Robert Gordon “Bobby” Orr is regarded by many as the best Boston Bruins player of all-time and one of the best in National Hockey League history. Orr is part of a long line of defensive standouts in Boston’s storied history, beginning with Eddie Shore right through to modern-day budding star Charlie McAvoy.
Whether by coincidence or by design, the Bruins have moved seamlessly throughout the decades from one key defensive leader to the next. A walk down Memory Lane, or, perhaps more accurately, Causeway Street, highlights the enormous impact these key D-men have had on the team and the sport in general.
The movie “Slap Shot” may have catapulted Eddie Shore into the more modern vernacular with the movie’s admiration for his “old-time hockey,” style of play, but Bruins fans have looked to the rafters to admire Shore’s retired No. 2 since 1947. It’s easy to see why he is so revered.
An NHL Hall of Fame inductee and two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Bruins, Shore played in the early days of Boston hockey. During a career that spanned 19 years, from 1924 through 1943, he won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player four times.
He played 551 games in his NHL career, all but 10 of those as a member of the Bruins. Shore finished his career with 105 goals and 179 assists. Reflective of his tough-guy image in the early years of the game, he logged 1,099 career penalty minutes.
A few years after Shore came to Boston, Aubrey “Dit” Clapper was brought on board in 1927. Clapper was the first NHL player to log 20 seasons in the league. Like Shore, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947, the same year he retired.
Clapper was hailed as a leader, and he served as the Bruins’ captain for the better part of 16 seasons. In addition to defenseman, he played right wing and later even coached the Bruins.
The last man to ever wear the No. 4 for the Boston Bruins, a statue of Bobby Orr outside of TD Garden commemorates “The Goal,” likely the most famous goal scored in Bruins history. But Orr meant so much more to the team and the game of hockey than just being the player who pulled off that incredible flying feat.
Born in 1948, one year after Shore and Clapper cemented their permanent places in Bruins and NHL lore, Orr broke into the league in 1966 and played 657 games in a career that lasted until 1979. In that time, he had 270 goals, 645 assists, and achieved an unbelievable plus-582.
Orr led the Bruins to Stanley Cup victories in 1970 and 1972, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy both years and the Hart in 1970, 1971 and 1972. In addition, he was recognized eight times in his career as the league’s best defenseman, winning the James Norris Memorial Trophy.
Although Ray Bourque’s most memorable hockey moment arguably came after his time with the Bruins, he will still always be a Boston legend. Bourque was traded by the Bruins late in his career because the team’s management at the time wanted him to have a better shot at winning a Stanley Cup. He accomplished just that with the Colorado Avalanche.
For Bourque, the accolades and honors began to roll in from the beginning. He won the Calder Trophy, recognizing the NHL’s best rookie, in 1980 after breaking in with the Bruins at the tender age of 18. During his rookie campaign, he amassed 65 points. At the time, no rookie defenseman had ever scored more.
Bourque didn’t stop there, of course. The speedy blueliner with the astonishingly hard shot took home the Norris Trophy five times in his career, which ended after he had played 1,612 games and had been credited with 1,579 career points.
Bourque served as the Bruins captain for 15 seasons. He was traded to Colorado during the 1999-00 season and won it all with the Avs the following year.
The current captain of the Bruins, Zdeno Chara forged a unique path to the National Hockey League. The only player on the list so far not from Canada, he was born in what is now Slovakia, playing junior there and in the Czech Republic before coming to North America to play for the Prince George Cougars in Canada’s Western Hockey League for the 1996-97 season. He was drafted by the New York Islanders in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.
Chara, the tallest active NHL player at 6-foot-9, joined the Bruins in 2006 and was immediately named the team’s captain. He has held that post ever since. In addition to helping the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011, he was awarded the Norris Trophy following the 2008-09 season.
Chara has played in 1,521 NHL games to date, with his milestone 1,500th game coming in 2019-20. He has recorded 655 points, including 205 goals and 450 assists.
Charlie McAvoy turned just 22 on Dec. 21, 2019. Even at such a young age, McAvoy has long been regarded as the star Bruins defenseman of the future. For much of his three seasons wearing the Spoked-B, he has played alongside Chara on the team’s first defensive pairing.
It is still hard to tell exactly what the future holds for McAvoy. However, the Bruins signed him to a three-year contract extension not long after training camp began in Sep. 2019. It seems he is in Boston’s plans for the foreseeable future.
McAvoy was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team in 2018. He has played 153 games with Boston and has potted 14 goals and contributed 58 helpers in that time.
I am a 46-year-old journalist living in the greater Pittsburgh area with my husband and two cats. I am a proud Penn State University alum. Hockey is life. Not much else needs to be said.