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.
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.