1936-37 Bruins featured most Hall of Famers on one roster

By: Tim Kolupanowich, @TimKolupan_

(Chris Creamer/Wikimedia Commons)

(Chris Creamer/Wikimedia Commons)

Congratulations are in order for players Brendan Shanahan, Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer and Geraldine Heaney and coach Fred Shero who were elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday. It’s a fantastic group that combined for 12 Stanley Cups and four Olympic gold medals and each left a mark on the game in their own way.

All five inductees made it with their individual skill and smarts, but they always had great teams to play on as well. Shero was the brains behind the Broad Street Bullies’ brawn and Heaney won 13 gold medals in 14 international tournaments. Niedermayer has won every major championship there is to win in hockey: the Memorial Cup, World Junior Championship, World Championship, World Cup, Olympics and Stanley Cup. But those three may not have played on a team quite as prestigious as the Red Wings team Chelios and Shanahan played on in 2001-02, though the 2002 Canadian Olympic team was one of the best collections of talent in recent years.

Chelios and Shanahan both played significant roles on a Wings squad that featured six Hall of Fame players (Chelios, Shanahan, Brett Hull, Igor Larionov, Luc Robitaille and Steve Yzerman), a Hall of Fame coach (Scotty Bowman), three surefire inductees (Sergei Fedorov, Dominik Hasek and Nicklas Lidstrom) and a potential fourth depending on the rest of Pavel Datsyuk’s career. Of course nothing is certain until the games are actually played, but it was pretty obvious that year featured a rare collection of talent that should, and ultimately would, win the Stanley Cup. It was obvious even back then most of these players were destined for the Hall and that they all played prominent roles with Hasek recording a career-high 41 wins and the rest finishing one through nine in team scoring.

It would be pretty unbelievable for Wings fans to look back on that year and realized they watched 10 Hall of Famers carry their team to glory. That’s half the bench on with a full roster and while it seems unprecedented is a mark that has been reached several times. The 1935-36 New York Rangers, 1938-39 Boston Bruins, 1952-53, 1953-54, 1955-56, 1968-69, 1974-75 and 1978-79 Montreal Canadiens and 1960-61, 1963-64, 1965-66 and 1966-67 Toronto Maple Leafs all featured 10 future Hall of Famers who suited up for at least one game. Four, the 1961-62 and 1964-65 Maple Leafs and 1972-73 and 1973-74 Canadiens, featured 11 and one, the 1936-37 Bruins, was highlighted by a record 12 Hall of Fame players.

Forwards Bobby Bauer, Bun Cook, Bill Cowley, Woody Dumart, Milt Schmidt, Hooley Smith, Nels Stewart and Cooney Weiland, defensemen Dit Clapper, Eddie Shore, Sylvio Mantha and goalie Tiny Thompson all appeared in at least one contest for the Bruins who finished with a 23-18-7 record for 53 points, second in the American Division and fourth in the NHL. However, unlike the 2001-02 Red Wings, not all of them played a prominent role or were regulars in the NHL at the time and the Bruins lost to the Montreal Maroons 2-1 in the first round of the playoffs.

Fans couldn’t have known it yet, but they witnessed the birth of something special that year as each member of the famed Kraut Line of Schmidt, Bauer and Dumart recorded their first career point that year. Bauer only played one game, the second of his career, but found the back of the net for his first career goal. Like Bauer, Dumart also played one game for the B’s the previous year, though he skated in 17 contests in 1936-37 totaling 4-4-8. Schmidt played 26 games in his first taste of NHL action and finished with 2-8-10. They formed one of the best trios in history and while leading the Bruins to the 1939 and 1941 Stanley Cups and finishing 1-2-3 in the scoring race in 1939-40 is impressive, they are most famous for sacrificing their career and risking their lives to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. Their last game before leaving for war was an 8-1 victory over Montreal in which the trio combined for 22 points.

On the flip side of things, Cook, Smith and Weiland had been some of the top scorers, but were nearing the end of their careers. Cook had played 10 seasons with the Rangers winning two Stanley Cups and scoring 20 goals twice before a trade to Boston for the last season of his career. He posted nine points that season, reaching the 300-point plateau before retiring. Smith also played his only season for Boston in 1936-37 having played the previous nine seasons for the Montreal Maroons and before spending his last four with the Americans. He recorded 8-10-18 for the Bruins and ended his career with 425 points. Earlier in his career, Smith was sold from Ottawa to Montreal for a then-record of $22,500 thanks to his combination of scoring ability, physical play and defensive awareness. Weiland shattered Howie Morenz’s record of 51 points in a single season by posting 73 points in 1929-30, but only put up 15 points in 1936-37 and played two more seasons. He went out as a champion in 1939 and was their head coach for another Cup in 1941.

(Bleacher Report/Wikimedia Commons)

Clapper is still ninth on the Bruins with 833 games played. (Bleacher Report/Wikimedia Commons)

This was Dit Clapper’s last season as a forward before switching to defense and he finished second on the team with 17 goals. He is one of the most versatile players in league history and served as captain from 1932-1938 and again from 1939 to 1946. This was Clapper’s tenth season and he would go on to become the first player to play 20 years in the NHL. His 833 career games were a record until Rocket Richard passed him in the 1956-57 season, ten years after his retirement. Clapper became the first of ten players to have the mandatory three-year waiting period to be nominated waived (preceding Richard in 1961, Ted Lindsay in 1966, Red Kelly in 1969, Terry Sawchuk in 1971, Jean Beliveau in 1972, Gordie Howe in 1972, Bobby Orr in 1979, Mario Lemieux in 1997 and Wayne Gretzky in 1999. Cowley led the 1936-37 Bruins in scoring with 13-22-35. A two-time Hart Trophy winner in 1940-41 and 1942-43, Cowley retired as the all-time assists leader with 353 and recorded at least 40 four times. This was his third season and he was just finding his offensive touch and would later record 60 points four times and 70 points twice.

Nels Stewart played for Boston from 1932-33 to 1934-35 before joining the New York Americans in 1935-36. He found himself back in Beantown for 11 games in 1936-37 before being traded back to the Amerks and leading the NHL in goals for the second time in his career. Shortly after his trade Stewart become the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorer with 324, passing Morenz and holding the mark for 16 seasons.

Mantha appeared in four games for the Bruins late in the season as defensive insurance after spending the first 13 seasons of his career in Montreal where he won four Stanley Cups and was twice a second-team All-Star. Shore is one of the few pre-Original Six players to still be mentioned as one of the greatest players ever. His four Hart Trophies are the most among defensemen, but a back injury limited him to 20 games with three goals and four points. His toughness both on and off the ice is legendary and from refusing anesthetic so he could watch a doctor sew part of his ear back on to running the AHL’s Springfield Indians and playing for them and Boston at the same time, he carved out a legacy as one of the most memorable characters in hockey history.

Tiny Thompson remains arguably Boston's greatest goaltender over 70 years after his last game. (Montreal Gazette/Wikimedia Commons)

Tiny Thompson remains arguably Boston’s greatest goaltender over 70 years after his last game. (Montreal Gazette/Wikimedia Commons)

Thompson played every minute for Boston that season and finishing with a 2.22 goals-against average and six shutouts. He is still Boston’s all-time wins leader with 252, led the league in wins five times, was a four-time Vezina Trophy winner, first-team All-Star twice and second-teamer twice and is seventh all-time with 81 shutouts. The 1936-37 season was unspectacular by his standards, but the seasons before he became the first goalie to record a point and the season after he and Paul Thompson of the Chicago Black Hawks became the second brother combination to be named to the first All-Star team after Charlie and Lionel Conacher in 1933-34.

It was a crossroads of sort for the Bruins in 1936-37. Some players were wrapping up their careers while other were just starting to test out the water. It would have been amazing had they all been in the prime of their careers, but years later fans could look back on that team and marvel at the incredible players who suited up for them.

Below you’ll find which season featured each team’s most honored roster. Noted is team record, division/conference/league finish and playoff series results. Each Hall of Famer is listed along with their regular season and playoff stats from that particular year and their career totals.

Coincidental Minors Archives

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