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Looking in on a legend, a conversation with the man known as Nifty

Looking in on a legend, a conversation with the man known as Nifty

By Kevin Flanagan

BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer

In the 94 years since Vermont grocer Charles Francis Adams formed the Boston Bruins, there has been a bevy of very talented players who have laced up the skates for the Original Six franchise, 47 of which are in Hockey’s Hall of Fame. In that time, there have been periods of greatness, along with stretches of struggles, for the team that calls Causeway Street home.

During that long and storied history, it is hard to argue that there was ever a decade that created so many memories, saw such prolonged success, and had equal amounts of exaltation and agony, than the 1970’s. Beginning with Bobby Orr and the Big, Bad Bruinswho took home two Stanley Cups and should have won moreand ending with Don Cherry’s Lunch Pail A.C., there has never been a time when hockey burned brighter in Boston, than the decade in which disco mattered.

Having been born in 1967 in the midst of the greatest to have ever played the game’s first season, my memories of Orr come more through old film and stories told by those who witnessed his greatness firsthand. Growing up, mine was a hockey family through and through. The bloodline of Bruins’ fans date back to my grandmother, who passed away before I was born, and who was a season-ticket holder at the Garden through the ‘40’s and 50’s, when times weren’t always so good for the boys in Black and Gold.

Unlike my brothers who rooted for the likes of Orr, Phil Esposito, Johnny McKenzie, Derek Sanderson and Kenny Hodge; my guys were Terry O’Reilly, Jean Ratelle, Brad Park, Stan Johnathan, and a guy you simply could not take your eyes off every time he stepped onto the icethe should be Hall of Famer, Rick Middleton.

The man known as Nifty, was as crafty as they come with his hands, hence the nickname. Quick and agilethough not necessarily the fastest skaterMiddleton beat you with his supreme hockey sense, his flair, and his will. As his Hall of Fame teammate defenseman, Brad Park once said, “”I’ve seen them all, and Nifty’s the best one-on-one player in hockey. Take anyone in the league, give Nifty the puck, and 90% of the time he’ll turn the other guy inside out.

Middleton could score goals any way you could imagine. Whether he was slipping the puck under a diving defender while hurdling over his prone body, then gathering the puck back and snapping a wrister inside the post, or sliding head first past the goal after scoring from an impossible angle; no one could outdo his creativity.

However, as you will hear from Middleton himself later in this piece, he had an inauspicious start in Boston due to Don Cherry’s coaching style. Nevertheless, when asked years later, he credited Cherry for the all-around player he became, often finishing with the most minutes played for a forward on his teams due to his power play and penalty killing abilities.

Of course, Nifty’s greatness would help to propel the Bruins into the ’80’s as a contender, and he would most often be the enginealong with Barry Pedersonthat powered the B’s offense during that time. Yet, like many of my generation that started watching hockey in the mid ‘70’s, it was the “too many men on the ice” era Bruins, who couldn’t get by the juggernaut that was the Montreal Canadiens in those days, that bring back the fondest memories.

I had a recently had a chance to catch up with Rick, who is enjoying life after hockey as a successful small-business owner. Here are some of the highlights from our almost hour-long conversation.

BSDWhat is life like for Rick Middleton these days?

RMLife great these days, I’m busier than I have ever been. I’m involved in my step daughter’s hockey; she is still playing for Assabet Valley Girls Hockey. Last year, I had the time to be a head coach, which I really enjoyed.

I also own a wholesale lighting company with my partner Alex Bezanson, Orlanda Energy Systems in Abington; we do some commercial solar, but mostly commercial LED lighting. We have been working with some hockey rinks, getting their lighting up to where it should be. We’ve also been lucky enough to partner up with Phillips Lighting, the largest lighting company in the world for the last year and a half, so I’ve been busy.


BSD’s Kevin Harriman and Bruins legend Rick Middleton.

BSDI understand that you have also recently got involved in a new venture with United Games, something that BSD’s publisher Kevin Harriman is involved with as well, what can you tell us about that?

RMWell, it is the first mobile sports app that you can play on your phone while you are watching the game. They are starting with NFL football and MLS soccer along with Premier League soccer overseas, and we are being told that they are going to expand into the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball and possibly golf. So they are going to bring in other sports as well.

How the games will be played; they are keeping very close to the vest. The app hasn’t been launched yet. I believe the target date is the end of October, which is coming up very quickly. There are two ways you can get involved with the game. You can sign up as an affiliate, and actually make money from the number of people playing the game. Or you can simply sign up for free and download the app once it is available.

It is pretty exciting because it is the first of its kind, that I know of, and certainly will be once they bring on all of these leagues they have lined up.  It is such a new launch and a new company, the combination of the sports app and the mobile app, and how popular the Pokemon Go has been; I thought this type of thing could take off.  And that is why I got involved.  Not to mention it is very low money to get involved as an affiliate.

BSDOk, let’s take a trip down memory lane, if you will. Tell us, what do you miss from your playing days?

RMBeing able to skate fast, shoot hard, (laughs) and make a nice contract, how’s that? (Laughs again) Seriously, it has been so long, my last game was the night the lights went out in Boston Garden in 1988 in the Finals against the Edmonton Oilers. It has been a while, but I have been able to play with the Bruins Alumni over that time, and the last eight years I have been president of the Bruins Alumni Association. I schedule close to 30 games a year to play against different charities, youth hockey groups and so on to help raise funds for very worth causes.

I put the lineups together; we are very fortunate because have 25 to 30 actual Bruins alumniwe call anyone an alum that has played at least one game with the Boston Bruinsso we are fortunate to have that many hockey players in the Boston area that can at least play a couple games for us. It is never really a problem to put together a line-up of 12 or 13 guys; these guys are so great. They share their time all winter long and drive in bad weather, just to play hockey. It’s a great thing.

BSDYou were drafted by an Original Six franchise in the New York Rangers, then you were traded to the Boston Bruins. What was it like to play for two Original Six teams in two of the most legendary buildings in hockey?

RMWell, you can imagine for a Canadian kid growing up in Toronto in the 1960’s – the Toronto Maple Leafs won four Stanley Cupsbelieve it or not, I was a Leafs fan at one time (laughs), but then I grew up (laughs again). The last Cup they won was in 1967, I remember seeing that Cup, there were only 120 players in the league, and I knew everyone of them by name.

It wasn’t long after that in 1973 that I ended up getting drafted in the first round by the New York Rangers. So it was a dream come true for any young hockey player, not just a Canadian kid. My parents, as you can imagine, were thrilled beyond belief. To be picked by an Original Six team like the Rangers was even a more special thrill, because I followed every team in the league so closely when I was a kid. I knew everyone in the league, and now I have to go to training camp and try to take one of their jobs (chuckles).

They treated me first class and didn’t harbor any resentment towards me. I remember not making the team out of the first training camp in 1973, if you remember, the Bruins and the Rangers played for the Cup in ’72 so they still had a really good team.

Even though I was a first-round pick, they decided I needed a little seasoning, so they sent to their American League hockey team which down the street in Providence, Rhode Island. They were the Providence Reds in those days. It was the very first year they built the Dunkin Donuts Center, the Civic Center as they called it back then, I lived in Cranston when I was 19 years old on Pocasset Ave.

I was in New England at an early age, and little did I know some three years later I would be here for the rest of my life.

BSDAs you know, there is perhaps no bigger rivalry in hockey than the Bruins and Canadiens. You were a member of the 1979 team that came so close to beating them in their own building. Just curious, how many times have you woken from a restful sleep mumbling, “Too many men on the freaking ice???”

RM(Chuckles) Well, you know, what was strange, I couldn’t even watch that game for like 15 years. Then somebody sent it to me on my computer, so I could stream it. I had scored the goal that put us ahead 4-3 with about four minutes to go. So I’m watching that and then the downfall with too many men on the ice.

I had no memory the fact that I was one of the guys on the ice. So I went, “Oh my god, I was one of the men on the ice(laughs). So it might have been me, you know? (laughs again) But its never been who was; it’s always been about who Don (Cherry) called up. And nobody remembers except Don, and he says he is going to his grave with it. So, I hope he keeps his word (big laugh)!

You know, as soon as you start to forget it a little bit, they play it again on the NHL Network, so you can never really get away from it (more laughter).

BSDOn the other side of the coin, what was it like when you guys knocked them out of the playoffs, breaking the curse of Montreal, in their own building the Forum?

RMWell, I didn’t know that would be my last year. I had some inklings of it, because the put me on the third line and for the first time in like 10 years, I didn’t play on the power play. So, I could see it coming, I had seen it happen to other guys.

To go to the Finals in my last year and to beat the Montreal Canadiens in the semi-finals kind of turned out to be my Stanley Cup. I was only one of two people on that team that went back to the ‘70’s, that would remember all those losses. The two Stanley Cup losses, the too many men on the ice in ’79, and Terry O’Reilly was the other, and he was the coach.

It was extra special to me; the only unfortunate thing was I had what felt like a tear of my cartilage in my knee in game four, blocking a shot killing a penalty. I couldn’t skate real well; it hurt pretty bad. So, I had to decide if I would be effective kind of half skating, or should I take the time if we did lose and be back for game six. I decided I would wait and be the best I could if we played game six. So I was at the Montreal Forum in dress clothes when we finally beat them.

I still didn’t believe it when there was like three minutes to go, until Cam Neely scored to make it 4-1. I still thought the old ghost of the Montreal Forum would do something to us, but it wasn’t to be and we finally beat them.

BSDLet’s talk about the game as it is being played now. Based on the rules, the equipment, how do you think it is different from when you played?

RMThere are about three things that come to mind right off the bat. The equipment is drastically different, especially the goalie equipment. The goaltenders themselves are much bigger, and they play a much different style. I mean, you never see anymore double stack pad saves like you used to in the old days. All of the goaltenders go down in a butterfly, so there is no five hole. I don’t think I could play today because I always liked to go between the legs (laughs). There is just no five hole anymore.

The equipment is a huge change, along with the goaltending. But the athletes themselves, it was just starting right around when I was going out to start working out year round and having personal trainers. When I first came in the league, you used training camp to get into condition. We had two a days for three weeks before you would even play a game, which was kind of boring (laughs). During the ‘80’s, players were starting to work out in the summer more, running, so you came into camp at a good weight and in fairly good shape. I think it was just after I got out that guys were hiring personal trainers, weight lifting and conditioning. Basically keeping a record of where you were at, because if you didn’t go into training camp at a certain level of conditioning, you weren’t going to make the team. And now it is a science.

BSDWhat was it like to play for Don Cherry?

RMWell, you know; people ask me that question all the time (laughs) I have nothing but good things to say about Don. He and I didn’t really see eye to eye; we joke about it today. When we first met, I always tell a funny story, and he does too.

The first day we met, and I went out on the ice and I was skating around with Wayne Cashman, Peter McNab, and Bobby Schmautz and we’re just talking. I had just met him; it was the first day of camp. Don came over, took his glove off and stuck his hand out to shake my hand. He always called me “Ricky boy,” he says, “Hey Ricky boy, you’re looking a little bigger; you have been working out?” I said, “No Don, I just had a good summer,” (big laugh).

It was one of the only times that I have seen Don Cherry speechless (laughs some more). Bobby Schmautz is laughing so hard, he fell on the ice. I didn’t really mean it to be sarcastic, but I guess I was. But he got me back, because I got a hat trick my first game as a Bruin, and he benched me for the rest of the year; I ended up with 20 (chuckles).  I had three in my first game!

Even though it was my third year in the NHL, I wasn’t just going to walk into a job with the Boston Bruins. They were a team that had a shot at going to the Finals every year. They had Schmautz, Cashman, and O’Reilly on the right side; I ended up playing more of left wing than right wing in my first couple years in Boston, which was a great learning experience.

When I finally started playing more, Don got more confidence in me, I started killing some penalties and playing the power play. So by the time Don was done in 1980, Gerry Cheevers was coach, I was his go-to guy. He trusted me to play special teams, first minute, last minute, double shift. So, Gerry played me to death (laughs).  He gave me a lot of minutes on the ice, which let me put up the numbers I did. Anyone will tell you, if you don’t get the ice time, you can’t get the numbers.

I credit Don for the good years I had in the ‘80’s.

BSDIt seems as if a lot of the creativity has been taken out of the game. Every team, every coach, plays a system. How much do you think system hockey has changed the game?

RMWell, there is room for creativity out there, but the players are so well conditioned, and they are such good skaters today. The change of the rules, it is not that many years ago that the defenseman could hold you up. If you got a step on a D, he can’t stick his arm in there or his stick because it is interference. The defense can’t even really touch you when you are coming down with the puck, unless they hit you at the right time.

You can try to go around these guys, but they are so well conditioned and such good skaters, that they turn and can skate as fast forward as you are with the puck, you hardly see one on one anymore. Guys just aren’t beating guys one on one and going in and deking the goalies.

It just doesn’t seem to happen much anymore, and because of what you said, the systems, coming through center ice with speed with the puck is difficult because of the trap. It is a different game, a lot more dump and chase, bang and cycle in the corner. Still, they are not all 1-0 games, there are still goals being scored.

I just wish that people would just enjoy how good the game is, I think that is evident from the number of people the get at the games. Nearly every arena is full. They have great TV contracts, and I think the game is on the rise. They should just leave it alone for a while.

BSDUp until recently, it seemed almost every team had a guy whose job it was to protect the more skilled players on the roster. What do you think about the league trying to phase out fighting and taking the ability to police the game away from the players?

RMYou’re right, back when I played you had some tough teams. The Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal, to some extent, and some other teams that were very tough teams, and teams that could play either way; physical or at a high [skill] level of play. That gave guys like me a little more room because guys didn’t want to mess with guy like Terry O’Reilly or Stan Jonathan. It gave me more ice to work with which certainly helped. It was a lot better than playing for the California Golden Seals or a team like that (laughs).

I don’t think there is anybody in the NHL wants to be the guy that takes fighting out of hockey, in case they totally ruin the game and get vilified for the rest of their life (chuckles). I think they have achieved what they want by making the game so fast and competitive. Recently, you have seen teams like Chicago, Los Angeles, the Rangers, to a certain extent; teams that have won the Cup or come very close to it that have four really good lines.

It used to be that sometimes you couldn’t play certain players in the playoffs because the pace got so fast as opposed to the season. The tough guys would play during the regular season, but because there wasn’t much fighting in the playoffs, coaches wouldn’t play them. Now, you have to be able to skate, whether you are a first liner or a fourth liner. You have to have good, quick players on all four lines because they count on all four lines. You have to play four seven-game series in the playoffs now, so you have to have that depth. It is usually the teams that have four really good lines that win the Stanley Cup these days.

BSDBased on your game and the way the game is played now with the systems coaches we talked about, how do you think you would fit into one of these systems based teams today?

RM(Laughs) It’s funny, Don Cherry wanted me to play in a system when I first came to Boston. When I was in New York and juniors and such, all anyone wanted me to do was to go on the ice, beat everybody, and score, or set up a play. So that’s all I really did.

So when I got to Boston, Don had a systemeven though it was a really simple system defensivelyso I had to fit into that, or I didn’t play. You see that from some players today, who don’t seem to fit into it right away, and they don’t get the ice time because they don’t have the trust of the coach.

Today’s game, even though it looks like there aren’t as many scoring chances, it is just different. You have got to be more in front of the net, tipping the puck and screening. On the power play, you really have to rely on puck possession and setting up certain plays, not so much different than before, you just don’t have as much time and space as we did because there are so many good skaters.

How I would fit in? I don’t know; I’d like to think that I could still go one on one every so often, but I know if I did, I’d probably get benched for losing the puck at the blue line (hearty laugh).

BSDLet’s step off the beaten path a bit. Who was the craziest teammate you ever played with either on or off the ice?

RM(Roaring laugh) Those are two different things, if you look on the ice at the job a Terry O’Reilly, a John Wensink, Stan Jonathan…some of these guys had to do; you’d think “Man, these guys are crazy.” Yet, if you meet them off the ice, they are total gentlemen. I mean Terry likes to collect antiques (chuckles).  You’d be surprised at really how normal most of these guys are, but they do this incredible job on the ice game in and game out. It’s not an easy way to make a living; that’s for sure.

Then off the ice, you have goaltenders that were always a little flaky. We had a goalie in New York that would do transcendental meditation on the day of a game. He would say he would go off to Spain, or something like that (laughs). We had a goalie [with the Bruins], Marco Baron, that couldn’t touch door knobs on game days.

Former Bruin Marco Baron, who never met a doorknob he liked on game days.

Former Bruin Marco Baron, who never met a doorknob he liked on game days.

I remember Phil Esposito was so superstitious that you couldn’t have two sticks crossed in the dressing room before the game, or he’d lose it. Mostly, all the craziness is based on superstition, and nothing else. If you were too crazy in the National Hockey League, you didn’t last too long (laughs).

BSDI saw an article a couple of years back that ranked you in the top five of former NHL players who should be in the Hall of Fame, but haven’t yet been enshrined. Your numbers are certainly Hall of Fame worthy. Is this something you think about or not?

RMI don’t really think about it, but I have a lot of friends who are always bringing it up. Every year around November, the talk of who is going into the Hall of Fame seems to heat up a bit. To me, growing up in Toronto, I remember going to the Hall of Fame at the old Canadian National Exhibition as a kid, when really it was just a couple of old hockey sticks and jock straps (chuckles).  Now, it is a state of the art, beautiful, Hall of Fame.

I’ve looked at the numbers of some of the guys who are in there…my numbers aren’t the type of numbers that guarantee that I should be in there, but I had better numbers than some guys and not as good as some others. I never won a Stanley Cup, although I was in three of them, and two Canada Cups. So, you could make an argument one way or the other. Right now, how they have it set up, there is no senior division. I think there are 18 members on the board, and you have to get 75% of the votes, so it’s not looking good for me as I move into my 60’s! (Big laugh)

I certainly would love to be in there, but I don’t lose any sleep over it. It’s not something I think about everyday (chuckles).

BSDUp until the team finally won a Stanley Cup in 2011, Bruins fans blamed their lack of winning on the frugalness of ownership and especially Harry Sinden. Harry rarely signed free agents and was notoriously tough when it came to negotiating contracts, as I am sure, you know. Was there ever any grumbling about that within the team, as it seemed you were always just a player or two away from winning a Stanley Cup?

Harry Sinden behind the Bruins bench.

Harry Sinden behind the Bruins bench.

RMYou know; it’s funny that you say that because it is like when you are in the middle of it, you don’t see it. When you are on a team, you are given the players that you have and you always think we are going to make the best of it, we’ve got a shot. We always had good players, even though some years the results weren’t there. I always thought that, “we’ve got a shot here.”

Even in 1988, we had a pretty good team, but it wasn’t until we got [Craig] Janney and [Bob] Joyce in February that we really took off. They gave us another scoring line, and we went to the Finals. That’s just evidence that sometimes picking up one or two players at the right time of the season can put you over the top.

You’re right; it never seemed to happen. The only time I remember Harry ever going out and getting somebody was, I believe we started the season 0-6-3, and he went out and spent a first-round draft pick for Charlie Simmer. But that was because we looked like we weren’t going to have a very good year (laughs).

As far as going out and getting that one missing piece, I’m not sure we had a lot of missing pieces. Its just that we seemed to run into a formidable powerhouse, whether it was Montreal in the ‘70’s, the Islanders in the early ‘80”s, and Edmonton in the late ‘80’s. It just seemed that there was always one team that no matter who you got on your team, you were going to have a hard time beating these guys. Half of their teams, especially Edmonton and Montreal, are in the Hall of Fame, and maybe a third of the Islanders (laughs).

Maybe the best team of all, when you think about putting a team of regular players together, and being able to get four Stanley Cups in a row, was the Islanders. I mean, that is a great feat. They didn’t have the players that Montreal and Edmonton did, but they certainly had some good ones on that Islander team.

BSDWe talked about contracts before, do you ever stop and think what a 21 year old Rick Middleton would get for a contract today?

RM(Sarcastic tone) Every once in a while someone will bring it up…(laughs).  No; I never think about it (laughs louder).  It would have been nice…I had Alan Eagleson as my agent my first six years, so I probably would have lost it anyway (big laugh).

My only regret with those contracts is my final year Harry bought out my option. I was 12 points away from 1,000. So that’s the only real foul taste in my mouth about the whole thing. I don’t dwell on it, but it certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to go out, but nobody ever asked me how I wanted to go out.

BSDI’ve got to ask, what caused Chris Nilan to butt end you in the mouth?

RMI don’t know; I have asked him that on occasion. Actually, we were just up in Prince Edwards island a short time ago together. We play a lot of charity games together; we have a promoter up in the Maritimes that does the Montreal alumni, the Bruins and sometimes All-Star teams.

Over the years, Chris and I have made up. He’s apologized to me like 1,000 times. He says it is the one thing in his career that he really regrets, and I told him same with me (big laugh).  He’s admitted he has no idea why he did it; he was going through some things in his life, who knows?

It probably looked worse than it really was, I told him I already had an 11 tooth bridge; he just made it a 14 tooth bridge (laughs).

BSDWhat do you think of the team now, and what do you think they have to do to get back to the team they were four or five years ago?

RMLooking at their Cup years and really how they decimatedI don’t think there is another word for ittheir roster. I mean getting rid of a young talent like [Tyler] Seguin, and you can name all the reasons in the world, but that is one of the things that happened to me in New York; they didn’t like my lifestyle. I was young; I had no mentorship, no leadership there. The year they traded me, they had three coaches. They had gotten rid of Emil Francis, the guy who drafted me.

There was really no leadership at all, and like I said, I was a 21-year-old kid who was maybe having a little too much fun (laughs).  Same with Seguin, I mean at least that was the excuse they wrote in the paper. But nobody tried to take him under their arm, because you already saw that he had this raw talent that doesn’t grow on trees.

Can you have a little patience with him, and maybe help him along? I mean, look at how he is doing now. Maybe they thought he wasn’t gritty enough to be a Bruin, which I’m not even sure what that means. I understand what they mean, but grit comes in a lot of fashions.

And then Boychuk, they didn’t think they could sign him, but after all the moves they made, they had plenty of money to sign him the next year; I believe. Then Hamilton, because he didn’t want to take the money they offered him, and he said he didn’t want to be in Boston. Well, he was a young, immature also and probably still is.

I don’t remember the NHL being like that. You worked for a team; they owned your rights, and if you didn’t like it go home and pitch hay, right?  You don’t trade him because he said something, you know?

They have let so much go without getting anything back; you had to believe that sooner or later that was going to affect them. Now it has, and their nucleus is getting older. They are still good, but they are getting older. I know they are hoping all these draft picks will come on, but they could be in even worse trouble in two or three years.

BSDI almost neglected to ask you about the chemistry you had with Barry Pederson. How quickly did you realize that there was something special between you guy when you were paired together?

RMYou don’t really know until you get into it, it takes a while. The only thing I can remember thinking why we wouldn’t, is that he was a right-handed center, and I always like getting the puck at a certain time breaking out of the zone. I liked to get it by center [ice] so I could get my speed up, my head up, and I could make a play on the defenseman instead of getting at the wrong time and being knocked on my butt.

Barry was always good at the backhand pass or turning on the fly to his forehand, and getting it to me quickly. We just kind of fed off each other. And then we had a young guy named Mike Krushelnyski on the left side, who I think really complimented us.

Rick Middleton, Barry Pederson, and Mike Krushelnyski.

Rick Middleton, Barry Pederson, and Mike Krushelnyski.

The three of us together, I think, could have really done something for many years. But we ended up trading Mike because I think he wanted a few more bucks on his contract; we got Kenny Linesman back, who was a good player. Then Barry had the injury to his arm and when he came back, they put us together again for about a week, then the split us up again.

I didn’t know what was happening, but when I found out that they were trading him for Cam Neely, I was like “Cam Neely, are you joking?Vancouver had only used him on the fourth line, and anytime we played the Canucks; he was just running around trying to knock someone over. I didn’t see, and I don’t think anyone else really knew, how good a player he really was.

The scouts had seen him in junior hockey, and they knew how tough he was; they knew he had hands for a tough guy. As it turns out, they were right. But losing Barry, that was the end of that era, but we lit ‘em up for a couple of years, and I guess that’s all you can hope for, in sports.

BSDIn points production, it might not be as impressive, but how much do you see what you and Barry had with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand these days?

RMWell, Marchand is really coming into his own now. He has been knocking on the door, but I don’t know if it his temperament, or if he thinks he should play that gritty style. There is a fine line between taking stupid penalties and bad penalties in a game, and hurting your team, causing the other team to focus on you, and take their focus off the game. Which some teams do, because they hate him so much (laughs). The Little Ball of Hate, right?

His offensive skills, and his playing skills…playing with Bergeron doesn’t hurt. He’s really come a long way. He is playing with and against the top players in the world in the World Cup, and he is right there, he is not out of place at all. He deserves the contract he just got, but now he is going to have to live up to it.

BSDYou played in three Stanley Cup Finals, and two Canada Cups, what is your favorite hockey memory?

RMMy biggest thrill was coaching the US National Sled Hockey Team in 2002 to a Gold Medal in Salt Lake City. I didn’t really know a lot about sled hockey going into it, or for disabled people for that matter. I had never been around some many of them in my life. It was certainly an eye-opener for me, and a great honor to coach those guys to a Gold.

Considering that we were the last-place team, the sixth seed out of six teams, and had only won one game prior to the tournament, and we won the Gold Medal that year. Since then, they have won two gold medals and a bronze. It really was a great honor.  We are actually working on a book about that right now.

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