Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Johnny Bucyk ranks as one of the most successful yet overlooked hockey players in NHL history.
He began his road to the NHL in 1951 when he joined the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Canadian Junior Hockey League for a single playoff game. He returned to the Oil Kings for the next two seasons, scoring 67 points in 33 games in 1954 and went on to win the prestigious Memorial Cup, before moving up to the Edmonton Flyers of the Western Hockey League for the 1954-55 season, scoring 30 goals and 88 points in 70 games.
Buyck while with the Edmonton Oil Kings
That performance earned Bucyk his chance to debut in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings in 1955. Life in the NHL was not the same, as Bucyk competed in 38 games and managed just a single goal and eight assists for nine points. In his second season in Detroit he fared better, scoring 10 goals in 66 games.
A rare shot of Bucyk in a Red Wings jersey
That would prove to be the end of Bucyk's time in Detroit however, as he was traded to the Boston Bruins when the Red Wings reacquired goaltender Terry Sawchuk, whom they had dealt to Boston just two years prior.
His arrival in Boston back in 1957 would begin an affiliation with the organization that continues today, more than 50 years later. While it looked at first that Bucyk had arrived in Boston at a good time, evidenced by going to the Stanley Cup Finals in his first season in Boston, things would quickly turn sour for the club following a first round elimination in the 1959 playoffs, as the Bruins would spend the majority of the 1960's out of the playoffs, missing the postseason eight consecutive years, five of which were as the league's doormat buried in last place waiting for the arrival of Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito.
An early Bucyk hockey card following his trade to Boston
Still, Bucyk's personal numbers were incredibly consistent throughout, as eight of his ten seasons were between 52 and 66 points. During that period, Bucyk, a big player for his era a 6', 215 lbs., led the Bruins in scoring in 1962, 1963, 1965 and 1967, a season in which he was team captain.
1966-67 was also the season that the Bruins would begin to climb out of the depths with the arrival of Orr, followed by Esposito the following season. Bucyk would never again lead the Bruins in scoring, but the arrival of Orr and Esposito would ignite a scoring revolution that would propel Bucyk to personal bests never before imagined.
In a hilarious photo, Johnny Bucyk poses with goaltender Eddie Johnston and Bobby Orr as they pose with pucks indicating their career goal totals, Bucyk having just reached 300, Johnston still stuck at zero and Orr at 78
Esposito's first season with Boston saw Bucyk reach 30 goals for the first time ever and eclipse his personal best season total with 69 points as the Bruins returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 1950s. Two seasons later he would equal the 69 points, but raise his goal total to 31. During the postseason, 11 more goals would follow as Bucyk scored 19 points in 14 games as the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup in 29 years. As the Bruins had no captain from 1967 to 1973, Bucyk, as the assistant captain with the greatest seniority, was the first to hoist the cup during the championship celebration.
Bucyk raises the 1970 Stanley Cup
1970-71 was a memorable one for Bucyk, as he would join the exclusive ranks of the 50 goal scorers, as he became the only the fifth player to accomplish the feat, only to be overshadowed by teammate Esposito's record shattering 76 that same season. Bucyk added 65 assists to surpass the 100 point mark for the only time in his career with 116 as Bruins Esposito (152), Orr (139), Bucyk and Ken Hodge (105) finished 1-2-3-4 in league scoring! When it came time to hand out the hardware at the conclusion of the season, Bucyk was named the recipient of the Lady Byng Trophy thanks to his season total of a mere 8 penalty minutes in 78 games.
This card commemorates Bucyk's first Lady Byng Trophy
Although his personal point totals were all down somewhat, his 83 points were still his second best season to date, his 20 points in 15 playoff games were key to the Bruins capturing the second Stanley Cup of Bucyk's career in 1972.
His offensive numbers would rise once more in 1972-73 when Bucyk scored 40 goals for only the second time in his career and his 53 assists propelled him to a 93 point season, including a goal and an assist scored on this date in 1972 in a 8-3 win over the Red Wings in Boston, giving Bucyk 1,000 career points, only the seventh player to reach that illustrious total.
He was again named team captain of the Bruins in 1973, a position he would hold until 1977. Following his 116 point season in 1971, Bucyk was a very consistent, productive player, averaging 83 points per season, and never below 75. 1973-74 saw the Bruins again return to the Stanley Cup Finals and Bucyk collect the second Lady Byng Trophy of his career after again finishing with just 9 penalty minutes. Amazingly, Bucyk was not awarded the Lady Byng in 1972, a season in which he was penalized a total of just 4 minutes, a mark equalled by the winner Jean Ratelle.
On October 30, 1975, Bucyk would again join an exclusive club when he became only the seventh player to reach 500 career goals, a tribute to his longevity, as he reached the 500 goal plateau in his 1,370th game. Of the 41 players to date to reach 500 goals, only Ron Francis would anyone require more games than Bucyk with 1533. Bucyk scored 20 goals or more in 16 of his 23 seasons.
Bucyk celebrates his 500th goal
He would play two more seasons before retiring at the age of 42 due to chronic back problems as the Bruins all-time leader in goals (556), assists (813) and points (1,369) as well as career games with 1,540. He was also the fourth leading scorer of all-time as well as the leading scorer among left wings and third in games played at the of his retirement.
The Bruins retired his #9 on March 13, 1980 and became a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981.
Today's featured jersey is a 1973-74 Boston Bruins Johnny Bucyk jersey, as worn the season Bucyk won his second Lady Byng Trophy.
This jersey features the Bruins 50th Anniversary patch, the first commemorative patch of the modern era. The last patch worn on an NHL jersey prior to the Bruins 50th Anniversary patch was back in 1951-52, a gap of 22 seasons. By the end of the decade ten more patches had been added to NHL jerseys, including the arrival of the memorial patch, first worn by the Philadelphia Flyers in in 1977 for Barry Ashbee.
Today's video segment begins with Johnny Bucyk Night in Boston, when the celebrate his 50 years with the organization.
Here, Bucyk scores a goal on February 25, 1971, igniting a Bruins outburst that results in the three fastest goals in NHL history at just a lightning fast 20 seconds!
Finally, a profile of Bucyk from the excellent Legends of Hockey series.