(It’s not what you’re thinking. If Christmas can come early, why not April Fool’s Day?)
The Edmonton Oilers begin a five-game, eight-day road trip today in Washington. As always, radio color analyst Morley Scott is on the trip, and he found room in his baggage for an interesting piece of memorabilia.
A Toronto boy, Scott spent a good part of his youth following the Toronto Marlboros (the Marlies), the local junior team. He brought with him an “Official Programme” from the 1975 Memorial Cup playoffs between Toronto and Kingston.
It’s made from card stock, it folds out and there is a picture of a young Bruce Boudreau — lefty shooting and adorned with long, flowing locks — super-imposed over the Maple Leaf Gardens (home of the Marlies) on the cover. Inside are some small local ads (Marksall Industries wishes Good Luck to the Marlies during the playoffs), a few national ads (“Bobby Orr says: ‘It’s a Man’s World with Yardley Black Label Grooming Products for Men'”) and the rosters for both the Marlies and their opponent, the Kingston Canadians.
“I grew up in Toronto and went to a lot of Marlie games when I was a kid right in that era,” Scott told me after the morning skate at Verizon today. “They had some great teams. Bruce was the best player in junior hockey at that time and I remember going to watch him a lot.”
Among the Marlies on the roster:
Mike Kitchen, Mike McEwen, John Anderson, Bruce Boudreau, Trevor Johansen, Mark Napier, Mike Kaszycki, Bernie Johnston, John Tonelli and John Smrke. That’s 10 guys who went on to play in the NHL.
There’s also Craig Crawford, the Caps’ fifth round choice in the 1975 NHL Amateur draft.
Then there’s Marlies GM Frank Bonello, who was later the head of the Central Scouting Bureau. And the Marlies’ coach in those days was George Armstrong, the longtime captain of the Leafs who was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in that same year of 1975. Good year for Armstrong, whose team also won the Memorial Cup that year.
Boudreau was the star of that team. He totaled 68 goals and 165 points during that season.
“I always remember him as a fan favorite,” says Scott. “He was a guy growing up in Toronto as a Leaf fan and Marlie fan, that fans wanted to see. After he graduated from junior when he was playing the minors, he always put up the numbers but he never got called up. He was always a guy that everyone wanted to see him play, and he never seemed to get that call. He was the fans’ choice all the time, but he just never seemed to get the call. When he did get the call, he never played a lot or he played on the fourth line.”
Scott was a 10-year-old kid in those days, and although he’s been in the hockey business for the last two decades he and Boudreau’s paths had not crossed until today. Scott and Boudreau met outside the Caps locker room a couple hours before game time tonight. Boudreau signed Scott’s “programme,” and he remembered the Marlies beating Kingston in eight games. Boudreau remembered that Toronto had won game 8 by an 8-4 score, and Craig Laughling needled, “You probably had five points in that game!”
“Four,” deadpanned Boudreau. “I like seeing myself with hair,” he quipped.
“He was a dynamic junior player,” remembers Scott. “He had 165 points his last year of junior, that was a record until [Wayne] Gretzky came along and broke it.
“I always loved watching him play. He is one of the few guys from that team that I really remember watching him play a little bit.”
Turns out he can coach a little bit, too.