Well, I'm almost a quarter of the way through my month of documentary viewing. Things have progressed well - and quick. While it is time consuming, I am really enjoying this trek.
Today is the first time hockey makes an appearance on the list of films. I wanted to hunt down a couple titles only because out of all the sports - hockey would be the one for me.
Problem is, I've seen a lot of them. So finding this doc in the mix was nice. I was able to really sit back, and look forward to some great hockey history (even if the focus wasn't my team).
Today's film - The History Of The Boston Bruins
Rated: NR (but is suitable for hockey fans of all ages)
"In conjunction with the 85th anniversary of the Boston Bruins, NHL Studios tells the story of the revered Original Six franchise. With rich tradition, a parade of vibrant characters, a legendary home arena, and a passionate fan base, Boston has been the flash point of some of the National Hockey League's most important events over the last century. With five Stanley Cup championships, the Bruins provided Boston with some magical moments, and created a rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens that is among the fiercest in sports. Legendary greats like Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Ray Bourque, and Cam Neely have all worn the Spoked B. And then there was the Boston Garden, a cathedral among arenas that had as much character as the Bruins' most intriguing personalities. Through archival images, game footage, rare film clips, and exclusive interviews, NHL Studios tells the history of the Boston Bruins, one of hockey's greatest franchises. This is their story. This is their history. This is the Boston Bruins." (source: Amazon)
Link to the film - I watched it online via Youtube
Produced by NHL Studios, I knew this doc would have a lot thrown at it. There should be no reason why there would be any archive footage (both photos and videos) lacking. And this hour and a half didn't disappoint. What came ahead was a 90-minute train of history. Non-stop from their birth into the league all the way up to the current crop (keeping in mind this was done in 2009...before their recent Stanley Cup win. Boy that would have been a glorious way to cap off the film).
The opening montage showcased some great names, great clips and definitely got me in the mood for some hockey history. I feel I know my Bruins history fairly well from the Orr era on so the first third of the film was really an eye-opener and made me appreciate where the true history of the franchise lay.
By the way...it was great to see Fred Cusick being interviewed for this doc. His voice will forever be linked to the franchise in my mind. Fantastic!
I learned today that Boston was the very first US team brought in to the NHL. At the time, there were just 4 Canadian teams and breaking through in the States was a natural move. Even more natural was putting a franchise in Boston.
And the first big Bruins star in Boston was Eddie Shore. He put the Bruins on the map with his tough play and tremendous talent. There are some great photos of him from his playing days and of course some time was taken to discuss the Ace Bailey story. We think players get injured these days. On more than a few occasions back then players were literally on death's door. And Bailey was just one instance. The famous photo of Shore and Bailey shaking hands will go down as one of the all-time great photos in hockey history.
From Shore, we shift to the 'Kraut Line' consisting of Schmidt, Dumart and Bauer. They, along with goalie Frank 'Mr. Zero' Brimsek developed the start of one of the greatest rivalries in hockey history - Boston vs. Montreal.
World War II was discussed and I learned that all three members of the 'Kraut Line' went to serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force. On Feb. 10, 1942 they played their last game before reporting for duty. Playing the Canadiens in Montreal, they were given a royal sendoff when both teams lifted the three players above their shoulders after the game. The fans in Montreal gave them a rousing ovation. What a great story and some great footage of the event.
In the 50's the rivalry continued, but the Bruins just couldn't seem to get over the hump. Constantly one-upped by Montreal, Boston made some team changes to try and improve the team. Trading a young netminder named Terry Sawchuk, they brought in Johnny Bucyk from Detroit and quickly formed the 'Uke Line' with Vic Stasiuk and Bronco Horvath. The re-building of the team continued.
The doc goes into detail about Willie O'Ree - the first black player ever to play in the NHL. He talks about how that moment was the greates of his career and the importance of the even is not overshadowed. Some great interview footage of O'Ree from the time is featured.
1966. For any Bruins fan, that year is probably the most important in history. That's the year Bobby Orr came into the league and for the next decade he dominated in a way no player had before him. In fact, the NHL decided to expand to 12 teams because of Bobby Orr. His popularity alone would draw in fans in these new cities. Amazing.
And he didn't disappoint. When the Bruins finally added the finishing pieces to their championship puzzle (a trade for Phil Esposito, Fred Stanfield and Ken Hodge from Chicago), they knew they could truly make a run at the Stanley Cup.
The footage from the 70's is fantastic. Great pace and flow to the doc at this point and hearing the players talk about those days really made me sit back and relish the events.
And while they discuss THE GOAL, they also backtrack and talk about the Wayne Maki/Ted Green incident. Bookending it with his appearance on the ice during the Cup presentation.
The Big Bad Bruins were on a roll. With Cheevers backstopping Boston to a 32-game undefeated streak to the swan song Stanley Cup win, you knew things were going to change when Don Cherry entered the fray.
Trading both Phil Esposito (to get Jean Ratelle and Brad Park) and Bobby Orr, the Bruins took on a whole new "lunch pail" look. The grit and toughness in the play was highlighted with 11 players scoring 20 or more goals in the 77/78 season. An absolutely amazing feat. Led by Terry O'Reilly and his heart and dedication, the underdog Bruins had one heck of a playoff series with Montreal in 1979. I won't dwell on how that ended, but we all know it was the end of the Don Cherry era.
Orr's jersey retirement ushered in a new era - and his name was Ray Bourque. A huge weight was put on his shoulders (considering he also wore Phil's #7 to start his career) but he was more than ready for it.
I loved hearing the names Pete Peeters, Rick Middleton, Barry Pederson. These guys, along with Bourque, were the first real Boston names I connected with as a kid. I never saw Orr or Esposito play but these guys in the early 80's were fun to watch.
And no Bruins story would be complete without mentioning Normand Leveille. Man I would have loved to have seen what he could have done in the NHL. So talented.
Now for the not-so-fun part of the show. The worst trade in NHL history. Barry Pederson gets shipped to Vancouver for.....Cam Neely. Ouch. But it was this trade that opened up some room for Bourque to become a superstar.
A great story was told about Phil Esposito's jersey retirement and how Ray decided to change his number to 77...without telling anybody. Phil was stunned by the move and Ray said it was the first time Phil was ever speechless. I believe him.
Neely is shown becoming the prototype for the "power forward". In fact, that moniker came to be because of Cam Neely. An amazing talent who's rugged style of play ultimately ended his career early. But not before wowing the Boston faithful with a tremendous season scoring 50 goals in less than 50 games played.
1988 and the Bruins finally knock Montreal out of the playoffs for the first time in decades. They go to the finals where they face the Edmonton Oilers. A crazy game four is highlighted when the lights literally go out in Boston causing the game to be replayed entirely in Edmonton. The Oilers get an unorthodox sweep on home ice. Two years later, a rematch. The Bruins feel they are primed to win but a devastating loss in game 1 (a triple OT heartbreaker by Petr Klima) gave all the momentum to Edmonton.
The final portion of the doc talks about the closing of the Boston Gardens (I remember seeing that one on TV) and the legends pouring onto the ice for one last skate. The tears were flowing mightily when Normand Leveille was brought out by Ray Bourque to participate. I got goosebumps watching that - even now.
A quick tribute to Bourque and Neely as their jerseys are retired and we get into the current crop of stars. Lucic, Bergeron, Thomas, Chara. As I mentioned, it's just before they break through and win the Cup. But you could see how special the team was even at that time. All the pieces of the puzzle were there.
Whew. That's was a lot to take in over 90 minutes. And I did enjoy it. But with all the positives come a couple of criticisms.
I was very surprised to not hear the names Andy Moog and Joe Thornton one single time during the entire film. I think their impact to Boston's franchise shouldn't have been overlooked. I realize that you can't fit everyone into the show, but they were a glaring omission to me.
Because there was so much content to go through, the pace was sometimes too much. I wanted to sit and relish certain events a little longer. Orr's goal, Esposito's accomplishments, Bourque. It was all a little "surface skimming" at times.
But there's no denying they got a lot in there. A ton of interviews representing a good portion of Bruins history. Add to that some of the key media folks of the time (and did I mention Fred Cusick...nice).
If you're a Bruins fan, this is required viewing. If you're a hockey fan, this would be a fun watch. A good solid doc that will take your mind off the current ongoing lockout. You'll be begging for hockey after watching this.
3 out of 5
Here are some other reviews I found online for the film...
(again...not much out there)
A Piece of Hockey History
54 minutes ago