Milton Conrad "Milt" Schmidt (March 5, 1918 – January 4, 2017) was a Canadian professional ice hockey centre, coach and general manager, mostly for the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League (NHL), where he was a member of the Kraut Line. He is an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. On January 1, 2017, in a ceremony prior to the Centennial Classic, Schmidt was part of the first group of players to be named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history.
Schmidt's early years were spent in Kitchener, where he attended King Edward Public School. In high school, he briefly attended Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School, but dropped out at age 14 in order to work in order to support his family (his father had become too ill to work regularly), and took a job at a shoe factory. He made 18 cents per hour ($3.04 per hour in 2017 dollars) while working there and claimed that he knew the value of the dollar. (NHL Network January 2009) He continued playing junior hockey with the Kitchener Empires and Kitchener Greenshirts. Schmidt was a childhood friend of fellow Hall of Famers Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer. At about the age of 20, while still playing for the Boston Bruins' former AHL farm team, the Providence Reds, Schmidt was invited to try out for the St. Louis Cardinals MLB National league pro baseball team, but knew himself well enough from his own previous youth baseball experience that while he could hit the ball out of the park, that he would usually strike out many more times than hitting home runs in his past.
Schmidt played junior hockey with Dumart and Bauer in Kitchener, Ontario before their rights were all acquired by the Bruins in 1935. After playing a final year of junior hockey in Kitchener, Ontario, and half a year with the Bruins' AHL Providence Reds farm team, Schmidt would be called up to the Bruins during the 1937 season. He would quickly prove himself as a hardnosed centre, a skilled stickhandler and smooth playmaker.
Schmidt and his childhood friends Bauer and Dumart would be teamed together in the NHL as well. They formed the famous Kraut Line, and were a strong and dependable line for the Bruins for most of the following fifteen seasons. They were a key ingredient to the Bruins' success as they rampaged to the regular season title and a hard fought Stanley Cup victory in 1939. The following season would be Schmidt's true coming out party, as he led the league in scoring and guided the Bruins to another first place finish and the third most goals in team history to date.
The 1941 season saw Schmidt spearhead the Bruins to their second Cup win in three years. However, the powerhouse Brown and Gold were decimated by World War II the following year as Schmidt, Bauer and Dumart enlisted in the Canadian military and superstar American goaltender Frank Brimsek enlisted with the United States Coast Guard. The Kraut Line found success playing hockey for the Ottawa RCAF team by winning the Allan Cup before heading overseas. Schmidt, Bauer and Dumart would end up missing three productive NHL seasons due to their service in the War.
Schmidt returned for the beginning of the 1946 season. He resumed his starring ways and finished fourth in league scoring in 1947. Named captain in 1951, Schmidt won the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player that year. He retired as a player partway through the 1954–1955 to take over head coaching duties, replacing Lynn Patrick.
Schmidt coached the Bruins up to the 1966 season with a year and a half hiatus. He also was Boston's assistant general manager. After coaching the Bruins for 11 seasons Schmidt was promoted to the general manager position in 1967 just as the league ushered in six new franchises, doubling in size. Schmidt proved to be a great architect in the new era of the NHL, acquiring and drafting several key players to build a Bruins team that won two more Stanley Cups titles in 1970 and 1972. His biggest deal was a blockbuster as he acquired youngsters Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield from the Chicago Black Hawks in exchange for journeymen Pit Martin, Gilles Marotte and Jack Norris.
After his long and loyal career in the Bruins organization, Schmidt left the team to become the first General Manager of the expansion Washington Capitals for the start of the 1975 season. Unfortunately for Schmidt, the Capitals set a benchmark in futility that still stands as an NHL record today, as the new franchise finished the year with a minuscule 21 points with the worst record in the 18 team league (8 wins - 67 losses -5 ties).
Career playing statistics
|1941–42||Ottawa RCAF Flyers||OCHL||—||—||—||—||—||6||4||7||11||10|
|1941–42||Ottawa RCAF Flyers||Al-Cup||—||—||—||—||—||13||6||17||23||19|
Career coaching record
|Team||Year||Regular season||Post season|
|Boston Bruins||1954–55||40||13||12||15||(41)||4th in NHL||Lost in Semi-Finals|
|1955–56||70||23||34||17||59||5th in NHL||Missed Playoffs|
|1956–57||70||34||34||12||80||3rd in NHL||Lost in Cup Finals|
|1957–58||70||34||34||12||80||3rd in NHL||Lost in Cup Finals|
|1958–59||70||32||29||9||73||2nd in NHL||Lost in Semi-Finals|
|1959–60||70||28||34||8||64||5th in NHL||Missed Playoffs|
|1960–61||70||15||42||13||43||6th in NHL||Missed Playoffs|
|1962–63||56||13||31||12||(38)||6th in NHL||Missed Playoffs|
|1963–64||70||18||40||12||48||6th in NHL||Missed Playoffs|
|1964–65||70||21||43||6||43||6th in NHL||Missed Playoffs|
|1965–66||70||21||43||6||48||5th in NHL||Missed Playoffs|
|Washington Capitals||1974–75||8||2||6||0||(4)||5th in Norris||Missed Playoffs|
|1975–76||36||3||28||5||(11)||5th in Norris||(fired)|
Retirement and death
Schmidt was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. After his retirement from hockey management, Schmidt remained involved with the Bruins through their alumni team and as manager of the Boards and Blades Club at the Boston Garden. Milt Schmidt's jersey #15 was retired by the Boston Bruins on March 13, 1980. On October 6, 2010 the Bruins celebrated Schmidt's 75 years with the team during Milt Schmidt Night. On this night he received 2 commemorative Stanley Cup miniatures to represent the two cups he had brought to the club, plus he personally raised his number to the rafters inside TD Garden. He was the last surviving member of both the Bruins' 1939 and 1941 Stanley Cup teams.
On October 20, 2016, Schmidt along with Bobby Orr dropped the ceremonial puck at the Boston Bruins' first home game of the season.
Schmidt died after a recent stroke on January 4, 2017 in a retirement facility in Needham, Massachusetts at the age of 98; at the time of his death he was the oldest living former NHL player, and the last living player to play in the AHL's inaugural season.
Awards and achievements
- Stanley Cup champion - all with Boston (1939 and 1941 as a player), (1970 and 1972 as general manager)
- Finished his career with 229 goals and 346 assists for 575 points in 776 games.
- At the time of his retirement, was fourth in NHL history in points scored and third in assists.
- Named to the NHL First All-Star Team in 1940, 1947 and 1951.
- Named to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 1952.
- Played in NHL All-Star Game in 1947, 1948, 1951 and 1952.
- Won the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey in 1996.
- Was the last active NHL player who played during the 1930s.
- In 1998, he was ranked number 27 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players.
- Won the Hart Trophy in 1951
- NHL Scoring Champion in 1940
- In January, 2017, Schmidt was part of the first group of players to be named one of the '100 Greatest NHL Players' in history.
- "100 Greatest NHL Players". NHL.com. January 1, 2017. Retrieved January 1, 2017.