Current-day Boston Bruins fans who are younger than 40 years old or have a weak grasp of history might be astonished when looking at Ken Hodge’s NHL career and realizing that he twice scored a career-high 105 points in a season and wasn’t in the Bruins’ top two in point production.
That tells you all need to know not only about Hodge’s abilities but also the greatness of those “Big, Bad Bruins” clubs that won the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972 led by the likes of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and Johnny Bucyk. Maybe a bit overshadowed during his nine seasons in black and gold, Hodge will get his due this week when he is part of the 8th Annual Tradition, which is The Sports Museum’s induction ceremony for its Hall of Fame.
Hodge will be inducted as part of a seven-person class Wednesday night at TD Banknorth Garden at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are still available. Along with Hodge, Curt Schilling, Troy Brown, Sam Jones, Nancy Kerrigan, Jack Parker and Jerry York will be honored.
“First of all, it was a shock when they nominated me and asked me to accept the induction into the New England Sports Museum. I’m very proud of the honor and very humbled by it,” Hodge recently told The BruinsBlog.net.
Hodge will be presented by fellow Bruins legend Milt Schmidt, who as general manager brought the right winger to Boston as part of one of the all-time most lopsided trades in sports history. Hodge came in a package that was highlighted by Esposito and Fred Stanfield in return for Gilles Marotte, Jack Norris and Pit Martin. Hodge, who had scored just 16 goals in his first two full seasons with the Blackhawks, averaged 32 goals per year with the Bruins. Schmidt played a huge role in Hodge’s emergence, both by importing him to the Hub and being there with tutelage when needed.
“What can I say? There’s the gentleman that made it all possible by putting trade together with the Chicago Blackhawks. I don’t think he gets enough credit — very, very honestly — in the city for what he accomplished as the general manager of the team at the time,” said Hodge. “Making the trade for Esposito and Stanfield and Hodge and putting together two Stanley Cups for New England.”
“Just a class gentleman, a class act, somebody that I looked up to, I admired what he did in the NHL,” Hodge continued. “But more than that, I respected and admired what he did away from the game. His charitable work and doing stuff in New England and just being ready and available anytime you wanted to talk to him, get advice on your game or your play or anything like that — Milt was always available.”
In addition to the impressive stats those Bruins teams put up, another tribute to how great those clubs were is that more than 30 years later, Hodge still has some regrets that there are only two Stanley Cup banners hanging from the rafters from that era.
“The ’71 season is probably the biggest disappointment that I think we had collectively as a team and as a team effort,” he explained. “I still think back on the ’71 season where we set all those records production-wise. Four guys scoring over 100 points. … We just reflect back and we say, ‘hey, what could’ve been; what should’ve been.’ Montreal, they had a pretty good team. Everybody says we were better. They had a pretty good team with (Ken) Dryden, (Serge) Savard, (Guy) Lapointe. They had a pretty good team themselves. I just wished we accomplished what we set out to accomplish.”
Those regrets, however, do nothing to diminish the two Cups the Bruins captured.
“I think it means more today. This is not a slap at the current Bruins … basically, they haven’t won since. So there’s a little bitter sweetness there. … You’re part of history,” said Hodge.
Of course, in recent seasons, the Bruins have made strides toward changing that history. This year they finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and won a playoff series for the first time in 10 years. Their core is mostly signed for the long haul and the farm system is well-stocked. Hodge, who has now lived in Lynnfield, Mass., for 40 years, follows the club’s fortune as closely as he can with all his other responsibilities (including his printing company) and he gives high marks to the current Bruins.
“I think it’s great. I think they got short-changed a little bit this year. I think they could’ve gone deeper into the playoffs,” said Hodge. “They had the team. I think (GM) Peter Chiarelli and (head coach) Claude (Julien) have done a terrific job with the players that they surround themselves with. It’s nice to see. It brought hockey back to the area and I think there’s a resurgence as far as the fans are concerned. I think they’re becoming believers.”
The modern-day Bruins would love to achieve the things Hodge and his Bruins managed three decades ago. And as individuals, they can only dream to match Hodge’s statistical contributions and his newly acquired Hall-of-Fame status.