As part of the Big Bad Bruins in the 70s, legendary enforcer Terry O’Reilly was feared by Boston’s opponents but loved by his teammates — on and off the ice.

He may have notched more than 200 penalty minutes in five straight seasons from 1977-1982, but during that time and beyond, O’Reilly was solidifying himself in Bruins history, which eventually led to his No. 24 being raised to the rafters in 2002.

To a young rookie being called up from the AHL, Bruins Alumni president Frank Simonetti told that O’Reilly was the epitome of a leader during his time as captain and later as a coach.

“We played together for two years,” Simonetti told “He was not about rookie hazing. He was kind of childlike in that we’re all one team.”

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Childlike is not anything most opponents or fans would describe O’Reilly as given he was dubbed “Taz” by Bruins teammate Phil Esposito for his reckless, come-at-you style of hockey, but that was on the ice, not on the bench or in the locker room.

“He would stay late after practice and we’d do skills drills and he’d be out there early,” Simonetti said.”He was an 11th-year player, he didn’t have to do that. But it’s just what he did and kind of mentored a lot of the younger players and was always there for advice and obviously on the ice.

” … He was super smart, super articulate, thoughtful. We asked him a question and it was a well-thought-out answer; it wasn’t cliche. He would take you to it and walk you through it. Then when he became coach, he dove into that with both feet and he was fun to play for. So, I played with him and for him, which was kind of neat. We’re still close today.”

But for everything O’Reilly taught Simonetti on the ice, one lesson the young defenseman learned from his teammate and friend came in the form of food.

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After a road game in Winnipeg wanting to unwind, O’Reilly arranged for the team to visit the Royal Canadian Mounted Police barracks. Between the bowling alley, pool tables and video games, O’Reilly ordered 25-30 pizzas for the team, but Simonetti was not happy when he initially opened the boxes.

“They’re all Hawaiian pizzas. Every single one of them,” Simonetti explained. “I’m going, ‘Who puts fruit on pizza?’ and just kind of giving him a hard time. Then (Terry) goes, ‘Try it. I’m done debating this with you.’ I took one bite and devoured the pizza. I mean it was awesome.”

O’Reilly’s tutorial on Hawaiian pizza didn’t end in Winnipeg. He and Simonetti lived fairly close to each other in New England and he instructed Simonetti to try the pie at their favorite pizza joint in Georgetown, Mass.

“Right when I get home, I call up to order the pizza,” Simonetti explained. ” … I said, ‘Hey, I’d like to order a Hawaiian pizza for pick up.’ and he goes, ‘Who are you?’ I say, ‘My name is Frank.’ And he goes, ‘Who do you know?’ I said, ‘I know Terry O’Reilly.’ He asked, ‘How do you know him?’ I said, ‘I play with him.’ and Nick told me, ‘Okay, you’re cleared, 15 minutes.’ So, he had to vet me. He had to clear me because it wasn’t on the menu and it was something special for Terry.”

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Simonetti added those types of memories are priceless and there’s a humbleness amongst hockey players and they all have stories like that. Along with O’Reilly, Simonetti added that Rick Middleton and Ray Bourque became captains of the Bruins not just because they were great players but because they were great leaders as well and knew how to build a team.

Featured image via Craig Michaud/Craig Michaud Photography