Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bob Beckett: Highlights From the Past

On March 3, 2014, I conducted my second talk at the NHL Oldtimers lunch. In the spotlight was former Boston Bruin forward Bob Beckett.

Monday March 3, 2014
Markham, Ontario

Bob Beckett's first step up the hockey ladder came when he played pee-wee in the Agincourt Minor Hockey League. Also, Bob played in the Big Six Junior Hockey League for Agincourt and two of his teammates were Mike Nykoluk and Bobby Baun.

At the age of 17, he joined the Jr. "B" Scarborough Rangers.

The following year, Bob graduated to Jr. "A" and performed for the Galt Black Hawks. Bob's time in Galt was limited to one season due to the team folding.

His next stop was in Barrie, under legendary Flyers coach, Hap Emms. He was the first of three tough taskmasters Bob played for in his career.

With Bob on the ice and Emms behind the bench, Barrie advanced to the 1955-56 OHA final by beating St. Mike's. Their opponent in the final, however, was the powerful Toronto Marlboros. Their line-up included Bob Pulford, Bob Nevin, Carl Brewer, Bobby Baun, Gord Haughton and Gary Collins.

In game four, Bob led his team to their only victory against the Marlboros. He scored twice in Barrie's 4-2 win. In 17 playoff games, Bob scored 14 goals and added 8 assists.

Bob's rights were owned by the Boston Bruins and while still in junior, Bruins GM, Lynn Patrick, was asked to comment on prospects in Boston's system. He said, "I like Bob Beckett. He does a lot of work."

Like most Ontario born players who showed promise, Bob didn't escape the watchful eye of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Quoting Bob, "I was actually scouted by Bob Davidson in Toronto. I was playing bantam and he invited me to come down and practice with the Marlies. My brother took me down and we were late. I can remember the Marlies already being on the ice. They were all big guys. I said to my brother 'take me home, I'm not going out there.' So we went home. Later Baldy Cotton, who worked for Boston, scouted me and followed me in junior."

Bob's performance in the post-season against St.Mike's and the Marlboros resulted in his hockey year being extended by one game. He made a trip to Hershey to play a single contest with the AHL Bears. In Hershey, his coach was Murray Henderson and one of his teammates went on to make a name for himself in television,  Don Cherry.

Bob began his first full year as a professional in 1956-57, playing for the Victoria Cougars and Quebec Aces. In Quebec, Bob was coached by another tough mentor, Punch Imlach.

On December 20, 1956, the Bruins Vic Stasiuk suffered an injury during a contest against Detroit. This opened the door for Bob to earn a promotion to the National Hockey League.

Then, on February 7, 1957, Boston's Jerry Toppazzini had his nose reshaped by Ted Lindsay's stick. Once again, Bob got the call to join the Boston Bruins. On February 10th, versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bob registered his first NHL point, an assist, on a goal by Fleming MacKell. Also, that season, he helped the Quebec Aces win the Edinburgh Trophy over the Brandon Bengals.

From 1957-58, Bob played most of his hockey in the American Hockey League, which included a stint under Phil Watson. His third venture skating for a demanding, no nonsense coach.

Bob Beckett's first NHL goal came on November 2, 1961, when he beat Montreal goalie Jacques Plante. Overall, Bob appeared in 68 NHL games, all with the Boston Bruins, and scored 7 goals and 6 assists.

His final campaign was in 1963-64 with Providence and Boston.

He went on to play with the NHL Oldtimers and had a chance to skate alongside many former players in this room.

In this photo from The Star Weekly of March 10, 1962, Bob is clearly at a disadvantage as he battles Leaf defenceman Carl Brewer. Still, Bob's intensity is shown on his face as he keeps focused on the puck, and more importantly, he keeps both hands on his stick - way to go Bob!

Thank you.

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