As many of you know--and as the patches on the 2013-2014 Bruins' jerseys remind us--this season is the 90th in franchise history. 90 years, man, all without a name change or shift in location. That traditional present for 90 years is (*checks the google machine*) granite, apparently, so plan your gifts accordingly.
Along the way of these 90 glorious (and not so glorious) years, there have been quite a few other anniversaries. There was the 50th and 75th, both always a big deal. There was the 5th, which was notable for signifying an increasingly stable franchise in a city that loved the team. Then there was the 20th anniversary of the Boston Bruins, which came during the 1943-1944 season.
Much has been written about hockey during WWII, both here at this blog and by people far more eloquent and knowledgeable than I. The thinning of the player ranks as more and more Canadians and Americans enlisted to fight overseas has been well-documented, as has the emergence of players who, during peacetime, might never have had the opportunity to play hockey at the professional level.
And so it was that in the 20th year of their existence that the Bruins found themselves icing a squad that consisted of folks like 32 year old Frank Boll who, though a legit NHLer, was about to play his last season in the NHL. There was also rookie Tom Brennan, who would go on to play only 1 NHL game beyond that season, and Norm Calladine, who had played one whole season in the NHL prior to 43-44. Pat Egan was a former serviceman playing for the first time in the NHL in over a year, and awesomely named Bep Guidolin, who at that point had played in the NHL for year, and would enlist immediately at the end of the 1944 season before going on to have a longer NHL career.
And then there was my favorite, 18 year-old Don "Gabby" Gallinger. An Ontario-native, Gallinger was one year out from his rookie season with the Bruins, and was one of the youngest players on the team. He's also the dude who, along with Billy Taylor, was banned from the NHL for life after being caught betting on his own team. While that ban was eventually lifted, he served 22 years--the longest NHL suspension to date.
This motley crew was rounded out by some veterans, of course: at 36, Dit Clapper was still a force to be reckoned with, and Bill Cowley, Jack Crawford, Harvey Jackson, and Bruins point-leader Herb Cain were kicking around as well. Still, this Bruins team, like all the others around the league, felt the effect of the war in terms of the talent it was able to ice.
The mish-mosh nature of the roster showed in the results, as well: the Bruins went 19-26-5 over the season, missing the playoffs altogether, all while operating under the specter of a war that threatened the globe.A bit of a weird and anxious time to celebrate the founding of the franchise, for sure.
As it turns out, like many events in North America during this period, anniversary celebrations were put in the context of world events.
The Bruins' 20th anniversary home opener was against--who else--the Montreal Canadiens, and rather than highlight the glorious history of the previous two decades, both teams decided to dedicate the event to the Greater Boston United War Fund. The Bruins had decided to donate all money from the game to the War Fund, and to expand the event considerably:
It is for the cause that Joe Cronin and Don Gallinger will throw baseballs at a net; that Charlie Peterson will shoot a billiard ball the length of the ice; that Eddie Doherty, Charlie O'Rourke and Harvard's Bill Henry will pitch forward passes; that there will be figure skating exhibitions by 10-year-old Sandylee Weille, Doris Shuback and Walter Noffke.
It is for the cause, and their place in the staning, that Bruins will strain every muscle to bear the hitherto unbeaten Les Canadiens, "the best Canadiens team in the last 8 years," Art Ross said yesterday.
-Boston Globe, November 16, 1943
In the midst of an anniversary worth remembering, the realities of wartime and the ever-generous nature of the hockey community led to two teams putting on a show (in more ways than one) to benefit those serving in the war. Despite the nonsense that would be the rest of the Bruins' season that year, the Bruins contributed when and where it mattered most.
70 years later, the hockey world continues to be a source of pride and entertainment for its fans, and in my opinion, a place where good is often done both on and off the ice. It's nice sometimes to reflect on that--whether it be on current good works or on those done on the occasion of the Bruins' 20th.
Happy Anniversary, Bruins. Still looking good, after all these years.