At home in Sault
Ste. Marie, Ontario, I belong to a boccie club. Boccie is a bowling game we
Italians love. One day one of the members brought out a Ouija board, and we
decided to have some fun with it. It was just before the start of last year's
National Hockey League season, so we asked the board questions about how the
season would go both for me and for the Boston Bruins, to which I had been
traded the year before from the Chicago Black Hawks.
predicted that I would have a three-goal game against Toronto, that I would
score 45 goals during the season, that I would win the scoring championship and
that Boston would lead the league and win the Stanley Cup. Except for the
Stanley Cup thing, the Ouija came close. I scored four goals in a game against
Toronto, I scored 49 goals during the season, I did win the scoring
championship with 126 points—49 goals plus 77 assists, which topped Bobby
Hull's and Stan Mikita's previous record of 97 points—and we were first in the
league for 59 days during the regular season. But one of us—either the Bruins
or the Ouija board—muffed the Stanley Cup prediction. We lost to Montreal.
So this past
summer we boccie players tuned in on the Ouija again, and it said we would win
first place in 1969-70 but not the Stanley Cup (it was wrong before on that
point about the cup and I think it's wrong again). It said I was going to have
another good year, but I didn't ask how many points I was going to get. I
hadn't asked it that last year, so I decided I wouldn't do it this year,
either. I did ask it if I was going to get 30 goals, and it said,
"Yes," so I was happy about that.
I was feeling
pretty low when the Black Hawks traded me to the Bruins on May 15, 1967. I was
going from a Stanley Cup contender to a team that hadn't won the cup since
1940-41 and showed no prospect of getting in contention for it. It was like a
St. Louis Cardinal player might have felt that year about being traded to the
New York Mets. Most of all, my pride was hurt that the Hawks did not want me,
that they were willing to trade me and Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield for Gilles
Marotte, Pit Martin and Jack Norris.
But then, even in
training camp that first season with Boston, I began to see things a lot
differently. For one thing, the management treated me nice. The first day in
camp Milt Schmidt, the Bruins' general manager, and Coach Harry Sinden told me
they were making me an assistant captain, which is the same as a co-captain.
This built my confidence.
thing happened. We were playing against Montreal very early in the season and
we lost, but on the way back to Boston I said to Coach Sinden, "We're going
to end up in the playoffs," and he said, "Yeah? We ain't even in second
place." But he thought about it, and then he said, "I think you're
right, Phil." And we did.
You could see it
coming. The guys were really keyed up—a lot of them had been on losers for so
long, but when they started to win they began to get the idea of winning. They
had had a good training camp, a good preseason record and it was all new and
different. There were guys like Teddy Green, who had been in the league eight
years and never been on a real winner. These guys—Eddie Westfall is another
one—when they get the taste of victory, I figured, they're going to be real hot
stuff, and we have the taste of victory now.
With that taste
in my mouth and in the mouths of the rest of the team I was able to go out that
first year and score 35 goals and 49 assists, which made me runner-up to Mikita
in the scoring race. This was a surprise to everybody because, you see, I had
been on Bobby Hull's line for the Hawks, and my job in Chicago was to set them
up for Bobby—which I was proud to do, because he has the best shot in hockey.
Still, some fans and a couple of Chicago sportswriters got on me because they
didn't understand my function. I didn't get so many goals in Chicago,
naturally, and those I did get were not so greatly appreciated. One of the
writers called me a garbage collector, because some of my goals came after
Bobby would miss one and I would be there to shoot it in on the rebound. Some
garbage. But even the fans, influenced by these writers, got on me, and I think
that had something to do with the management's decision to trade me to Boston,
even though playing as Bobby's lineman I helped him set his 97-point record in
1965-66. Bobby understood this, and he was upset when I was traded. But very
few others seemed to understand it. Before I came to Boston I was regarded
primarily as a playmaker, even though I had had 23-, 27- and 21-goal seasons
with the Hawks. Those were pretty good records for a player with my
So, after that
first very encouraging year with the Bruins, last season I became the first
Bruin to win the Art Ross Trophy—given for leading the league in scoring during
the regular season—since it was established in 1947. Furthermore, the Bruins
scored 303 goals, which is a record for the NHL. Ken Hodge, also traded from
Chicago, made 45 goals for Boston, and I made a lot of points setting up
assists for him. Which goes to prove that hockey is a team game above
One other thing
that helped me about coming to Boston was that I got more time on the ice. The
more time I get on the ice the better I play. In Boston I must be averaging a
full 35 minutes a game, and that's the way I like it. I don't enjoy practice or
those training sessions. The way I get myself into condition is to play hockey,
just as some pianists say the best finger exercise for playing the piano is to
play the piano.