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Blast from the Past: 1967 Phil Esposito trade still the No. 1 lowlight of Blackhawks-Bruins rivalry
“Jesus Saves … but Esposito tips in the rebound.”
A friend of mine wrote that on a bathroom wall when we were in the seventh grade and the Boston Bruins were en route to winning their second Stanley Cup championship in 1972. It was a sentiment born not only of our ignorance of the artistry of “greasy” goals, but mostly our envy and frustration that former Blackhawk Phil Esposito was turning the 1967 trade to the Bruins into a Brock-for-Broglio disaster for the Blackhawks — winning scoring titles, breaking Bobby Hull’s scoring records and worst of all, leading the Bruins to two Stanley Cups.
No matter how old you are, any chronicle of the Blackhawks-Bruins rivalry starts there. After the 1967 season, the Blackhawks traded 25-year-old Phil Esposito, 22-year-old Ken Hodge and 23-year-old Fred Stanfield to the Bruins for defenseman Gilles Marotte, center Pit Martin and goalie Jack Norris.
Esposito had scored 23, 27 and 21 goals for the Blackhawks in his first three NHL seasons, but on a team that had plenty of firepower with Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Kenny Wharram, he was considered expendable. The Hawks were looking for defense. The 21-year-old Marotte was the second best young defenseman on the Bruins behind 18-year-old Bobby Orr.
Little did the Hawks know that it would be like Twice A Prince being the second best horse in the 1973 Belmont Stakes. Marotte struggled with the Hawks, was tried at forward and eventually traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Bill White in 1970.
Pit Martin kept the trade from being a complete washout. He scored 243 goals in 10-plus seasons with the Hawks — still 10th on their all-time list — and was a four-time All-Star.
Unfortunately, even that credible production was overwhelmed by what the Hawks gave up. Esposito, who scored 74 goals for the Hawks, scored 643 after the trade. Hodge, who scored 16 goals with the Hawks, scored 312 after the trade. Stanfield, who scored 10 goals the Hawks, scored 201 goals after being traded. In all, the Hawks gave up 1,156 total goals in the three players and received 253 goals and three wins from Jack Norris in return.
Both teams prospered after the trade. The Hawks made the Stanley Cup Finals in 1971 and 1973. The Bruins went to the Finals in 1970 (after sweeping the Blackhawks) and 1972. But the Hawks lost both of their Finals appearances. The Bruins won both of theirs.
The Hawks and Bruins have faced each other in the playoffs only six times, the last time in 1978. The only time the Hawks won was a best-of-three mini-series in 1975. Overall, the Hawks are 5-16-1 in the playoffs vs. the Bruins. But the most lopsided part of the rivalry was and always will be the Esposito trade.