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OTBH: Like a Flash (Hollett)

An Olde Tymey Bruins Defensman Story.

Flash Hollett is cooler than you.
Flash Hollett is cooler than you.

(Note: This one's for Cornelius.)

There's been an awful lot of talk about great Bruins players of yore around SCoC of late. Cornelius regaled us with stories about olde tymey Bruins who also played for the Ottawa Senators (original edition), and Sarah gave us two glorious posts on the greatest Bruins to suit up based on their place of origin.

It's been pretty awesome, I can't lie. Even more awesome (awesomer?) was the way one name kept cropping up, a name we don't talk about nearly enough here at Chowdah. So I am hereby officially proclaiming today at OTBH (Frank) (William) Flash Hollett day!

Born in North Sydney, Nova Scotia in 1911 (or 1912, depending on who you ask), Hollett began his professional playing career during the 1932-1933 season, suiting up for the Syracuse Stars of the IHL. He broke into the NHL the following season, playing 34 games (30 for the Senators on loan, 4 for the Leafs (to whom he actually belonged)). He had 7 goals and 4 assists over the course of those games -- not spectacular, but nothing to be sad about in one's rookie season, either.

Hollett put up 26 points in 48 games the next season for Toronto, in the process demonstrating quickness and agility with the puck -- one might even call him a "puck-moving defenseman," if one was so inclined. His continued success the following year convinced the Bruins of his ability, in any case, and in January 1936 Boston purchased him from Toronto for the tidy sum of $12,500 (or 16,000 -- again, it depends on who you ask). History would prove that Hollett was a smart investment for the Bruins -- but now I'm getting ahead of myself.

First let's talk about reaction in Boston to the transaction. The Globe reported that the acquisition of Hollett was part of the Bruins' playoff push that season, and called him "one of the most promising players in the National Hockey League." Despite coming off an injury (broken wrist), Hollett promised to bring some more jump to a Shore-anchored Boston blue line -- which was something the Bruins had apparently been seeking for some time, as their pursuit of Hollett had begun almost a year before when they offered $15,000 to the Leafs for him.

The Leafs, understandably, were loathe to let him go. They discovered him, after all, and did so as all good hockey players are discovered: while he was playing lacrosse.

Yes, young Hollett was quite the avid player of Canada's national sport. In 1932, a Maple Leaf Gardens sponsored professional lacrosse team tried to get Hollett on board. At the time, he was a bit of a star at the amateur level, and he was interested -- but only if he also got a tryout for Toronto's professional hockey team, as well. He got his wish, and was playing professional hockey that same year.

The Globe reported this whole story with a great deal of glee: it was clear that the Boston media felt that had gotten something special in Hollett. And not just his playing ability, either. Hollett was a character, the kind of player that makes for as good a quote as product on the ice. The Globe reported the following story on Toronto manager Conn Smythe's initial reaction to Hollett:

"Smythe didn't take to Hollett's hockey ability immediately, but he liked the youngster's cockiness and belief in himself. He sent ‘Flash' to Syracuse where ‘Mickey' Roach, the old English High youth, was manager.

Hollett's greeting to Roach was, ‘Well, Mr. Roach, I'm just the guy you're looking for to complete your squad.'"

Cockiness. Ability. Boston wanted everything Hollett had on offer, and he certainly did not disappoint. The facts are fairly well known: two Stanley Cups with the Bruins, the highest goals scored by a defenseman for 25 years (until Mr. Orr came along). He got better and better with the Bruins, and in the wartime-depleted era of the early 1940s, he was unstoppable. They called him hockey's ‘Dizzy Dean', and he was a "beautifully built young athlete," by all accounts (thanks for that, Boston Globe!). He retired from the NHL after the 1945-1946 season (though he played a few more years in Senior Leagues) having posted a lifetime total of 132-181-313 in 562 games played.

Hollett didn't just play for the Bruins, obviously, but of those 562 games the majority were played in black and gold. In the pantheon of really badass olde tymey Bruins, he deserves top billing, for sure. So today is Flash Hollett day, guys: a Bruins Defenseman (and Nova Scotia native!) for the ages.