The Bruins are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their 1970 Stanley Cup victory this week, culminating with the premier of "The 1970 Bruins: Big, Bad & Bobby" on NHL Network Sunday at 8 p.m.
(Related: Bobby Orr will be joining Dale and Keefe Friday at noon.)
Generally when the building of that 1970 team is discussed, two major events are cited as the foundation: the arrival of an 18-year-old Orr in 1966 and the one-sided 1967 blockbuster trade with the Blackhawks that brought Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield to Boston.
But there was another massive trade a decade earlier, in 1957, that landed the Bruins not just another crucial part of those teams, but their future captain and all-time leading goal-scorer: John Bucyk.
Bucyk was just 22 at the time and was coming off a modest 10-goal, 21-point season, but the Bruins took a chance on his upside and acquired him straight-up for goalie Terry Sawchuk.
It was the second trade in two years the two teams had made involving Sawchuk, as the Red Wings had surprisingly decided to trade the future Hall of Famer at his peak in 1955, just after winning a third Stanley Cup in four years, because they had Glenn Hall ready to replace him (the very same Glenn Hall who would be in net for the Blues when Orr scored his famous Cup-winning goal in 1970). But in just two years, Sawchuk had fallen out of favor in Boston and Detroit had taken a step back and come to regret the trade, thus a second swap.
Sawchuk never quite got back to his early-50s form, and the Red Wings wouldn't win another Stanley Cup until 1997. For the Bruins, meanwhile, the trade paid both immediate and long-term dividends.
Bucyk more than doubled his goal and point output in his first season with the Bruins in 1957-58 while playing on the top line, the "Uke Line," with Vic Stasiuk and Bronco Horvath. The team reached the Stanley Cup Final that year, but lost to the Canadiens in six games.
On a call with media Wednesday, Bucyk reflected on the trade that brought him to Boston and how his linemates -- who had also been his linemates a few years earlier in juniors -- made the transition much easier for him.
"I was only in Detroit for two years. I didn’t get much ice time," Bucyk said. "I was a little worried when I first came to Boston, but I was coming to Boston and I was going to play with Vic and Bronco Horvath, who I had played with back in Edmonton in the minors. That made it really easy and comfortable. I had players that I had played with before. I just fit right in. I got in and they put us together. (General manager) Lynn Patrick and (coach) Milt Schmidt just put the three of us back together, and we played well as a youth line."
It would be a long wait for Bucyk to get back to the Stanley Cup Final, though. The Bruins fell on tough times in the 60s, missing the playoffs eight straight years from 1960-67. Bucyk was the team's leading scorer four times during that stretch and one of the only consistent bright spots, but it would take the Orr signing, Esposito-Hodge-Stanfield trade and a few other key moves for the Bruins to finally have enough around him to compete.
When they broke through and ended the Bruins' 29-year Cup drought with Orr flying through the air on May 10, 1970, the then-34-year-old Bucyk got to carry the Cup around the ice as the team's de facto (but not official) captain. He was the team's fourth-leading scorer that season, and his best seasons points-wise were still to come.
"Skating with the Cup was a thrill," Bucyk said. "I was honored and very happy to be able to do that. The Cup weighs 35 pounds, but at that moment it probably weighs five pounds. It was a great, great thrill and I was honored to be able to do it.
"...It was really great, because we had eight years where we never even made the playoffs. To come back and see the team changing, you could see the wheel turning with Bobby coming of course, and the big trade with Espositio, Hodge and Stanfield. You just felt the team’s going to improve, you’re going to win the Cup, and we did. We won it two years. We should’ve won it in 1971, too. I thought we had a better team in ’71. But we did win it in ’70 and that was probably one of the highlights of my career because it was the first time that we won it, and we won it in Boston for our fans, who had waited a long time."