Randi Druzin is a veteran journalist and author based in Toronto. Her second book, Between the Pipes gives fans an insiders look into some of the greatest personalities that hockey has ever had, those netminders who are the last line of defense. With the NHL on a bit of a respite and the Olympics in full swing, we caught up with Randi to talk about the book and those personalities that have touched Bostonians hearts over the years.
You can find out more about the book at www.betweenthepipesbook.com.
Many know Terry Sawchuk’s Hall of Fame career but not the time he spent in Boston. How important was his time here?
His play wasn’t spectacular in Boston and he wasn’t beloved by fans or media. In fact, he drew a lot of criticism. His wife later described Sawchuk’s trade to Boston and his time there as “the darkest moment of his life.” It was the first time he had that kind of experience in the NHL.
You touch a great deal on the Flyers, who ousted the Bruins for the Stanley Cup, as well as on Tony Esposito, Phil’s brother. Talk about the relationship between Tony and Phil, who obviously is royalty in Boston.
Like many siblings they were very close and very competitive from the beginning. When the two of them played one-on-one as kids, Phil was the shooter. He was a year older so Tony had no choice! They were always a contrast in personalities too. Phil was a happy extrovert while Tony was more of a brooding introvert. Tony once said, “You know any goaltenders that don’t worry a lot? The only ones that don’t worry are the ones that are too dumb to understand the situation.” Enough said!
The Bruins have had a great tradition of colorful goalies, including people like Gerry Cheevers and of course Tim Thomas. Any reason why they didn’t make full consideration?
Gerry Cheevers is in the book. He has a big sidebar in the Bernie Parent chapter. He didn’t get a chapter of his own because he didn’t fully meet the criteria I used to determine which goaltenders were “legendary.” The criteria: 1) Great accomplishments (ie: trophies) and/or impact on the game 2) Compelling personality. Many goalies fit the bill in one category or the other, but not many fit the bill in both. A very good argument could be made for including Tim Thomas. He might be in the next installment.
With the Beanpot in full swing college hockey has never been bigger. How valuable does the college aspect play into those you put in the book?
College hockey wasn’t nearly as prestigious two or three decades ago as it is now. Ed Belfour went to the University of North Dakota only after he failed to win a spot on a major junior team in Canada. Ken Dryden was an exception. He was highly touted and could have played almost anywhere but he wanted an education so he went to Cornell. In both cases, these goalies played pivotal roles on very strong teams.
Where do you feel Boston falls in the annals of the NHL, and why? Any favorite stories?
Boston is an Original Six team so it has a rich history. Every hockey fan has heard many stories about Bobby Orr and the Big Bad Bruins. But there is one story that, in my opinion, speaks to the intensity of the team and its fans:
In the opening round of the 1969 playoffs, the Bruins squared off against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Midway through the first game, Leafs defenseman Pat Quinn laid an elbow or shoulder (depending on whom you ask) into Orr’s head and knocked him unconscious. Orr was taken to the hospital. The fans in Boston Garden were so enraged they attacked Quinn in the penalty box. A Lucite panel behind the box was shattered and police had to intervene and escort Quinn to the dressing room. Incredible!
Who were your favorite personalities and why?
I found every goalie interesting to research and interview. (Of the nine living goalies, I spoke to seven.) There was something about Terry Sawchuk that really stuck with me. He was an extraordinary talent yet he was miserable, angry and abusive. He died at a young age after exchanging blows with a teammate. His story was as tragic as it was inspirational. I wouldn’t say he was my favorite personality but I would say his story was the most compelling.
As far as favorite goalie goes — Johnny Bower is the nicest man on Earth. How could I not love the guy?
With the Olympics now here, did any of those in the book talk about their limited experience in the Games? How valuable are the Olympics to the NHL today?
Hasek talked about his phenomenal play at the 1998 Nagano Games, where he almost single-handedly led his team to a surprise gold-medal victory. He didn’t talk about it very much though. I think at this point, he’s just tired of answering questions about those Olympics. Many people consider it the defining moment of his career — and that’s understandable. He finished the tournament with a 0.97 goals against average.
The Olympic tournament is a great showcase for NHL talent. Including NHL players is a great way to generate worldwide interest in the league. Ultimately, that could help generate revenue for the league — a fact which I’m sure is not lost on many of those involved.