Boston Bruins legend Milt Schmidt turned 97 on March 5.
With the passing of Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Elmer Lach on Saturday, Schmidt became the oldest living former NHL player.
Lach and Schmidt were born 42 days apart in 1918. They became rivals during their playing time together in the NHL. Lach played on three Stanley Cup winners for Montreal, beating Schmidt and the Bruins in the 1946 and 1953 Finals.
Lach, also 97, was part of the infamous Canadiens' Punch Line and played center alongside Maurice "Rocket" Richard and Toe Blake. When Lach retired from the six-team, 50-game per season NHL in 1954, he was the league's all-time leading scorer with 623 points.
Schmidt's association with the Bruins continues to this day. The former player, captain, coach and general manager was honored again in November of 2013 as the team celebrated its 90th season. Schmidt won Stanley Cups as a Bruins player in 1939 and '41 and as the team's GM in 1970 and '72. His No. 15 was retired and raised to the rafters of the old Boston Garden on March 13, 1980.
Schmidt centered Boston's "Kraut Line" - yes, this was long before the days of political correctness - during the Bruins' Stanley Cup title years of 1939 and '41. Schmidt, left wing Woody Dumart, and right winger Bobby Bauer were 1-2-3 in scoring in the league in the 1939-40 season.
Even more impressive than their hockey exploits was the fact that all three players enlisted together in the Canadian Air Force in February of 1942 following the outbreak of World War II. They were joined in service by Boston goalie and American Frank Brimsek, who enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard.
In their last game before leaving the NHL until 1946, they combined for an incredible 11 points against the Canadiens in an 8-1 Boston win at the Garden.
Here's how that night was described in Brian McFarlane's book, "The Bruins."
"On February 11, 1942, the Bruins' famous Kraut Line…received an emotional send-off at the Boston Garden following a pasting of the Montreal Canadiens…[When] it was time to say goodbye to the boys -- they had signed up for active service with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Applause filled the building as the three linemates were presented with paychecks for the remainder of the season -- plus a handsome bonus…Then, putting bitter rivalries aside, the Montreal players joined the Bruins in hoisting the three air force recruits onto their shoulders and carrying them to the exit."
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