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Five Questions With...

Five Questions with Terry O'Reilly

Bruins legend on record-setting 1977-78 season, playing for Don Cherry

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs each Tuesday through the 2017-18 regular season. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Boston Bruins legend Terry O'Reilly.

On Tuesday at TD Garden, Terry O'Reilly will be among the NHL-record 11 Boston Bruins who scored 20 goals during the 1977-78 season. The 11, along with former coach Don Cherry, will be honored before the Bruins play the Calgary Flames (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, NEWS, SNW, NHL.TV).

O'Reilly, 66, is one of the most popular players ever to play for the Bruins; he was a wrecking ball on skates who ferociously defended teammates and made life miserable for opposing goaltenders. O'Reilly, who had his No. 24 retired in 2002, was and remains a huge favorite with the Bruins' blue-collar fan base. 

"Taz," as he was nicknamed by teammate Phil Esposito for his whirling dervish style that resembled the Tasmanian Devil of the Looney Tunes cartoons, had a good touch around the net. When O'Reilly wasn't serving the 2,095 penalty minutes he compiled during his NHL 891 games from 1971-72 to 1984-85, he scored 606 points (204 goals, 402 assists).

O'Reilly led the Bruins in points (90), goals (29), and assists (61) -- all NHL career highs - in 1977-78, a season that fell two wins short of magical when Boston lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Montreal Canadiens in six games.

O'Reilly has many memories of his season for the ages, though no puck, stick or scoresheet in his collection to celebrate it. He does, however, have a few souvenirs.

"Scars," he says with a laugh.

Here are Five Questions With … Terry O'Reilly:



Two NHL teams before the 1977-78 Bruins had 10 players score 20 or more goals. Were you aware, as a team, that you were on the brink of something historic, and how did it all come together for you personally that season?

"As the season started to wind down, there was some talk started about that record. We went into Toronto for our second-to-last game before the Stanley Cup Playoffs and (rookie forward) Bobby Miller had 19 goals. For us to establish that record, he needed to score. I don't think he received all season as many passes as he did that game (Miller scored his 20th at 19:54 of the third period in a 3-1 win). We were aware of it. Don [Cherry] was giving Bob extra ice time and when he was out there; we were all telling him, 'Just stand in front of the net, we'll get the puck to you.'

"For 11 of us to score 20 or more goals, there has to be a good feeling through the locker room all season. We came up in the Final against a Canadiens team that was a dynasty. And in all fairness, in my career, I always looked at what happened in the playoffs. The regular season is just sort of getting ready for the playoffs. If you have a great regular season and don't get it done in the playoffs, it's nice but it's nothing special.

 "As for me that year? It took me a few seasons to scare the bejeebers out of everyone. I was just enjoying that team and that year so much. I believe I spent a fair bit of time with Jean Ratelle -- he was quite a nifty playmaker -- and Peter McNab, who was an excellent finisher, as my centermen. If I was out there with Peter, anything I gave him, he put in the net. If I was out there with Jean, anything he shot off my backside went in the net. Jean was one smooth player and just a fine gentleman."



Do you remember one shot -- a goal post, crossbar, a goalie robbing you -- that could have given you one more goal to hit 30?

"No, but I remember offering McNab some favors if he gave me one of his 41 -- he'd have 40 and I'd have 30. But he wouldn't go along with it. Well, he considered it but we couldn't figure how to get the scorekeepers to go along with it, we needed the paperwork to go with it. And Harry (Bruins general manager Sinden) might have taken a close look at it, too, because I think I had a bonus for 30 goals. I'm sure Harry figured, 'There's no way Terry will get 30 goals, I'll offer him the moon as a bonus.'


Don Cherry joked, I think, that on the 1977-78 team, if an opponent touched Ratelle or Brad Park, that player would be "in the hospital or dead." Do you have a recollection of that?

"I don't think he had to speak the words. Rick Middleton would be in that category, too. Anybody who was not a physical player; if anyone on the other team was taking liberties with them. … Back then, the honorable thing to do was to fight in your own weight class. If someone was fighting down, then we, as a team, addressed it.



You finished eighth in 1977-78 balloting for the Hart Memorial Trophy as the League's most valuable player, won by Guy Lafleur of the Canadiens. I'm guessing you're pretty proud of finishing ahead of Tony Esposito, Clark Gillies, Ken Dryden and defenseman Larry Robinson in the voting?

"I finished eighth? Wow. I did not know that. It's kind of surprising to hear my name with theirs. I played against those fellows and they're all Hall of Famers. I have an awful lot of respect for each and every one of them."


As coach of the Bruins in 1987-88, you were a big part of the Boston team that ended the Canadiens' streak of having beaten the Bruins in 18 consecutive playoff series, dating back to 1946. How sweet was your victory in the 1988 Adams Division Final?
"It was very satisfying, but it was very stressful. We were up by three goals with 12 seconds to go with a face-off. I was still worried. I was thinking, 'With 12 seconds, they can still do it.' When the final buzzer rang, it really was a wonderful feeling to finally send them home and to the golf course, to be on the winning side of the handshake."

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