In the spirit of March brackets, Boston.com has launched one of its own: Readers are voting to determine who is Boston’s greatest athlete of all time. The #GOATMadness bracket carries a 64-athlete field, so vote now.
The Bruins – like other Boston teams – carry a rich history. They were the first American team to join the NHL in 1924, and are six-time Stanley Cup champions. Numerous Hall of Fame players have worn a Bruins sweater, including some of the greatest hockey players of all time.
The Bruins are well-represented in our list of athletes up for consideration as the greatest in Boston’s history, with eight players among the field of 64.
Here’s a look at a few of the greatest Bruins ever:
A Bruin since 2003, Bergeron remains a team fixture. In 2017, he matched Bob Gainey as the only other player to win the Frank J. Selke Trophy four times (given to the best defensive forward). Bergeron has shown a knack for producing clutch playoff goals, including two in Game 7 of the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup victory. Another famous goal came in that unforgettable comeback against the Maple Leafs during the 2013 playoffs:
Bourque is one of the all-time great NHL defensemen, winning the Norris Trophy five times. He was drafted eighth overall by the Bruins in 1979, playing in Boston for 21 seasons. In that remarkable run, Bourque compiled 1,506 points in 1,518 games (both are Bruins records). He was an NHL First Team All-Star 12 times while in Boston.
Bucyk played 21 seasons with the Bruins, helping them win two Stanley Cups (1970 and 1972). While Bourque surpassed Bucyk in games played and points, Bucyk still holds the Bruins record for most goals scored all time (545). Although known for his physical play, Bucyk twice won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981.
Traded to the Bruins in 1967, Esposito blossomed from a young and talented player into a full-fledged superstar. In the 1970-71 season, Esposito smashed the single-season scoring record, tallying 76 goals. Using his distinctively imposing style, Esposito was an irremovable fixture in front of the goal, acting as a central component of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup wins in 1970 and 1972.
Like Esposito, Neely found his best years after being traded to the Bruins. Arriving in 1986, Neely rapidly grew into one of the best power forwards in the NHL. Given his size, he was able to play with physicality, but also had a skillful touch. Neely crossed the 50-goal threshold three times in his career, the last time after he recovered from injury in the 1993-94 season (winning the Masterton Trophy in the process). Neely’s number was retired by the Bruins in 2004.
Few players in any sport have been credited with having changed their game more than Bobby Orr. As a defenseman, he attacked on offense with unprecedented success. No defenseman before (or since) had won the Art Ross Trophy given to the league’s highest scorer. Orr did it twice. He also won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman eight-straight times, as well as the Hart Trophy (league MVP) twice. Needless to say, he was critical in the Bruins’ Stanley Cup wins in 1970 and 1972. His leap after scoring the Cup-winning goal in 1970 remains an iconic image in hockey history.
The center of the Bruins’ famous “Kraut Line,” Schmidt was a part of two Stanley Cup champions as a player (1939 and 1941). Even though he didn’t play for three seasons during his prime (while serving in World War II), Schmidt still ranked in the top five all-time in assists and points when he retired in 1955. He was named to four NHL All-Star teams.
In 14 seasons with the Bruins, Shore established himself as one of the great defenseman of his era. And with four Hart Trophy wins (given to the league MVP), he still holds the record for most by a player in his position. Shore was named to eight NHL All-Star teams after the league created the distinction in 1930. In 1929, Shore helped the Bruins win their first Stanley Cup.