Maybe you were there, one of more than 15,000 crammed into Boston Garden on a Sunday afternoon when the delirium could’ve come from joy or heatstroke. Maybe you watched it on Channel 5, the still-active Gordie Howe on the CBS national call with St. Louis play-by-play man Dan Kelly; maybe you turned them down and turned up Fred Cusick and Johnny Peirson on WBZ radio.
Maybe you partied in the streets that night, or helped form the mob scene that nearly overran the celebratory parade the following day. Maybe you paid your $3 for “Goal: Bruins!,” the highlight record, or spent that instead on an 11-by-14 glossy of That Picture from the old Boston Record American. Maybe you’ve tried to fly through the air yourself, crashing into snowbanks or couches alike, or taken a picture or two beneath “The Goal” sometime in the last 10 years.
However it fits in your life as a sports fan, what Bobby Orr and the Boston Bruins did on May 10, 1970, still resonates 50 years later. It wasn’t simply what happened — the Boston hockey faithful rewarded with their first Stanley Cup in 29 years — but how it happened.
At 5:10 p.m. on 5/10. Number four, driven airborne by St. Louis’s No. 4 Noel Picard, scoring at 40 seconds of the fourth period of Game 4, Boston’s fourth goal winning its fourth championship at the end of Orr’s fourth season, and winning him a record fourth individual trophy that year.
It was iconic the moment it happened, and we’ve now spent literally a half a century lionizing it and the almost impossibly humble man at its center. (Orr has long championed his teammates’ place in it all, getting the full Cup roster listed on the statue outside TD Garden, and made a point in a recent oral history by The Athletic to salute first responders.) To try to come up with the proverbial “things you didn’t know” about something so analyzed would be a fool’s errand, but one fun enough that I’ll make a run at it anyway.
- Ray Lussier’s iconic photo almost didn’t happen, twice. The 39-year-old Lussier, a staff photographer for the Record American (and its successor, the Boston Herald) from 1964-80, was assigned an ice-level spot at the east end of Boston Garden that day. He switched to the Boston attack end for the overtime, then slid into the spot of a photographer who’d left during the intermission to supposedly get a beer. That tiny window was enough to get the exclusive shot of a lifetime, though one that apparently almost stayed on the cutting room floor. When former Herald sports editor Sam Cohen died in 1983, Hall of Fame hockey writer D. Leo Monahan told the story of Cohen spying the negative of Lussier’s shot in the dark room. “Oh, you don’t want that one,” Lussier supposedly told Cohen as he worked through other photos. “The play’s over and the puck’s out of the net.”
- It was Orr’s only goal of the series. St. Louis coach Scotty Bowman shadowed the 22-year-old Orr in the first three games of the Cup Final with defenseman Jim Roberts, an eventual five-time Cup winner with Montreal frequently used to shut down star opponents. While Roberts held the NHL MVP to four assists in three games, the Blues were blown out, 6-1, 6-2, and 4-1. Bowman dropped the strategy and Orr racked up eight shots on goal in Game 4, capped by the series winner and the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP. (Which he won despite Phil Esposito outscoring him 27 points to 20, Espo breaking the NHL record with 13 goals in the playoffs.)
- It was miserably hot in Boston that day. Game 4 was a 2 p.m. faceoff, the air conditioning-absent Garden packed well beyond the listed crowd of 14,835. At both 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., Logan Airport registered a high of 91 degrees, just three off the record for May 10 from 1896. It may have been even worse on Causeway Street, the lighted billboard atop North Station blinking as high as 95 — “in itself,” Jack Kelley of the Herald Traveler wrote, “sufficient reason for the crowd on the sidewalk below to be bathing one another in cold beer.”
- The parade was already scheduled before Game 4. Bill Belichick would’ve had a field day, but the morning of May 10, the Globe reported, “Mayor Kevin White has planned a parade and civic reception for the Bruins at some still unspecified time tomorrow,” with the paper already running ads for “Goal!,” the aforementioned record featuring “all the sounds and stories of the fantastic 1969-70 Bruins Championship season!” Up 3-0 in the best-of-seven and on a nine-game win streak, opposed by a Blues team who’d been swept in each of the prior two Cup final series, the only thing in doubt was whether the Bruins would clinch at home that afternoon.
- The goal might’ve never made the scoreboard. In the excitement of Orr’s winning goal and the blaring of “Paree” by longtime Garden organist John Kiley, whomever ran the Garden scoreboard forgot to record it, the Philadelphia Daily News noting “the 3-3 score remained for quite awhile” and finding a fitting person to offer forgiveness. “I can’t blame the man working our clock,” said team architect Milt Schmidt, a playing part of Boston’s Cup wins in both 1939 and 1941. “A thing like this hasn’t happened in so long, so you can understand why he’d forget.”
So much has been written and said the past 50 years, and so much will be in the decades to come — both 98.5 The Sports Hub and NHL Network have new documentaries airing on Sunday — it makes sense to go back to the very beginning. Sports journalism was far more florid in 1970, and the clincher was a newspaperman’s dream, a matinee that finished up well before even the earliest Monday morning editions went to press.
With the help of numerous archives, prominent among them the collection at newspapers.com, here’s a recounting of an unforgettable day in Boston sports history, from the people who were paid to watch it live and the players who made it happen.
Quickly setting the stage, St. Louis showed plenty of fight in trying to avoid the sweep, brawling with Orr and Pie McKenzie within the first five minutes, and twice taking the lead, Larry Keenan putting the visitors up, 3-2, on a power play 19 seconds into the third period. Johnny Bucyk, with the Bruins since 1957 and trying to win his first Cup in his 15th NHL season, tied it on a tip-in with 6:32 to go.
Bruins coach Harry Sinden: “After the third period, I told the fellows, ‘Look, let’s not do too much thinking. We’ve lived and died playing our gung ho hockey all along.’ We went out there to attack. If we died by it, we died by it.”
Center Derek Sanderson, who had the assist: “That Bobby is the only guy who could do something like that. He blocked the puck away from the guy [Larry Keenan] over by the boards, then got it into me in the right corner.”
Blues coach Scotty Bowman, on Orr potentially leaving his team susceptible for a breakaway: “That’s the way he plays. He would have gotten back on defense if the play wouldn’t have worked.”
Sinden: “No other defenseman would have taken that gamble. But it won us the Stanley Cup.”
Sanderson: “Bobby and I have probably scored a half-dozen goals like that this year. … He was 40 feet away when he saw the play develop. It was give and take, baby, and it went right in.”
Blues goalie Glenn Hall: “The puck went between my pads. I should have made the save. It wasn’t that tough a chance.”
Orr: “I just let it go. I didn’t aim for a special spot, but I saw that goal. It went between Glenn Hall’s legs. Fortunately, Hall had to guard the left post against Derek [Sanderson], so I knew he’d be moving across. … I think I was tripped from behind after I shot. But I really don’t know what I did. … I thought I was going to fly right out of the Garden.”
Hal Bock, Associated Press: “With the crowd in a frenzy, the Bruins took the opening faceoff of the overtime into St. Louis ice and never let the puck back over their blue line. First, Derek Sanderson shot wide, but Boston controlled the rebound and Orr grabbed the puck at the right boards and skated in on Hall. He took a tremendous check that sent him flying through the air in front of the net, but still managed to nudge the puck home.”
Wally Cross, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “The shot was a laser beam, delivered with a short golf swing. The opening was barely wide enough for daylight to show. But the blur of rubber streaked through and ripped into the cords behind goalie Glenn Hall at Boston Garden yesterday. Bobby Orr had added one more miraculous feat to his growing collection. The young superstar’s tally after 40 seconds of sudden-death overtime … gave their untamed electorate a Stanley Cup championship for the first time in 29 years and the best excuse for the Monday morning wobblies since squaws learned to squeeze the juice from corn.”
Tom Fitzgerald, Boston Globe: “The emotional release for the 14,835 onlookers at the scene was intensified in view of the almost improbably dramatic conclusion. … After only 40 seconds of what could have been a tense and wearing struggle, it was all ended by a fabulous young man of 22 who has brought a brand new concept to the game. Swooping in front of the Blues net, Bobby Orr took a swipe past old Glenn Hall in a move so rapid that there was a slight delay in the roar from the stands until a few moments after the red light flashed.”
Gerald Eskenazi, New York Times: “Although unable to leap over buildings with a single bound, Bobby Orr flew through the air in overtime today, rapped home Derek Sanderson’s pass and gave the Bruins their first Stanley Cup since 1941. The symbolism was perfect. The goal was scored by the young man who made the Bruins the offensive threat they are, and the pass came from the pug-nosed scrapper who helped to make them one of the National Hockey League’s most ferocious teams.”
Jack Cheavlier, Philadelphia Inquirer: “John Wayne wiped out an army of renegades to preserve law and order in Boone County. Rock Hudson drove off into the sunset with Doris Day by his side. And Bobby Orr’s goal in overtime won the Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins. Yes, movie lovers, it was more like Hollywood than Boston Garden here Sunday as the Bruins wrote a perfectly appropriate ending to a perfectly splendid National Hockey League season.”
Kevin Walsh, Boston Evening Globe: “‘Our Cup Runneth Orr,’ read the homemade sign that was draped from balcony section 79. There were two important words missing from the song with a similar title . . . ‘With Love.’ Bobby Orr set off a beautiful love-in yesterday afternoon at Boston Garden. . . . The historic goal brought tears to the eyes of his father, Doug, and to injured defenseman Teddy Green, who was sitting next to the Bruins bench. They were tears of joy. Orr’s goal had made the Bruins champions of the world.”
Bill Heufelder, Pittsburgh Press: “Orr brought bedlam to Boston Garden when he knifed into the goalmouth, took Sanderson’s pass from behind the net and whipped the puck past goalie Glenn Hall 40 seconds after the overtime had begun. There hadn’t been a shot like it since the one at Lexington in 1775.”
D. Leo Monahan, Boston Record American: “Orr rapped the shot between Hall’s legs and the 14,835 fans let loose a great roar that shook the North Station and Boston Garden to its very foundations. … Orr fell over a St. Louis defenseman an instant after the red light went on. He was still sprawled on the ice when all hell broke loose. His teammates swarmed him and fell on him. Sinden came skidding out to join the celebration. So did a swarm of youngsters. The ice was littered with hats, streamers, beer cans, cups, papers, and a lot of other bric-a-brac. Name it and it probably came raining out of the stands.”
Orr’s goal capped a dream season in which he won the scoring title, the Norris Trophy for top defenseman, the Hart Trophy for league MVP, and the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP. Just 22 that day, it would have seemed impossible to believe he’d win just one more Stanley Cup, never mind be done in Boston by age 27 and done period at 30.
Monahan, Boston Herald American: “Bobby Orr, ah, that Bobby Orr, he sure does get to a guy.”
Dick Dew, United Press International: “How would you expect at 22-year-old to describe the biggest moment of his spectacular young life? How about, ‘The Stanley Cup! Wheeeee!!!!'”
Sanderson, via the Philadelphia Inquirer: “It was [expletive] super to see Bobby get the goal, that’s all I can say. And you know what? I just said [expletive] on television.”
Gordie Howe, via the Windsor (Ontario) Star: “I can’t get over how quick he is. I was never that quick.”
Bruins legend Dit Clapper, the NHL’s first 20-season player and part of Boston’s first three Cup winners: “He’s shown people he’s the best in the game in the space of four years. That was a great goal he scored.”
Bill Hengen, Minneapolis (Minn.) Star: “Orr, only 22, already has exhausted all the superlatives which come from a typewriter. It was appropriate, too, that he should score the winning goal at 40 seconds of overtime. He has won every other National Hockey League honor for which he qualified this year.”
Philadelphia Flyers GM Keith Allen, to the Philadelphia Daily News: “I think this might well be the greatest season any professional athlete has ever had. No athlete has ever dominated a sport as he has this season. Then he climaxes it with the Stanley Cup.”
Doug Orr, Bobby’s father, whom Orr couldn’t find in the immediate aftermath because he’d run out of the seats, crying: “I have never been so happy. I called home and spoke to my wife. She was crying, too. I’m the proudest man alive. … This is the best day of my life.”
Orr: “When I joined the club [in 1966], I was scared. A lot of junk had been written the year before. About my coming, I mean. I was scared to leave my room. The year before I came the team was fifth. My first year with ’em, we were sixth. I helped a lot, eh? I really didn’t want to go out of my room, but the guys always came to get me. They forced me to get out, and you don’t know how much that helped me. … They’re the greatest bunch of guys in the world.”
“The fans stormed onto the ice to maul their Bruin heroes,” Dwayne Netland wrote in the Minneapolis Tribune, “and put up such a clamor that the National Hockey League hierarchy, instead of commemorating the event with a speech, merely handed the Stanley Cup to the Boston players.” After a Cup skate by Bucyk, the celebration quickly left the ice. Though Channel 5 cut to the in-progress Red Sox, Channel 38 stayed with the party for 45 minutes, capturing a bacchanalia befitting a 29-year wait for glory.
Francis Rosa, Boston Globe: “Nothing can be as sudden as the death blow Bobby Orr delivered to the Blues yesterday at the Garden. And nothing can be as wild as the scene in the Bruins’ dressing room afterwards.”
Schmidt: “The celebration in 1941 was a wake compared to this.”
Tim Horgan, Boston Herald Traveler: “The way they slugged champagne from the huge silver bin they’d just won, the Bruins’ 29-year drought will be followed by a 30-year hangover.”
Monahan, Boston Herald American: “It was sheer chaos. Wayne Cashman kept tossing champagne out of the treasured Stanley Cup as if it were a birdbath. Coach Harry Sinden, his tie askew and a big grin on his kisser, was soaking wet; his players tossed him and B’s president Weston Adams Jr. into the shower.”
Not that the fans — who’d number close to 150,000 at the next day’s parade a year after a similar Celtics celebration drew just 25,000 — didn’t have their own party to attend to. By 10 p.m., according to the Associated Press, “30 men were in City Prison on charges of being drunk,” but that “it was really nothing serious.” UPI quoted another officer telling his dispatch riot helmets weren’t needed because “they aren’t protesting anything.”
Stephen Kurkjian, Boston Globe: “Twenty minutes after Bobby Orr had vaulted the Bruins to their first championship in 29 years, the crowd was spilling onto the sweltering streets of the North End and you knew the town was young again.”
Ed Conrad, Philadelphia Daily News: “It was sort of like V-J Day or, to put it in the modern vernacular, an Orderly Disorder. Automobiles were chalked up with witty sayings and guys were riding atop cars through the streets. Hometown pennants were being waved and the victory sign was given by pedestrians and passers-by alike. It was the Boston Bruins’ first Stanley Cup in 29 years, so no wonder hell was being raised.”
Tim Horgan, Boston Herald Traveler: “Residents of nearby apartments filled the air with makeshift confetti. One woman emptied a quart bottle of orange soda out her third-floor window. … But even jubilation has its moments of irony. ‘The Red Sox will go all the way, too,’ exulted one glass-waving celebrant, to which another promptly rejoined, ‘Who the hell are they?!'”
Joe Driscoll, Boston Record American: “The rumbling of the MBTA trains overhead seemed to lend an unexpectedly gay bass to the impassioned singing of ‘Bobby Orr, Bobby Orr,’ to the tune of ‘Wyatt Earp.'”
Jim Coleman, Southam Newspapers: “A reporter trudges through North Station, the dirty railway depot to which Boston Garden is attached. The floors outside the station bars are wet with spilled beer. The place is deserted and it smells like a public comfort station. In the street, 200 or 300 kids still are waiting for the Boston players and they’re screaming, ‘We’re number one, we’re number one.’ The cops are watching tolerantly because this is one group of kids who aren’t protesting against the establishment.”
It was expected a team as young and talented as the Bruins would soon build a dynasty, but one never truly materialized. There were five trips to the finals from 1970-78, but just one other title: After beating the Rangers in 1972, Philadelphia bested them in six games in 1974. Sanderson (in June 1974) and Esposito (in November 1975) were traded to New York. Orr, his knees uninsurable and his superstar days behind him, signed with Chicago in 1976. A Boston led offensively by Jean Ratelle and Terry O’Reilly lost back-to-back Cup finals to Montreal in 1977-78.
It was, as often happens, never that perfect again. But even 50 years later, May 10, 1970, still glows.
Tom Williams, a Bruin from 1961-69, to the Minneapolis Tribune: “The most touching thing I’ve ever seen was to see a guy like [Ted] Green, one of the toughest guys in the league, come on the ice after the game in tears. I knew exactly how the older Bruins felt because I had been there for such a long time during the losing years. … I can remember when Harry took over and we were losers. He used to stay up all night thinking of plays and drills to try and make the team a winner. When I saw Sinden go out on the ice after the game was over, I said to myself this couldn’t happen to a better guy. I’m just overwhelmed about the whole thing.”
Green, one of four Bruins co-captains, who missed the entire season with a skull fracture: “That’s the way to win it. If the score had been 6-1, we wouldn’t enjoy it as much.”
Sinden, who retired in a contract dispute as coach days later, then returned in 1972 to begin a 28-year run as general manager: “I’ll never forget this as long as I live.”