The Boston Bruins are a professional ice hockey team based in Boston. The Bruins compete in the National Hockey League (NHL) as a member of the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference. The team has been in existence since 1924, making them the third-oldest active team in the NHL, and the oldest to be based in the United States.
The Bruins are one of the Original Six NHL teams. They have won six Stanley Cup championships, tied for fourth-most of any team with the Blackhawks (trailing the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, and Red Wings, with 24, 13, and 11, respectively), and tied for second-most for an NHL team based in the United States.
The first facility to host the Bruins was the Boston Arena (now known as Matthews Arena), the world's oldest (built 1909–10) indoor ice hockey facility still in use for the sport at any level of competition. Following the Bruins' departure from the Boston Arena, the team played its home games at the Boston Garden for 67 seasons, beginning in 1928 and concluding in 1995, when they moved to the TD Garden.
In their first-ever playoff run, the Bruins reached the Stanley Cup Final where they lost to the Ottawa Senators in the first Stanley Cup Finals to be between exclusively NHL teams. In 1929 the Bruins defeated the New York Rangers to win their first Stanley Cup. Standout players on the first championship team included Shore, Harry Oliver, Dit Clapper, Dutch Gainor and goaltender Tiny Thompson. The 1928–29 season was the first played at Boston Garden, which Adams had built after guaranteeing his backers $500,000 in gate receipts over the next five years. The season after that, 1929–30, the Bruins posted the best-ever regular-season winning percentage in the NHL (an astonishing .875, winning 38 out of 44 games, a record which still stands) and shattered numerous team scoring records, but lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Weston Adams repurchased the Bruins in 1964 after Brown's death and set about rebuilding the team. Adams signed a defenseman from Parry Sound, Ontario, named Bobby Orr, who entered the league in 1966 and became, in the eyes of many, the greatest player of all time. He was announced that season's winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy for Rookie of the Year and named to the second NHL All-Star team. When asked about Orr's NHL debut game, October 19, 1966, against the Detroit Red Wings, then-Bruins coach Harry Sinden recalled:
"Our fans had heard about this kid for a few years now. There was a lot of pressure on him, but he met all the expectations. He was a star from the moment they played the national anthem in the opening game of the season."
Despite Orr's stellar rookie season, the Bruins would miss the playoffs. The next season, they would go on to make the playoffs for the first of 29 straight seasons, an all-time record. The Bruins then obtained young forwards Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield from Chicago in a deal celebrated as one of the most one-sided in hockey history. Hodge and Stanfield became key elements of the Bruins' success, and Esposito, who centered a line with Hodge and Wayne Cashman, became the league's top goal scorer and the first NHL player to break the 100-point mark, setting many goal- and point-scoring records. Esposito remains one of four players to win the Art Ross Trophy four consecutive seasons (the other three are Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe). With other stars like forwards Bucyk, John McKenzie, Derek Sanderson, and Hodge, steady defenders like Dallas Smith and goaltender Gerry Cheevers, the "Big Bad Bruins" became one of the league's top teams from the late 1960s into the 1980s.
In 1970, a 29-year Stanley Cup drought came to an end in Boston, as the Bruins defeated the St. Louis Blues in four games in the Final. Orr scored the game-winning goal in overtime to clinch the Stanley Cup. The same season was Orr's most awarded—the third of eight consecutive years he won the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the top defenseman in the NHL—and he won the Art Ross Trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Hart Memorial Trophy, the only player to ever win four major awards in the same season.
"No one, absolutely no one, could have finished a goal in like manner. For years Orr had been described as someone who was graceful, elegant, powerful, without fear—poetry in motion. All these epithets were captured and immortalized in the photos of the goal that won the 1970 Stanley Cup."
The 1970–71 season was, in retrospect, the high-water mark of the 1970s for Boston. While Sinden temporarily retired from hockey to enter business (he was replaced by ex-Bruin and Canadien defenseman Tom Johnson), the Bruins set dozens of offensive scoring records: they had seven of the league's top ten scorers—a feat not achieved before or since—set the record for wins in a season, and in a league that had never seen a 100-point scorer before 1969, the Bruins had four that year. All four (Orr, Esposito, Bucyk and Hodge) were named first team All-Stars, a feat matched in the expansion era only by the 1976–77 Canadiens. Boston were favored to repeat as Cup champions but ran into a roadblock in the playoffs. Up 5–1 at one point in game two of the quarter-finals against the Canadiens (and rookie goaltender Ken Dryden), the Bruins squandered the lead to lose 7–5. The Bruins never recovered and lost the series in seven games.
While the Bruins were not quite as dominant the next season (although only three points behind the 1971 pace), Esposito and Orr were once again one-two in the scoring standings (followed by Bucyk in ninth place) and they regained the Stanley Cup by defeating the New York Rangers in six games in the Finals. Rangers blueliner Brad Park, who came runner-up to Orr's (then) five-year monopoly on the Norris Trophy, said, "Bobby Orr was—didn't make—the difference."
The 1972–73 season saw upheaval for the Bruins. Former head coach Sinden became the general manager. Bruins players Gerry Cheevers, Derek Sanderson and Johnny McKenzie left to join the upstart World Hockey Association. Coach Tom Johnson was fired 52 games into the season, replaced by Bep Guidolin, who had been Orr's coach with the OHA junior Oshawa Generals. The Adams family, which had owned the team since its founding in the 1920s, sold it to Storer Broadcasting. The Bruins' season came to a premature end in a first-round loss to the Rangers in the 1973 playoffs, losing Esposito to injury in that first round. In 1974, the Bruins regained their first-place standing in the regular season, with three 100-point scorers on the team (Esposito, Orr, and Hodge). However, they lost the 1974 Final in an upset to the Philadelphia Flyers.
In the 1987–88 NHL season – when the Bruins finally broke the Canadiens' 57-year-long (1930–87) playoff win streak against them – through the 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1994 seasons, the Bruins began to amass a playoff series winning streak of their own, in defeating their Original Six nemesis Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs, getting some revenge for a rivalry which had been lopsided in the Canadiens' favour in playoff action, with Montreal having won 18 consecutive playoff series against the Bruins between 1946 and 1987. In 1991 and 1992, the Bruins suffered two consecutive Conference Final losses to the eventual Cup champion, the Mario Lemieux-led Pittsburgh Penguins. Starting from the 1992–93 NHL season onwards, the Bruins had not gotten past the second round of the playoffs until winning the Stanley Cup after the 2011 season.