Ex-Bruins reflect on pro careers

Posted April 28, 2010, at 12:26 a.m.
Last modified Sept. 03, 2010, at 2:19 p.m.

It was a treat.

Whenever you get the chance to watch professional athletes you admire, it brings back fond memories.

When the Boston Bruins Alumni played a benefit game at Alfond Arena last Friday night, former Bruins stars such as Ray Bourque, Brad Park, Rick Middleton and Terry O’Reilly were showcased.

They reflected on their careers before the game and discussed a variety of topics including the state of the NHL.

Middleton, the crafty winger known as “Nifty” during his playing days, said he was happy with his career although there were three things he would like to have changed.

“I would have loved to have my name on a Stanley Cup, I wished I had the chance to play with Bobby Orr and I would have liked to have had 12 more points to reach 1,000,” said Middleton.

As for the NHL, Middleton said he “loves the playoffs. Not every game is a barn-burner during the regular season.”

He also wished they could “make the rinks bigger” so the skill players could showcase their talents even more.

Park feels the NHL has sterilized the game by calling more penalties and clamping down on holding, hooking and interference.

“To have one hand on your stick and to be able to reach around and strip a guy of the puck takes skill. But they’d call that a penalty today,” said Park, a Hall-of-Fame defenseman.

Park played for the New York Rangers before coming to the Bruins and the Bruins and Rangers had a heated rivalry.

“But when I came to Boston, the focus was more on Montreal,” said Park.

O’Reilly was a fan favorite for his jarring body checks, tireless work ethic and the fact he was one of the NHL’s best fighters.

He took full advantage of being lefthanded and won most of his fights.

He said his highlights included “scoring three overtime goals [in the playoffs], beating Montreal in a playoff series as the coach of the Bruins and having my number 24 retired by the Bruins. That was a great honor. And my family got to come to the ceremony.”

He said the worst moment came when teammate Normand Leveille was checked into the boards and suffered a career-ending brain injury because he had a congenital condition that resulted in massive bleeding in the brain.

“We waited in the captain’s room until 3 in the morning to find out about Normand,” said O’Reilly.

Hall-of-Fame defenseman Bourque said winning a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2000-2001 stands out but “it’s too bad it couldn’t have happened in Boston.”

He had played 21 seasons in Boston before being traded to Colorado on March 6, 2000.

Bob Sweeney may not have had the pro career that the other four had, but the former Boston College star did notch 288 points in a 639-game NHL career and had fond memories of his college rivalry with Maine.

“The fans used to be even more on top of you [at Alfond Arena]. It’s good to see they’ve made some renovations. It’s a great facility for hockey,” said Sweeney.

“I remember our games with Maine. In our last game at the old McHugh Forum, I scored the last ever goal in the Forum against Maine,” said Sweeney. “[The late] Shawn Walsh always used to kid me because he recruited me for Michigan State [before Walsh came to Maine]. He did a great job with this program. He really did a great job and they’ve done a great job continuing the tradition.”

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