Milt Schmidt: The legend passes
Milton Conrad Schmidt almost beat the Bruins to 100.
In the marathon of life and atop the pantheon of Boston immortals, former Bruin Milt Schmidt passed away Wednesday at the age of 98. He was born in 1918, six years before the franchise with whom he played and served for a lifetime was founded. Only Ted Williams comes close in the breadth and depth of Boston lore; Bobby Orr in that of the Hub of Hockey.
Schmidt adorned the Black-and-Gold sweater for 16 seasons in the era of the Original Six and without the existence of television and any of the social media of the current age, taking his first shift in 1936. He put up 576 points in 776 games, two of which were Stanley Cup clinchers to end the 1939 and 41 seasons. That season between the two Cups, he took two individual honors for leading scorer and a decade later as MVP in 1951.
As with Williams – and countless other Boston sports greats – Schmidt sacrificed several of his likely greatest seasons in his playing prime by serving in the RAF for his native Canada during World War II.
The Kitchener, Ontario native was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1960; his Number 15 was raised to the Garden rafters in 1980.
Best known in his playing days as the pivot on the “Kraut Line” with linemates and German descendants Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart, Schmidt’s biggest accomplishment after twice winning Lord Stanley would come in his managerial roles on Causeway Street.
Schmidt served as Bruins bench boss from 1954-1966; then as general manager from 1967-1975. Not likely the Bruins win their fourth and fifth Cups in 1970 and ’72 without Schmidt’s biggest trade in team history his first year as GM, shipping Pit Martin, Gilles Marotte and Jack Norris to Chicago for Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield.
And the rest is history.
In his last official NHL role, “Miltie” would be called upon in the mid 70’s to serve as GM for two years when the Washington Capitals entered the NHL.
On October 21, the two greatest Bruins of all time were center ice for the last time when Orr wheeled Schmidt onto the TD Garden sheet to commemorate both Orr’s 50th year and Schmidt’s 80th since their rookie seasons.
“He was a great man and a great friend to all of us,” Orr said that night about the Bruins oldest living player.
After receiving the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding contributions to hockey in the States, Schmidt said in a Boston Globe interview and renewed in yesterday’s New York Times: “When you’re a boy, maybe 8, 9, 10 years of age back home in Canada, listening to hockey – I guess it was a radio or a crystal set – you’d be dreaming about what it would be like to win various trophies such as the Stanley Cup, the MVP. Gee, you might have thought, what a thrill that would be. My goodness. A kid from Kitchener, and all dreams came true.”
Amen and RIP.