The legend(s) live on
For any casual hockey fan or other people who are unfamiliar with the history of the Boston Bruins, there are two names that Bostonians always discuss as an introduction to the franchise — Bobby Orr and Milt Schmidt.
The legendary Bruins and Hockey Hall of Famers are etched in Bruins lore forever. Always celebrated for their contributions to the game and their philanthropy off the ice, their lives are cherished from Maine to Rhode Island, Nantucket to Martha’s Vineyard, Charlestown to Boston and numerous places throughout New England.
There was another reason to celebrate Orr and Schmidt during the home opener against the Devils at TD Garden. As part of the opening night festivities on Thursday, Orr and Schmidt dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff.
This wasn’t just any ordinary ceremonial faceoff, though. It was a celebration of two special milestones.
On Wednesday, Orr celebrated the 50th anniversary of his NHL debut. Come November, Schmidt will officially be celebrating his 80th anniversary of his first appearance in a Bruins sweater.
Yet there’s one thing they couldn’t agree on, who was the best Bruin of all time. Was it Orr, who was scouted by Schmidt when he was a B’s coach who later turned GM in the 60’s? Or was it Schmidt, a man who helped set a foundation of the 30’s and 40’s?
First, let’s hear the take on Orr.
“This guy here is the great one,” Schmidt said to a round of smiles and laughs with the media prior to their ceremonial puck drop.
“That’s why I bring him here,” Orr responded with a laugh.
All eyes and ears of the media were directed at Schmidt during Orr’s take on the greatest Bruin forever.
“I would go with Milt being the greatest Bruin ever,” Orr said about Schmidt.
“That’s why I bring him here so he can tell me that,” Schmidt said in response to another round of laughs and smiles.
The conversation continues with the origins of their first encounter.
“I’ve known Milty for more than 50 years, I’ve known him for 54 years,” Orr said. “Milty scouted me when I was 12 years old. I’ve known Milty for a long time and he’s been a great friend, my coach, my general manager and most importantly my very good friend. I’m thrilled to be with him here tonight.”
From remembrance of their playing days to sharing good times on and off the ice, the media surrounding Orr and Schmidt heard plenty of stories that the two also likely told their kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and Bruins of past and present.
That same enthusiasm displayed by Orr and Schmidt carried over into their pregame ceremony where they got a well-deserved standing ovation from the 17,565 at TD Garden. After their thrilling 2-1 victory capped off by Patrice Bergeron’s game-winner in his season debut, the current crop of Bruins commenced to share their thoughts on the special opening night festivity.
“Yeah, it was nice to see them both and I saw them a little bit before the game and chatted with both of them,” Julien said to the same group of reporters during his press conference.
“I thought Bobby, that was the slowest I’ve seen him on the ice moving — it took him forever to get to center ice,” Julien added with another round of chuckles in the Will McDonagh press room. “Other than that, certainly it was great to see those two guys. Both legends and I know Bobby was telling me the story of when he first came to the team and Milt was his coach and certainly there was a great connection there and a great amount of respect between the two of them.”
“They’re two Bruins legends and hockey legends. Anytime you’re around them it’s exciting, and you just catch yourself watching them and admiring them,” added Brad Marchand, who scored his third of the season to tie the game at 1-1 midway through the third period. “It’s phenomenal to have them around and to see that they still love the game and, again, that’s another reason why they are legends of the game.”
Following puck drop, Bergeron approached the two legends in another awe-inspiring moment for himself and the fans in attendance.
“It’s very special,” said the longest tenured Bruin and three-time Selke Award winner. “For me, I’ve been here my whole career and I’ve had a chance to see them once in awhile, and realizing how much they mean to the Bruins but also to hockey and to Boston to me it’s very special to have a few seconds to shake their hands.”
The stories of the famous Kraut line with Schmidt, Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer to Orr’s signature moment that became a statue outside TD Garden are etched in Bruins lore. But two legends from generations past on the ice celebrating anniversaries and dropping the puck on the same night? That doesn’t happen often.
Thursday’s occurrence proved that the legend(s) of Bobby Orr and Milt Schmidt live on.