BOSTON — The Bruins hope to make some new history this season, but on Thursday they celebrated an important part of their storied past.
Hall of Famer Milt Schmidt, who first came to the Bruins 75 seasons ago in 1936, was honored in a pre-game ceremony prior to the opening face-off against the Maple Leafs, as well as having a new exhibit in the New England Sports Museum dedicated to him.
"This night means to me about everything I can think of that goes along with the game of hockey," said Schmidt. "It's the greatest game in the world. And I have been privileged to be honored this evening for being a part of this game of ours. I'm just so happy and I hope that the present Bruins are going to have a little bit of the success that I have had."
Schmidt was thrilled with the exhibit unveiled on the fifth floor of the Garden, but one minor exception.
"Just that torn sweater down there," said Schmidt. "I said, 'No, we did get better sweaters than that.' But it certainly brought back old memories and when something really good happens to you, time is no factor whatsoever."
The Sports Museum didn't have a Schmidt sweater to display, and improvised with another jersey from the era, though that battered Black and Gold relic had seen its share of wear and tear. The artifacts took second billing to the memories anyway, and nothing will tarnish those for Schmidt, who took special take to thank his cohorts from the Bruins' famed "Kraut Line."
"I can't forget one thing, and that's because I played with two of the greatest guys in the world, both on and off the ice, namely Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer," said Schmidt. "Without their help, Milt Schmidt wouldn't have these things said about him. They're not here unfortunately, but they are here in spirit."
Schmidt played from 1936 to 1942, then again from 1945 to 1955 after serving in World War II in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He put up 229-346-575 totals in 776 games and won Cups in 1939 and 1941, then helped guide the Bruins to their two most recent championships in 1970 and 1972 as the club's general manager.
Those two title runs exposed him to the player he still believes is the greatest ever to play the game.
"So far the Good Lord has kept me on this earth for 92 years, which I am very pleased about, and as far as Bobby Orr is concerned, if somebody better than he comes along, I hope the Good Lord keeps me on this earth to see him," said Schmidt. "So far I haven't met that man. He's the best ever."
Orr wasn't the highest paid, however, nor were the players of Schmidt's era. Schmidt wouldn't reveal how much his first contract was worth — "I won't tell you how much, because I'm ashamed of it," said Schmidt — but he is happy to see today's players doing just a bit better.
"Let me say this, I'd love to do it all over again, but at a different salary," said Schmidt. "More power to them, if they get it fine. I don't begrudge them one bit. We want to catch up with the baseball players and the football players. We were always down below them, but we're catching up, and I think it's wonderful once in a while to hear that they're up in the millions."