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‘I don’t think you’ll see anyone like him again’: Rick Middleton’s final bow on Causeway

Middleton's no. 16 will be hoisted to the Garden rafters on Thursday night.

Rick Middleton breaks in on Bob Sauve in a November 1979 game.

He was a delightful bundle of whimsical, sleight-of-hand moves, delivered at varying speeds on the attack. The NHL of today is a Formula One race track, flat-out speed from start to finish. But that was not the game back then.

In the ’70s and ’80s, when Rick Middleton rocked and rolled his way to a career 488 goals, hockey was a sport of stops and starts, often with a dash of bloody mayhem mixed into the intoxicating brew. Amid it all, the slick Bruins’ right winger with No. 16 on his back could dictate a play’s tempo as if he had filched that stick from Arthur Fielder, who swung a smaller baton to different scores in another old building across town.

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These Middleton moves had a technical term. He called them his “Howdy Doody’s.’’ A quick drop of the shoulder. A devilish shake of the head. A deke to the outside, a stutter step, a seamless shift to a third or fourth gear, a puck through a defenseman’s legs . . . Howdy Doody, pal, and goodbye.

Ray Bourque (left) and Rick Middleton (right) carry the Prince of Wales trophy after defeating the New Jersey Devils to win the Eastern Conference in 1988. —Paul R. Benoit/Globe Staff/File
Middleton scores on Montreal goalie Ken Dryden during a May 1976 game. —The Boston Globe/File
Middleton poses for a photo outside the Bruins dressing room at the Boston Garden on Jan. 26, 1987. —John Blanding/Globe Staff/File
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