We’re not just about funny funny jokes and photoshops here at Days of Y’Orr. Throughout the rest of the off-season and the regular season, we will occasionally highlight past Bruins (legends, jokes, guys who were hilariously bad, etc). We love hockey history at Days Of Y’Orr and we think you do too! Go Bruins!
During a recent Days of Y’Orr meeting, which once again inevitably broke down to us watching old clips on DVD and Youtube and getting nothing done, we began discussing Bruins goalies and their styles. Of course Tim Thomas and his flopping, fish out of water style came up and we debated the effectiveness of such a style. You know, ’cause we’re NHL goalies too!
Our good friend Chris Sparrow then chimed in to remind us that Thomas was not the first Bruins goalie to have such an odd style. There was a Bruins legend who perhaps perfected the art of flopping. No, it wasn’t legends like Blaine Lacher or Andrew Raycroft.
We are of course talking about Gerry Cheevers.
What a beast
After the jump, Days of Y’Orr takes a look back as the infamous masked man.
Cheevers style can be described as aggressive and messy, but highly effective. Before the days when the butterfly was popular and the stand-up style dominated, Cheevers took to the ice. He was often seen playing from his knees or doing a classic pad stack to keep the puck out of the net. He spent more time down on the ice than a Montreal Canadiens player who wasn’t actually tripped. But Cheevers was relentless and clutch with a touch of violence.
Just like Bobby Orr revolutionized the position of offensive defenseman, Cheevers perhaps began a similar movement of goalies who were not afraid to stray from their crease and jump into play.
Cheever’s unique style led to him being called a third defenseman as well, as Cheevers was often seen leaving the crease to challenge a shooter or at times even throw a hit. He was a fantastic puck handler as well, often corralling a puck and making a great outlet pass to start a rush up the ice. Cheevers was to hockey during his career what Brodeur was before the NHL changed rules disallowing goalies from leaving the crease and being more active.
Cheevers is better than you.
Any player from an opposing team foolish enough to wander too close to the Bruins surly netminder was often met with a swift stick swipe to the legs or kidneys. The nickname “Big Bad Bruins” certainly extended to their goalie as well.
Cheevers is of course most famous for his mask. As the story goes Cheevers was once hit in the face during practice and retreated to the training room to get looked at. The trainer jokingly put stitches on Cheevers’ mask where he would have been hit had he not been wearing a mask and thus the legend was born. Cheevers continued to paint stitches on the mask every time he was struck until the mask was covered with the marks.
You want to mess with this guy? Didn’t think so.
“Well, when the mask first became a reality in the game of hockey, the first ones were all plain white and I hated wearing anything white. It was to me a sign of purity and I wasn’t in a pure business as far as I was concerned, playing goal and hacking away and all that stuff. And I also had a daily practice of trying to get out of practices. Going to practice, all I could think about was getting out of it. And one day this puck flipped up and hit me in this new white mask I had. It wouldn’t have cut me if I didn’t have the mask on but I acted like I was seriously hurt, went to the dressing room, and Harry Sinden, who was coaching, came in and told me to get the heck out of there. And so I was about to go out onto the ice and our trainer, John Forestall, said to wait a minute and he went and painted a big 12-stitch cut on my mask and I got a chuckle out of that and we went from there. A very, very simple thing happened there but maybe, just maybe I was the pioneer in the art of decorations of masks. That’s what I’d like to think about it.”
Cheevers greatness in goal was evident early in his career. While playing for the AHL’s Rochester Americans he set an AHL record with 48 victories and led the team to their first ever Calder Cup.
His first full season with the Bruins came during the 1967-68 season where Cheevers posted a record of 23-17-5 with 3 shutouts and a GAA of 2.83. He remained the Bruins #1 goalie until he left for WHA after the 1972 season (he returned to the Bruins in 1976 and picked up right where he left off).
Cheevers contributions to Boston’s two Stanley Cups in the 70s are often lost in the greatness of the performances by Orr, Esposito, etc., but Cheevers was instrumental in those victories. During both Cup runs Cheevers posted a record of 18-3 and posted GAA of 2.42 while gaining a reputation as a tenacious clutch performer.
The man with the intimidating mask was no slouch in the regular season either. In 1972 Cheevers set an NHL record that still stands today, going 32 consecutive games (24-0-8) without being defeated.
In 418 regular season NHL games Cheevers posted a record of 230-102-74 with 26 shutouts and a GAA of 2.89.
Cheevers retired in 1980 due to knee problems and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985. He was the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy in his final NHL season, a testament to his greatness and dedication to his craft. No matter where he played (AHL, NHL, WHA) Cheevers was one of the best at what he did.
After his playing career was over, Cheevers would spend almost five seasons as Bruins head coach, earning a record of 204-126-46.
He wore the most famous mask in NHL history but Cheevers was also one of the best goalies the game has ever seen.