"A lot of people say that, but it's a pile of junk. I worked harder in Sweden and in Russia than I would have in training camp with the Bruins. Besides, Karl Elieff—one of Team Canada's trainers—is one of the best physiotherapists around, and he worked on my knee every day."
Why did you try to play so soon once the season started? Everyone figured you wouldn't play until Christmas, yet there you were in the lineup on Oct. 21.
"I wasn't ready to play. I knew it. The Bruins knew it. The doctors knew it. But I had to see for myself. On the ice I just couldn't do the things I used to do without any effort. Like pivot, for instance. The knee really bothered me. One problem, the doctors said, was my weight. I was carrying eight or 10 extra pounds and...."
You really mean 12 or 15 extra pounds, don't you?
"As I said, I was carrying eight or 10 extra pounds and neither my left leg nor my left knee was strong enough to support the burden. So after three games—most of which were spent at the end of the bench—we all agreed that I should quit for three weeks and concentrate strictly on building up the leg and the knee. We set a definite target date for my return: November 18th against the Islanders in New York."
What did you do, go to your place in Florida and run in the sand?
"Don't I wish. I worked out at least four hours a day for the next three weeks, and not in Florida. In the morning I'd skate for about 90 minutes with the Bruins or the Boston Braves or just by myself. Then I'd ride the exercise bike for five or 10 miles. After that I'd take a whirlpool and get some heat. In the afternoon I'd drive out to Lynnfield and exercise on a mini-gym under the supervision of Gene Berde. He's the physical culturist who got Carl Yastrzemski into fantastic shape the year the Red Sox won the pennant. I watched my diet pretty carefully, too. In those weeks I lost all my excess weight and strengthened the leg and the knee to the point where I felt I could take a regular turn on the ice without any real problem."
Did you go to all the games when the Bruins played at home?
"I'm not a good spectator. Heck, I was so nervous in Moscow I stayed at the hotel and watched the last game on television. Yes, some hotel rooms in Moscow do have television sets. Here, I tried watching our games from beside the bench, but the fans were giving our guys a hard time and I couldn't stand it, so I watched them on television in the dressing room. The fans forget awfully quickly, I tell you."
So you returned on schedule against the Islanders and scored a goal on the first shot you took.