouver Province. “Virtually every save he made looked like a fluke — or in some cases, a miracle — and yet he won championships in every league save the NHL.”
Goaltender Gary Bromley, born in Edmonton on a Thursday of this very date in 1950, is 72 today, so maybe an apology is in order for floating Gallagher’s faint praise to the fore. Sorry. Maybe can we focus on the championships? Bromley played on an Eastern League-winner with the Charlotte Checkers in the early 1970s, won a Calder Cup with the Cincinnati Swords in the AHL, and (in 1978) shared the Winnipeg Jets’ net with Joe Daley and Markus Mattson on the way (alongside Bobby Hull, Ulf Nilsson, and Anders Hedberg) to a WHA World Trophy.
It was in Charlotte that he picked up the nickname that stuck with him, Bones or Bonesy: his perceptive teammates noticed that he was lean. About his style of stopping the pucks that came his way? “I just kind of was nonchalant,” Bromley told Gallagher, “and tried to stop the puck that way.”
Bromley’s NHL career started with the Buffalo Sabres, then took a pause while he detoured to the WHA. In the spring of 1978, he signed as a free agent with the Vancouver Canucks. The mask up above was the one he wore to begin with on the west coast. Over the course of the three years he spent in Vancouver, he was the starter for just the first year, backing up Glen Hanlon and Richard Brodeur after that.
His famous skull-mask, below, dates to 1980. “I think that mask has been way more important than me,” Bromley told Tony Gallagher in 2015.
(Top image, from 1978: Derik Murray)
Beyl and Boyd was the San Francisco design and marketing firm that foisted these famous sweaters on the Vancouver Canucks in 1978, convincing the team that their traditional hues just didn’t cut it in the new NHL. “The Canuck colours,” divulged Bill Boyd, one of the deep-thinkers consulted, “were all wrong. Blue-green is the coolest colour of all. Slows the pulse, reduces aggression, promotes calmness. Psychiatric wards are painted blue-green. Encourages tranquility.” That was why the team had no choice other than to go with the palette that goaltender Richard Brodeur is seen styling here during the 1981-82 campaign.
“With the Canucks’ uniforms,” Boyd explained to The Vancouver Sun’s Jim Taylor in ’78, “we are going from the coolest of colours — blue-green — to the hottest — red-orange. The cool colour is passive, the hot one aggressive. Plus the black. It’s the contrast of colours that creates emotion. White produces no response at all, so we went for yellow, which is warm, pleasant, happy. Upbeat. What we are attempting to create is an atmosphere that will help create the happy, upbeat, aggressive player — and, hopefully, the happy, upbeat fan. The Canucks want to provide the fan with an atmosphere in which it’s easier for him or her to have fun.”
The Flying V design survived through the 1984-85 season whereafter it was replaced by the Speedy-Blurry Skate logo. The heated colour scheme persisted until 1997, when the Canucks returned to their tranquil past and suited up once more in blue-green … and white.
Richard Brodeur was born on this date in 1952 — it was a Monday there, then — in Longueuil, Quebec, which means he’s 67 today. Drafted by the New York Islanders in the seventh round of the NHL’s 1972 amateur draft, Brodeur decided instead to apply his goalguarding talents in the WHA, where he played five seasons with the Quebec Nordiques, helping them to win the 1976-77 Avco Cup.
As an NHLer, he played (not for long) with the Islanders and finished up (only just briefly) with the Hartford Whalers. In between, he featured for eight seasons in the nets of the Vancouver Canucks. In 1982, he helped steer the Canucks into a Stanley Cup finals meeting with the Islanders, who prevailed in four straight games. King Richard, fans nicknamed him then. Grant Lawrence was one such, and he wrote about his admiration in his 2013 book The Lonely End of the Rink:
Unlike many modern-day goalies, where less movement is more, King Richard would excite fans by seemingly throwing his entire body into every shot, making every save look incredibly dramatic and exciting, all four limbs always in action and in full extension. If King Richard was making a high glove save, the glove would shoot straight up in the air whiles his legs would do the splits and his stick hand would shoot out to the side.
During that Cup run in ’82, an Englishman who’d landed in Vancouver put together a group of fellow musicians (he called them King Richard’s Army) and recorded a cheerful dud of a tribute song in Brodeur’s honour. Sample “King Richard!” lyrics: “King Richard/ the lionhearted/ with you in command/ victory shall be ours.” Released as a single, it was given away to frenzied fans at Canucks’ games that spring. On the b-side? A cover of the national anthem of home hockey fans taunting a visiting team on losing night, “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”