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Olde Timey Boston Hockey: Crossing 'Enemy' Lines in Wartime

Or, how the 1941-1942 Bruins shared a beloved player with the Montreal Canadiens.

Rivalries, man.

Those connections between rival teams born out of shared battles.The teams in question may have a common history of chippiness, or playoff shenanigans, or a deep animosity based in the defection of a franchise player to that team's most hated opponent (looking your way, Jagr). For Boston fans, of course, no rivalry is quite as delicious and history-filled as the one with the love-to-hate-'em Montreal Canadiens.

Heck, they've even shared players.

And no, I'm not talking about a player leaving one team and signing with the other. I mean that they've literally shared players. The way you share a hoodie with a bro when they get cold, but when you demand it be returned after they've had for months, your bro doesn't even bother washing it before they give it back. Like THAT.

Gather ‘round, my friends, and let's return to the hero of the last OTBH post, the sparkplug-y Terry Reardon. Or, as I like to call him, "Wait, you're making me play for who this season?" Reardon. It's a pet name.

The story goes like this: after triumphantly winning the Cup in 1941, Reardon headed back to Canada for the summer, like any good Canadian boy. I can only assume that a cottage was involved. And fishing. If only instagram had been invented, we'd know for sure, I suppose.

The fall of 1941 brought another Bruins training camp (insert sad-lockout trombone here), and the Bruins were widely believed to have a strong shot at repeating. The entire Cup squad was back, after all: Dit Clapper! Milt Schmidt! American hero Frank Brimsek! But as local newspapers started ramping up their coverage of camp, one side note was repeated over and over again - ‘the entire championship team, minus Terry Reardon, took to the ice...'

Wait, what? Where was Terrible Terry? As the newspapers pointed out, Reardon was facing ‘passport issues' which might make him miss the first few days of camp, but was slated to join the team soon. As the regular season approached, though, Reardon's immigration problems appeared to be more serious, with one paper asserting that "none of the Bruins' management dares predict the outcome" of his struggle to get back to Boston.

So what was a young, feisty hockey player to do? What was the team who was counting on him to help win another Stanley Cup to do, for that matter? Offer him up to your team's most hated rival, apparently. As you do.

Here's how it went down: in early November, passport issues ongoing, the Bruins ‘traded' (read: lent) Reardon to the Canadiens for the duration of the 1941-1942 season. While there, he would be allowed to play all Montreal home games, as well as the four games that the Canadiens were scheduled to play in Toronto. In exchange, the Bruins acquired the temporary services of Paul Gauthier, the Habs' backup netminder (then playing in the American League). Now, as we know from our earlier exploration of Reardon's story, he was actually able to cross the border at least once, for the February 1942 Kraut Line farewell game. But even for that, he had to get a special 48-hour pass to come to the States. From Canada.

So what's behind all this? Why were the Bruins forced to lend one of their beloved players to the hated Habs? What the heck kind of ‘passport issue' could Reardon have been having that didn't apply to the roughly 523 other Canadians playing on that Bruins team?

Well, as with so many things, this story is also embedded within the fabric of World War II. See, in 1940, Canada passed the National Resources and Mobilization Act, which gave the Canadian government the right to call up men and women and to corral physical resources in the service of the country and military, so long as none of the people were actually sent overseas -- at the time, Canada had no draft law requiring people to physically fight in the war. Among other things, the Act restricted what sort of jobs civilians could take and made employers responsible for reporting information on their workers to the government. These restrictions applied particularly to men between the ages of 21 and 25.

Another effect of the Act was to limit the movement of eligible men -- and as a result, limit the number of men who were able to obtain passports. Many American NHL teams lost players because of this situation, with the New York Americans being hit especially hard. Boston's only player directly impacted by NRMA was Terry Reardon. Reardon was 22 at the time, the perfect age to be subject to the restrictions created by the Act. On the other hand, so was Schmidt (23), and he was definitely allowed to play. Maybe Reardon needed a new passport, and so that new application got held up? He was from Winnipeg, Schmidt from Kitchener, maybe there were provincial differences? Maybe Terrible Terry was too filled with vim and vigour, and Canada wanted him all to itself???

We may never know the full story, here -- like the U.S., Canada does not keep records of the majority of passport applications -- but it seems like to have been related to the passage of NRMA. When we think of the ways in which the War affected hockey as a sport, we often think about the guys, both Canadian and American, who went overseas to fight, . But there's this whole other category of players who couldn't play full/normal seasons because of new types of government involvement in civilians' lives as a result of the ongoing conflict. The idea that men of a certain age were denied passports in part because they might be needed to serve on the homefront is a pretty fascinating one - and in fact, Reardon (and many like him) worked at an aircraft plant on top of playing hockey during the years he was unable to re-enter the U.S.

Ok, ok, Canadian wartime history aside, let's focus on what's really wacky about this story: dude, the Bruins let the Canadiens BORROW one of their players! Don't worry, though: the Bruins didn't lose in regulation to the Canadiens the entire season, going 6-1-1. So even though this is just a footnote in the history of one player's career, it's also a neat look into yet another way the Bruins and Canadiens have been linked over the years. May that linkage never dissipate, guys: as I said before, it's delicious.

(For more on wartime collaboration between the Habs and the B's, check out this excellent piece from a couple years back on EOTP! It's awesome, well-researched stuff.)