Boston Bruins legend and National Hockey League Hall of Famer Milt Schmidt, who has died at age 98, was remembered as the “ultimate Bruin.”
That label came from Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. The NHL called Schmidt “one of the great ambassadors of our game.” He was also one of hockey’s greatest players ever to take the ice.
Schmidt was remembered for his World War II service as well as his prowess in Boston. On Twitter, some simply said, “We lost a legend today.” The Boston Red Sox memorialized him as a “true Boston legend.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Schmidt Was the NHL’s Oldest Living Hockey Player & One of Its 100 Best Players Ever
At 98 when he died, Schmidt was the longest living former hockey player in the NHL. According to Windham Patch, Schmidt was named one of the 100 best NHL players ever just this past weekend.
Legendary Bruin Bobby Orr called Schmit the greatest Bruin to “ever lace up skates,” according to NHL.com.
The Bruins’ spokesman confirmed Schmidt’s passing on January 4, but did not provide additional details of his death, reported the Associated Press.
He died at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, NHL.com reported.
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2. Schmidt Propelled Boston to Championships as Part of the ‘Kraut Line’
Schmidt is remembered for helping lead the Boston Bruins “to two Stanley Cup championships as a player” and for, as general manager in the 1960s, helping “set the stage for two more,” the Boston Globe reported.
Late Hall of Famer Gordie Howe once said Schmidt was one of two people he admired, calling him “a hard-nosed player, a great skater, a great playmaker, a great competitor,” according to the Globe.
According to Windham Patch, Schmidt “made the All-Star team four times, won the NHL’s MVP Award in 1951, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. He also served as a longtime Bruins coach, assistant general manager, and general manager. His number 15 has hung in the rafters since 1980.”
NHL.com reported that “Schmidt centered the Bruins’ famed ‘Kraut Line,’ considered one of the finest National Hockey League trios ever assembled, along with Woody Dumart on the left wing and Bobby Bauer on the right wing. In 1939-40, the three players became the first triumvirate from the same team to finish 1-2-3 in the league’s scoring race.”
3. He Joined the Air Force After Pearl Harbor Was Attacked
The Kraut line players might have performed even greater things on the ice had not something else intervened: World War II. But it was their duty. The United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor.
“All three players left for World War II together, playing their final game before reporting for duty on Feb. 10, 1942. They combined for 11 points in an 8-1 win over Montreal,” wrote NHL.com.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the three men joined the Royal Canadian Air Force two months after Pearl Harbor, adding, “they were carried off the ice on the shoulders of the archrival Montreal Canadiens.”
“…As ‘Auld Lang Syne’ played on the Boston Garden organ, Schmidt, Bauer, and Dumart were hoisted upon the shoulders of both the Canadiens and Bruins players and carried to the dressing room,” NHL.com says, adding that they were considered one of the most powerful trios in the history of the game.
4. Tributes Poured in for the Hockey Legend
Tributes flooded in at the news of Schmidt’s death. He was lauded as a gentleman as well as a great athlete.
Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs said, “Milt’s impact in Boston, as both a player and a coach, will forever be felt amongst hockey fans. He was a legendary personality in the Bruins organization and goes down in history as the ultimate Bruin. We should all be envious of the longevity and meaningfulness of his life.”
The NHL Commissioner noted that Schmidt had “served the franchise” for over 80-plus years and said, “Milt’s respect for the game was matched by his humility…”
“He epitomized what it means to be a Bruin,” said Bruins President Cam Neely, in a statement the team released on Twitter.
Neely added, “I got to know Milt when I arrived in Boston, and I quickly learned that he was an outstanding ambassador for the game of hockey. A true gentleman, and that he epitomized what it means to be a Bruin. When people today talk about ‘Bruins hockey’ they talk about the style that Milt created, and generations of Bruins after him tried to emulate… He will be dearly missed.”
5. Schmidt Was Born in Ontario & Is Survived by Two Children
Schmidt was born in 1918 in Kitchener, Ontario, the Boston Globe reported.
The Globe said that Schmidt’s wife, Marie, preceded him in death in 1999, but he is survived by two children: a son and daughter, named Conrad and Nancy.