Wednesday, May 16, 2012
After a prolific junior career with the Flin Flon Bombers, which included being the WCJHL Goal Scoring Leader in 1968 with 87 goals in only 59 games, and the Goal Scoring Leader, Leading Scorer and Player of the Year in 1970 after a season in which he scored 65 goals and 111 points, Reggie Leach was drafted 3rd overall by the Boston Bruins in the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft.
Still in need of seasoning, as well as facing the task of trying to crack the deep lineup of the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins, Leach split time in the 1970-71 season between the Oklahoma City Blazers of the CHL, scoring 42 points in 41 games, and the Bruins, with whom he played 23 games, scoring just 2 goals, giving little clue as to what would follow.
He would make the Bruins lineup out of training camp and see action in 56 games before a trade to the perpetually struggling California Golden Seals, missing out on the Bruins eventual Stanley Cup later that year.
With the Seals, Leach played a larger role, evidenced by nearly equalling his 7 goals with the Bruins when he scored 6 in just 17 games. He would play two more seasons with the Seals, recording 20 goal seasons in 1972-73 and 1973-74 with 23 followed by 22.
Leach, wearing the notorious white skates of the Golden Seals
Leach was then traded once again, this time to the Philadelphia Flyers, who paid a steep price, two players and their first round draft pick for just Leach. While Philadelphia was the defending Stanley Cup champions themselves in 1974-75, Leach had no issues trying to crack their lineup as he had with Boston four years earlier. He would play all 80 games for the Flyers, doubling his 22 goals to 45 and raising his 46 points to 78 for third in Flyers scoring behind Bobby Clarke (116 points) and Rick MacLeish, one ahead with 79.
Philadelphia would then sweep the Toronto Maple Leafs, outlast the New York Islanders in seven and defeat the Buffalo Sabres 4 games to 2 to defend their championship.
Leach raised his game to a new level in 1975-76 when he led the entire NHL in goals with 61, beating runner up Guy Lafleur by 5. He added 30 assists to give him a career high 91 points that season. Trying for their third consecutive Stanley Cup, the Flyers again ousted the Maple Leafs, this time in seven, and eliminated the Bruins in five to return to the finals once again. The contrast in styles between the rough and rugged Flyers and the slick and smooth skating Montreal Canadiens could not have been greater, and the Canadiens prevailed after winning four straight games.
Leach had produced a masterful, dominating individual performance though, leading all scorers with 19 goals and 5 assists in 16 games for a total of 24 points. No one was even in the same league as Leach, as his 19 goals led the second leading goal scorer, the Bruins Jean Ratelle, by 11 goals! His 10 game goal scoring streak and 19 playoff goals in one season set NHL records which still stand today.
In one memorable Semifinal game, Leach single handedly eliminated the Bruins in Game 5 with an NHL playoff record five goal performance in a 6-3 win. Despite the Stanley Cup loss, Leach was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy on this date in 1976, only the third player since 1965 to be awarded the trophy from a losing team, and 35 years later, still the only non-goaltender from a losing team to win the award.
Prior to the start of the following NHL season, Leach had the honor of playing for Team Canada during the inaugural Canada Cup tournament in September of 1976.
He would play six more seasons with the Flyers, which included a 50 goal season in 1979-80, seventh in the league and just 6 back of the league leaders Blaine Stoughton and Danny Gare's 56. His goal scoring was a contributing factor in the Flyers 35 game unbeaten streak that season. Philadelphia again returned to the Stanley Cup Finals as Leach chipped in 9 goals and 16 points in 19 games.
After his eight total seasons with Philadelphia, never scoring less than 24 goals, Leach's career would wind down with one season as a free agent signing with the Detroit Red Wings and a season with the Montana Magic of the CHL.
In all, Leach would play 934 NHL games while scoring 381 goals and 666 point, two NHL All-Star Games in 1976 and again as the game's MVP in 1980, as well as his name on the Stanley Cup and his remarkable Conn Smythe Trophy. He was inducted into the Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Fame in 1992.
Today's featured jersey is a 1980-81 Philadelphia Flyers Reggie Leach jersey. This basic Flyers jersey with it's full-length sleeve stripes which then wrap around the arms down by the wrists has been in use throughout Flyers history since the very first day. Bold, black trim was added to the jersey in the early 1980's, but when this orange style was brought back as an alternate jersey in 2008, complete with the contrasting nameplate look of the early 1970's, the clock was reset, as the black trim was no longer there.
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1981-82 Philadelphia Flyers Reggie Leach jersey from the following season. Note the absence of the white waist stripe, which was eliminated to create a longer, taller look when the sweater was paired with the new full length pants, commonly referred to as "Cooperalls" (despite being a similar CCM product), which had a vertical stripe which ran down the entire leg in 1981-82.
Today's video segment begins with Leach scoring his record setting five goals in one playoff game against the Bruins, which paved the way for his winning the Conn Smythe Trophy later that season.
Next, here is Leach sharing his excitement about playing in the 2012 Winter Classic Alumni Game.